Tea Party serves seconds

Tax day rally attracts its own protest to Common

Augustans discontented with high taxes, health care reform and the Obama administration numbered about 1,200 to 1,500 at the Tax Day Tea Party on Thursday evening at Augusta Common.


Many carried handmade posters, bearing wordy messages such as "A village in Kenya is missing an idiot," at the second annual event.

Among those present was Chal Challenger, who said President Obama is anti-military and is turning the United States into a socialist nation.

"It makes me sick to think of all the people that fought and died for our country," said Challenger, who retired from a military career. "It's a slap in the face to throw around what they stood for and what they believed."

Challenger and his wife, Pat, of Augusta, brought a novel and a Sarah Palin biography to read during the event.

"We'd rather be out here with the group than sitting at home, screaming at the TV," Pat Challenger said.

Louis Hutt of North Augusta wore a three-pointed hat with the numbers "1776" and carried a wooden musket.

"I'm just tired of everything that's going on with nationalized health care, spending -- the usual conservative twist on things," Hutt said.

Speakers came and went at the event to applause, but the group never grew rowdy.

The rally speakers included Nikki Haley, a Republican campaigning to become governor of South Carolina; Gerry Purcell and Melvin Everson, Republican candidates for Georgia insurance and labor commissioner, respectively; and Georgia's current insurance commissioner, John Oxendine, a Republican candidate for governor.

Participants, among them a group from Augusta's Alleluia community carrying wooden crosses, listened to Ed Turner perform Imagine before the speeches began.

The rally was peaceful, but there was a chest-bumping shouting match on the edge of the common.

David Dillard-Wright said he was driving home from work in Aiken and didn't plan to stop at the rally.

But when he saw a sign that read, "Green is the new Red," he had to speak his mind. It bothered him that a pro-environment movement was associated with communism.

Dillard-Wright said he was listening to Oxendine, and had to speak out when Oxendine blamed Obama's health care bill for America's deficit.

Dillard-Wright's shouted retort that Obama inherited a deficit caused by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was met by boos and shouts of "go to your own rally." A man began bumping Dillard-Wright with his chest as Dillard-Wright protested that he had just as much right to free speech. Deputies quickly broke up the shouting match.

Sgt. J.R. Compton of the Richmond County sheriff's office was in charge of security at the event, and said it had been a peaceful one. His deputies had escorted just a few out, including two women observed handing out papers asking for visitors' names.

"We didn't tell them they had to leave," Compton said. "We just made sure they got where they wanted to go, safely."

The women, Mary Schorsch, of Beech Island, and Dianne L'heureux, said they'd started a tradition of disrupting the Tax Day Tea Party last year.

"Last year I asked 'Who would Jesus bomb,' " Schorsch said. "I found out that Jesus would bomb a lot of people."

Dale Beal, 59, who was attending his second tea party rally, said he is deeply concerned with the direction the country is headed.

He said this is a "heartfelt" movement and that most people involved are sincere. The media picks out the "crazy" people and portrays them as the majority of the movement, which isn't accurate, Beal said.

James Demedici, 39, was peddling T-shirts with phrases such as "Stop Obamacare." Demedici said he began his activism when President George W. Bush passed the Patriot Act. His concern ramped up when Obama took office. Demedici said people of all political leanings should work together to fight the oppression of civil rights.

"Let's save America first, then worry about our differences," he said.

Staff Writer Kyle Martin contributed to this report.

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SPOTTED: See more than 150 photos from the Tea Party at spotted.augusta.com.