Member of several freedom-oriented groups came together on the steps of the Capitol building Monday to let legislators know the Tea Party movement is still around, it won’t go away, and it won’t be quiet. The event, called "Convergence on the Capitol," allowed attendees to meet and encourage lawmakers to support legislation which would nullify what they view as unconstitutional federal laws, ease midwifery licensing, bring Idaho back to a sound currency system, and continue the right to bear arms, respectively.
The event, orchestrated by the group Sovereign Idaho, was the combined effort of several smaller groups across Idaho. The Pocatello Tea Party, Idaho Freedom Foundation, and the Campaign for Liberty All worked together to make the event happen. According to Mark Balzer, the co-director for Sovereign Idaho, 42 people made the journey from the Pocatello area to rally against what it characterizes as oppressive government. Balzer said the event was his own “screwy idea,” which he didn’t believe possible back in September of 2009, when he first proposed the idea.
The group gathered at the step heard from several legislators, including Rep. Raul Labrador, Rep. Lynn Luker, Rep. Phil Hart, Rep. Pete Nielson, Rep. Russ Matthews, and Rep. Lenore Hardy Barrett. Labrador and Matthews spoke about freedom and limited government, while Luker talked about health care legislation he plans to propose to nullify any possible health care reforms. Labrador even thanked the group for helping to hold elected officials accountable.
Hart and Barrett spoke on sound currency, both proposing Idaho look into returning to precious metals as a form of payment. Hart said the Federal Reserve is a “monopoly “and a “cartel” and called for an audit and abolishment of the agency.
Nielson, who served on a committee which enacted tougher licensing restrictions on the midwife industry last year, admitted to the crowd the Legislature got it wrong and said he would work toward loosening the restrictions this year.
The event faced criticism that it pre-empted other activities celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. day. To those critics, Balzer said he didn’t mean to pre-empt anything, and said the group simply picked the second Monday of the legislative session to hold the rally. More so, Balzer believes King would have approved of the Tea Party gathering.
“I believe King would have supported what we were doing here today,” said Balzer. “We were working for freedom and individual liberty, which he dedicated his life to.”
The freedom gathering wasn’t without critics of its actual message, however. Five protestors stood behind the group holding signs critical of “Tea Baggers.” Boise resident DJ Albert, 16, was particularly critical of the Tea Partier’s stance on health care.
“It’s kind of silly they don’t want everyone in America to have some form of health care,” said Albert. “Everyone needs to be healthy and everyone has a right to that.”
Albert, self-admittedly an avid supporter of President Barack Obama, expressed disgust over the Tea Party’s influence in politics today.
“It’s kind of a shame they actually have political pull,” said Albert.
Following the rally, Tea Party protestors were encouraged by Balzer to meet with and lobby legislators on behalf of ends of freedom-oriented ideas. Protestors also had the opportunity to attend an orientation on the how the legislature functions by Idaho Freedom Foundation executive director Wayne Hoffman. They were also invited to a legislative forum moderated by Elizabeth Allan Hodge, a former state legislator from Canyon County.