Orlando ‘Tea Party’ rally draws more than 4,000
Orlando 'Tea Party' rally draws more than 4,000
By Helen Eckinger
Sentinel Staff Writer
March 22, 2009
Singer Lloyd Marcus told the crowd assembled in Lake Eola Park on Saturday that he was going to give them his take on the first days of the Obama administration.
Then he shrieked.
That pretty much summed up the mood in the park Saturday afternoon, when more than 4,000 people attended the Orlando Tea Party, a conservative rally aimed at expressing discontent with Washington.
"This is maybe the greatest single gathering of God-fearing patriots in the history of Orlando, Florida," local conservative radio host Bud Hedinger, who emceed the event, told the crowd.
The attendees, many of whom said they'd heard about the rally on Hedinger's radio show, brandished flags and homemade signs bearing slogans such as "Repeal the pork or our bacon is cooked" and "Obama lied, liberty died."
"We're really scared about what's happening in our country," said Debby Whisenand, 71, of Largo in Pinellas County. She waved a sign that read "The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money" on one side, and "You can't blame Bush anymore" on the other.
Her feelings were shared by Lisa Feroli, one of the event's organizers, who said that a similar fear motivated her to e-mail Hedinger with the idea for the Orlando Tea Party.
"The goal was to get people united, to let people know that they aren't alone in their feelings on despair," Feroli said. "We want to speak out against the push toward socialization that we feel is taking place in our country."
Several speakers addressed the crowd, estimated by Orlando police and event organizers at 4,200, on a variety of topics, including gun rights, freedom of speech, the dangers of communism and, most prevalently, the economy, especially the Obama administration's bailout plan.
"We have had enough of massive government-driven bailout using our money," Hedinger said, prompting the crowd to start chanting "U.S.A." over and over.
The country's economic woes weighed heavily on attendees, such as Ed Squire, 52, of Winter Springs. Holding a sign that read "Obama — he's robbin U.S. not Robin Hood," he said that he was worried about the current rate of government spending.
"There's absolutely no way as a nation that we can sustain that kind of spending," Squire said.
Several members of the crowd said they'd recently been laid off, including Ross Iannarelli, 66, of Port Orange, who said he'd just lost his job at an electrical-equipment company.
"They need to shove that bum out," he said, referring to President Obama. "I hate seeing them spend my grandchildren's money."
Glenn Austin, 52, and his wife, Frankie, 43, of Oviedo, also said they were anxious about the economy. They chose to express their worries, however, in a rather novel way: They wrapped banners calling for the end of the Federal Reserve around the tiny waists of their Chihuahua, Pepper, and miniature pinscher-Chihuahua mix, Peanut.
"Everything's gone to the dogs," Frankie Austin said.
Helen Eckinger can be reached at email@example.com or 352-742-5934.
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