Part two of a three-part series
On the evening of Sept. 11, 2009, staff and volunteers were gathered at FreedomWorks' headquarters at 601 Pennsylvania Ave,, scrambling to finish up the many projects that needed to be done before the 9/12 Taxpayer March on Washington the next day. And then Alberta, our office administrator, received the call: “There's a f—ing bomb in your building, bitch.”
As the police evacuated the building, it was like a scene from a Hollywood production. Police cruisers, sirens, bomb-sniffing dogs, we had it all. In truth, it all happened so fast, it was surreal. Certainly, some of the staff and volunteers were shaken up by the threat. Most of us were far more annoyed than scared. The best part of the incident was the resolve demonstrated by the volunteers that were making the march a reality. “What are they going to do,” one man asked while waiting to return to the building, “kill me, I guess?” The activists just shrugged it off and headed back up to the office as soon as D.C. Metro Police were certain it was safe.
That next morning, it all seemed worth the risks, work, the hassles and the threats. A beautiful sea of humanity greeted us when we arrived and tried to get to the stage at Freedom Plaza. It was now their march. It was their moment to peacefully petition their government for a redress of their grievances.
It was an emotional moment. We had always said that government goes to those who show up. We always knew that good policy would only be considered inside the halls of Congress when America beat Washington. And we always believed that the American people were with us, ready and willing to step up and take to the streets in defense of their liberties, just as the Founders envisioned.
Now we were seeing it with our own eyes: This wonderful mob of happy people — in the process of shutting down Washington, D.C. — was a dream realized. Everyone felt the same inspiration. “The huge, polite, focused crowd was like a fresh wind,” says Jennifer from Ohio. “9/12 has changed me. Freedom has always come at a price, and to think we don't need to be vigilant and speak with our votes is lazy and naive.”
That morning we walked 1.2 miles from Freedom Plaza to the stage FreedomWorks had built on the west front of the Capitol surrounded by indisputable evidence that Americans uniquely treasure their freedoms, and will rise up to protect them no matter the cost or inconvenience. That so many people chose to come directly to the seat of our federal government — putting their lives on hold and adding to the strain on their family budgets — is remarkable enough. What was truly extraordinary was their unscripted, uncoached and unrehearsed unity of purpose: “I have to do something; our government is out of control.”
As we approached the Newseum at Sixth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, with its massive, 74-foot-high marble facade carved with the 45 words of the First Amendment to the Constitution, people began to read it aloud, in unison. Some cried, and some cheered. Everyone smiled, marching east, jamming 1.2 miles of Pennsylvania Avenue, seven lanes across, for more than three hours. The arriving crowd swamped the west front of the Capitol and flooded down the National Mall and across various side streets — reaching to Independence Avenue to the south of the Capitol, and to Constitution Avenue to the north.
A grass-roots movement that stands athwart Independence and Constitution seems just about right when you stop and think about it.
Excerpted from “Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto” by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Freedomworks President and CEO Matt Kibbe, available from HarperCollins