News & Politics

"We Hate the United States": Secessionists Rally at TX Capitol

"Sovereignty or Secession" rally in Austin draws a crowd, but GOP Gov. Rick Perry, who has encouraged the right-wing fringe, was nowhere to be found.

Perhaps the most notable thing about the “Sovereignty or Secession” rally at the state Capitol on Monday was the absence of any remotely mainstream speakers. That little problem in presentation did not escape the event’s organizers from the Texas Nationalist Movement. In fact, several speakers bitterly complained that neither Gov. Rick Perry nor a single one of the 70-plus supporters of Rep. Brandon Creighton’s HCR 50, a resolution asserting Texas’ “sovereignty” from the federal government, made an appearance.

Back in April, Perry flirted with the idea of secession when he told reportersafter a Tax Day tea party event: “There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve [the Union]. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that.”

Even for a governor who frequently plays to the more extreme elements in the Texas GOP, it was a gobsmackingly ‘out there’ remark. But it certainly did wonders for the secession crowd -- long a totally marginal and ridiculed group with about as much chance of capturing the mainstream imagination as the LaRouche cult.

The turnout for the rally wasn’t huge -- 200 would be a generous estimate -- but it was enough to show how much Perry has helped galvanize and embolden the right wing “hate America” fringe. After all, the governor of the second most populous state in the nation had suggested that secession was a possible solution to federal over-reach. Republican political leaders have helped bring “death panels” and the Obama birth certificate nonsense into acceptable discourse; Perry’s contribution has been bringing secession into the mix.

Daniel Miller, the leader of the Texas Nationalist Movement and the only speaker who had the slightest ability to make secession sound like anything other than just complete lunacy, recounted the April 15 tea party rally in Austin and what it meant to the secessionist movement.

“When [Perry] was giving a speech and the crowd began to shout what? – Secede! Secede! Secede! – that’s what they chanted. So they asked him afterward, What do you think? He said, Well we reserve that right; if things get so bad we reserve the right to leave. And I gotta tell you it’s the first solid thing he’s done in his administration that I can agree with in many, many years.”

So the secession leaders were a little peeved that they couldn’t get their good friends in the Texas GOP to show up. After all, Fox News is paying attention: Miller was a guest on the Glenn Beck Program on June 23, discussing the possibility of Texas seceding.

Though Perry and the “pro-sovereignty” legislators didn’t show for the rally, Miller said, “I want them to hear this loud and clear: It is time for them to take up that banner and it’s time for them to take the lead and if they do not, if they do not pick up that banner and carry it high, then we will.” Upon which Miller dashed out into the crowd, took hold of a “Come and Take It” flag, and continued his exhortations. Along with other speakers, he called for a special session of the Legislature—next week -- to take up the sovereignty-or-secession debate in earnest.

The organizers are trying to set up a time to deliver a petition to Perry demanding that Texas officials either “immediately move for the restoration of the complete and unadulterated Sovereignty of Texas, explicitly adhering to the 10th Amendment wording of the U.S. Constitution,” or “move immediately for complete Secession from the United States of America.”

Instead of Perry or Creighton, the protesters had Larry Kilgore, a “Christian activist” and candidate for governor who has endorsed executions for homosexuals; Debra Medina, a Ron Paul Republican and a slightly-less long-shot candidate for governor; and Melissa Pehle-Hill, yet another fringe candidate and a member of a self-appointed “citizens grand jury” investigating Barack Hussein Obama, aka Barry Soetoro.

The audience of about 200 people included tattoed bikers wearing Confederate memorabilia, Alex Jones conspiracy theorists carrying those Obama-as-Joker signs, lots of older guys in Texas flag shirts and blue jeans, Ron Paul activists, and others.

Kilgore, dressed in starched blue jeans and a cowboy hat, drew some murmurs of disapproval when he launched into a rant against the U.S.

“I hate that flag up there,” Kilgore said pointing to the American flag flying over the Capitol. “I hate the United States government. … They’re an evil, corrupt government. They need to go. Sovereignty is not good enough. Secession is what we need!”

“We hate the United States!,” he said later in the speech. (And they say leftists are America-bashers!)

Medina chipped in: “We are aware that stepping off into secession may in fact be a bloody war. We are aware that the tree of freedom is occasionally watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots.”

For his part, Kilgore assured the crowd that violence wouldn’t be necessary to secede. Instead, the U.S. would just split up like the USSR did in 1991.

After the rally, lingering secessionists clashed with pro-health reformers holding another rally at the Capitol. Kilgore was seen yelling at some pro-health care reform advocates to “Go back to the U.S. where you belong.”

Secession, the speakers argued, was more important than ever because of the Obama administration. Health care reform, the auto industry and Wall Street bailouts, cap-and-trade legislation, etc, etc – all this “change” is driving people already predisposed to mistrust a Democratic administration to new heights of apoplectic rage.

“If either one of them passes [cap-and-trade or health care reform], we have no option but to go for secession,” said Hill. “Texas is not comprised of people willing to allow Barack Obama and his czars to tax us into bankruptcy while Michelle Obama and her 26 aides live it up on our dime.”

Like any movement, the secessionists have their own reading of history and the law. There was much talk about the true and correct reading of the Constitution, implied powers, Thomas Jefferson’s writings on tyranny and government. One guy even started reading from Black’s Law Dictionary.But the references to the Confederacy were the most telling.

At one point, Miller drew the crowd’s attention to the statue of Lady Liberty on top of the Capitol.

“When they raised her to the top of this Capitol they wanted to face her south so she would forever have her back turned to that nation to the north that knew not liberty,” he told the almost entirely white crowd.

And they wonder why Perry and friends didn’t show up. Even for our governor, these people are toxic.

This article first appeared on the Texas Observer's blog.

Forrest Wilder is a staff writer for the Texas Observer.
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