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Locals hold Tea Party; discuss national issues
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Luke Knight doesn’t trust his government. The Newton County resident believes today’s political scene is too infused with lying and innuendo, and he wants to counterbalance that by becoming an informed voice.

More than a dozen people attended a local Tea Party gathering at Knight’s home off Salem Road Saturday morning, to express their concern about the future of the U.S.

Knight said he had wanted to hold a Tea Party gathering for some time, but the election of completely unknown Alvin Greene as the Democratic nominee for one of South Carolina’s senate seats finally prompted him to act.

"The South Carolina story got me started. That’s crazy, that’s insane," he said Saturday.

He said he is concerned about the lack of credible information regarding political candidates and the lack of informed voters. He displayed voting district maps, sample primary ballots and other information for voters to peruse.

According to various news sources including the New York Times, the Tea Party movement originally began in protest to the $787 billion federal stimulus bill. However, Knight said for him the Tea Party movement is about holding people accountable, about respecting the ideals stated in the constitution and about being informed and active.

"I don’t believe in changing the constitution. Any changes need to be approved by the people," he said.

Knight said the most disheartening problem is the number of politicians who spread lies and misinformation, no matter which side of the aisle they sit on.

"The phrase ‘It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission,’ anyone who uses that logic should be punished because they’re intentionally doing something they know they shouldn’t," he said.

Knight said he recently heard a Democrat speak and thought the speaker made some good points. Later, he heard a Republican bashing the Democrat because of one phrase in his speech.

"(The Republican) tried to denigrate what (the Democrat) was saying. He did a lot of harm. I don’t believe in latching on to just one phrase," Knight said.

Knight had hoped for a turnout of 40 to 50 people, but said the dozen attendees was a start.

Knight said he didn’t trust his government because he believed new laws were constantly attacking his rights under the constitution, including his right to free speech, his right to bear arms and states’ rights. He said the number of states suing the federal government over the recently passed health care reform bill showed a strained relationship. Knight also suggested that the 17th amendment should perhaps be repealed; prior to that amendment U.S. Senators were elected by the state legislatures, not the public.

He said while radio and TV talk-show personalities Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh were liked and disliked by many, he felt they at least made people think.

Knight’s older brother Billy said he suggested people watch Beck’s Friday show for the Founding Fathers series, which had given him insight he never learned in school, including background on the black founding fathers and the fact South Carolina elected the first black U.S. Representative in 1870.

The discussion of particular political races was kept to a minimum, but local resident Tim DeSmet spoke against Jim Marshall (D-Macon), one of the local U.S. Representatives for Newton County. Although Marshall labels himself a conservative democrat, or a "Blue Dog Democrat," DeSmet said Marshall was to the far left compared to his constituency. DeSmet is supporting Georgia Rep. Austin Scott (R-Tifton).

Although Knight knew most of the attendees, a couple of strangers joined the group. Resident Bill Standridge said he heard about the meeting through a leaflet.

"You either fight for what’s right or you lose it. We’ve already lost so much; we’re about to lose it all," he said.

Resident Richard Gregory said he is hoping to have another Tea Party on the square on July 10; his permit is still awaiting the approval of Main Street Covington.