The following article is by Richmond Tea Party supporter Jill Finnie, who attended Thursday’s rally.

RICHMOND – I was one of the thousands of concerned citizens who made my way to Kanawha Plaza for the April 15 Richmond Tea Party Tax Day rally, not sure what to expect. You might call me mildly political, a committed Independent voter, not particularly interested in drama or dissent. Voting is the majority of my civic activity, although I campaigned for McCain and McDonnell. I had never been to a Tea Party rally before, and of course I had heard Tea Party people described negatively, dismissively or ignored by most of the media. I read stories about spitting, racial slurs and angry mob mentality and I hoped they were not true, or at least exaggerated.

Sometimes in the heat of the moment people say things they regret. And there are plenty of reasons for people to heat up over the way our country is going. We have federal health care legislation that steps way over the boundaries of good sense and into the realm of the unbelievable. We have a nearly $13 trillion national debt. And don’t get me started on the Stimulus Bill or the government-owned boondoggle car companies!

So I was a bit wary as I parked my car and walked to the rally. Thankfully, the wariness lasted about two seconds. The first thing I noticed is that I had lots of company, and that everyone seemed to be in a calm, pleasant mood. There were parents with their kids, older couples, young adults, a nice mix of people. And faces were friendly but determined. I could hear the crowd in the plaza before I got there. The place was packed! A few police officers were standing watch, but they didn’t look too busy, or too concerned. So far, so good.

Once I started to mix with the crowd, I could feel the positive energy. The creativity of the signs was fantastic! My nephew made one that said, “Keep your hands off my piggy bank,” which my sister-in-law told me he thought up himself. Very cool! Other signs got right to the point. “Solution? Cut Spending,” “Clean House 2010,” and “End Slavery: Abolish the Income Tax.” Works for me! I was surprised by the lack of negativity, even for a group of people who oppose just about everything their federal government is doing right now.

The event was well-organized, with a good mix of speakers, each who had their own way with words. WRVA host and Master of Ceremonies Doc Thompson talked about his attendance at the first Richmond Tea Party rally last year and called it “the most profound experience of my life.” The emotion and passion that he and many of the other speakers expressed was incredible.

I got a kick out of hearing Karen Cooper, a Chesterfield mail carrier who voted for Obama in 2008 and immediately regretted it. “I didn’t know what I was doing!” She went on to say, “when this man took office, I didn’t like anything that he did!” She talked about the stimulus bill “slush fund” and some of the other legislative and executive actions many of us have come to know and dislike. And then she explained why she knew she needed to act to turn things around. “I have children and I want them to have a good life….” This is why she said she became a Tea Party activist, and the crowd nodded and shouted agreement.

Fox Business News Analyst Charles Payne, the keynote speaker, hit a more somber note. He talked about the “two Americas” he experienced growing up in Harlem, the one of his mother and neighbors who worked hard to put food on the table and pay the bills, poor but proud. Then there was the America on welfare, living in the apartment next door, where families received food, shelter and clothing for no charge but at a great social cost. Payne noted that it was ironic that while welfare recipients should be angry, instead, the Tea party activists are the ones who are angry. “When I look into the crowd, I see fear, I see anger, I see anxiety, I see longing. Do you know what all of these feelings emanate from? One single emotion – love,” he said.    

Last night I joined with an amazing group of people who have the most important things in common: love of family, love of country, and love of liberty.  I am proud to stand with you and look forward to working with you to bring common sense, accountability and restrained spending back to the federal government. In answer to Doc Thompson’s question, yes, this is our time. This is our moment!