Don’t tread on me
Many demonstrators at the massive “tea party” rally held on Capitol Hill over the weekend carried Gadsden flags with the iconic coiled snake and the words “Don’t Tread on Me” to display their opposition to big government, reviving a historic American symbol of rebellion.
Unlike many other political efforts that are distinctly tied to a party or candidate, the tea-party protesters have adopted revolutionary symbols, such as the rattlesnake, to help brand their movement.
Steve Bierfeldt, a staffer for the Campaign for Liberty who independently sold Gadsden flags out of a suitcase during the protest Saturday, said, “It stands for freedom from tyranny and government intrusion.” He said he’s witnessed the Gadsden flag’s rise in popularity over “the last year or two, when people started getting really tired of government intrusion and spending.”
“It’s pretty safe to say there are a lot of folks right now who don’t want to be linked to an elephant or a donkey, and a rattlesnake is a perfect substitute,” said Corey Thompson, a history teacher in Charlotte, N.C., who in his free time is president of a group called Common Americans United to Inspire Our Nation, or CAUTION. As president of CAUTION, he gives history lessons to his members because “if we are going to talk about the Founding Fathers, we better darned well know what they intended.”
One of his lessons is devoted to the symbolism of the rattlesnake and why it was embraced during Colonial times. “When a snake is trampled upon, if it’s stepped on, it will rise up and strike back,” he said, noting that Benjamin Franklin first used the symbol of a chopped up snake in a political cartoon in 1754 that said “Join or Die.” The different pieces of the snake symbolized the colonies, showing how they could be stronger if they banded together.
Franklin also wrote an essay in 1775 touting the rattlesnake as an American symbol. “She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders,” Franklin wrote. “She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage.”
The rattlesnake was also used in other revolutionary period flags, like the U.S. Navy Jack, which features a snake stretched across a red and white background, and the Culpeper flag that is similar to the Gadsden but is black and white and also has the words “Liberty or Death” printed on it. Also, in 1778, Georgia printed $20 bills featuring a rattlesnake with the words “no one will provoke me with impunity.”
Among the rattlesnake-themed colonial banners, the Gadsden flag is the most striking with its distinctive, bright yellow coloring. It’s named after Christopher Gadsden, who led South Carolina’s Sons of Liberty and later became a member of the Continental Congress. Gadsden presented the flag to his state Legislature in Charleston, to be used by the Commander-in-Chief of the American Navy Esek Hopkins, who used it as his personal standard.
A group of rambunctious tea-party protesters shouted down a CNN reporter during a live broadcast on Capitol Hill on Saturday, chanting “tell the truth, tell the truth!” and “Glenn Beck! Glenn Beck!” over and over again.
This is the second time tea-party activists have targeted a CNN reporter while she was on-air. CNN reporter Susan Roesgen was confronted during a live segment at a tea party in Chicago in April while she aggressively grilled a man about President Obama’s tax policies. After getting flustered by some hecklers, she said the entire event was “anti-CNN since this is highly promoted by the right-wing, conservative network Fox.”
During the Washington rally CNN reporter Lisa Desjardins attempted to film a segment about Texas GOP Rep. Joe Wilson’s “you lie!” outburst during Mr. Obama’s speech made to Congress on Wednesday, but had great difficulty speaking over the crowd that was demanding that she “tell the truth!”
“They’ve been talking a lot to me about what they think CNN should air,” she explained to anchor Fredricka Whitfield.