The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

January 16, 2013

Constitutional rights rally planned for Square

By Rebecca Croomes
For The News Courier

— For people like Rex Davis, it’s time to take a stand.

This Saturday, Davis and other citizens will converge on the courthouse steps at 9 a.m. in Athens in a non-partisan effort to demonstrate their support for the Bill of Rights.

“It’s for the politicians to listen to us, not for us to listen to them,” Davis said.

While tweaking the final schedule of events on Tuesday, Davis said the plan is to have prominent members of the community come forward and read an amendment from the Bill of Rights and give the audience an opportunity to respond. Local politicians will be in attendance, but will be prohibited from speaking, or being asked to speak, to the crowd. A roll call of elected officials is planned.

“We expect them to be there,” Davis said. “We expect the politicians to support this rally.”

Some politicians have called to say they have previous plans, for example, State Sen. Bill Holtzclaw will be attending Republican Party speaking engagements and Sheriff Mike Blakely will be out of town, but plans to send a representative. Others, like State Rep. Dan Williams, have assisted Davis in planning the rally, even though he will not be speaking, Davis said.

The demonstration comes at a time when the gun control debate has deeply divided the nation. Saturday has been declared Gun Appreciation Day by gun rights activists nationwide.

But there is a big difference between that and what’s happening in Athens this weekend, Davis said.

“We’re not pushing the Second Amendment, we’re pushing all of them,” Davis said.

The problem is the ‘erosion’ of freedoms dictated in the Bill of Rights, Davis said, especially the Ninth, or personal rights, and the Tenth, dealing with state’s rights. Erosions, he said, that weaken the foundation of American government.

Gun control will be an unavoidable topic. With federal lawmakers considering changes to gun control and President Obama set to remark on the work of his taskforce some time this week, Davis said there isn’t much wiggle room when it comes to the Constitution.

“If you look (infringed) up, it’s a pretty strong word,” Davis said. “It means you can’t touch it. What other constitutional law do we have with that word in it?”

To solve these issues, Davis said he thinks the best solution is for the people to tell local elected officials how they feel and then have the politicians turn around and enact change in support of the people who elected them. This rally, he feels, will be the chance for all of that to happen in one sitting.

Underscoring the point, both Davis and event co-founder Tony Llewellyn said the rally has no affiliation with any party or organization. They are encouraging as many people across North Alabama as possible to attend. By using a platform of support for the entire Bill of Rights as opposed to only the Second Amendment, they hope their argument appeals to a large enough crowd for the politicians to listen.

“When we’re standing up complaining we need to have something concrete,” Davis said. “We’re bringing the fight to the local community.”

Repeatedly, the distinction was made that the rally is for everyone who supports constitutional freedoms as expressed in the Bill of Rights. Davis was confident the rally would go on peacefully.

“We’re not expecting any trouble, and we’ll stop any that starts,” Davis said.

Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson also said he was not anticipating problems based on conversations he had with people planning to attend.

The demonstration in support of the Bill of Rights will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Limestone County Courthouse on the Square.