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Rally in St. Petersburg promotes liberty and justice, a few GOP campaigns

ST. PETERSBURG — Rickey Roberts III says he and his wife, Amy, are not political people.

But when they cruised in a scooter near North Straub Park on Saturday afternoon, a jumbo-sized TV bearing images of Ronald Reagan and a stage with a banner reading "Liberty and Justice for All" caught their attention.

"I wanted to see what liberty and justice meant to people," Roberts said.

So Roberts and his wife parked, unfurled a blanket and took a seat on the grass amid hundreds of tea party activists, Republican campaigners and libertarian-minded advocates to hear what people had to say.

The crowd was there for a "Rally for America's Future," with a variety of conservative speakers who revved up attendees with talk of small government, lower taxes and American patriotism.

For Roberts, 35, it was less about supporting a particular cause or candidate and more about listening to individual voices.

"Really, I come from a stance of respecting all people's opinions," Roberts said. "I think we're living in a time when we don't need to go backward as much as we need to look at our true needs and look at those issues with love and nonjudgment."

David McKalip, a St. Petersburg surgeon and political activist, organized the rally, which attracted about 300 people.

Speakers included community activists and religious leaders, who gave impassioned speeches against government-mandated insurance, in favor of lower taxes and on the role of religion in government. (American liberty has a Christian basis, they said.)

The purpose, McKalip said, was to remind people of America's roots, free markets and the idea that individual rights come from God.

"It's an entirely positive message," McKalip said. "We're offering solutions with the idea that it's the individual that provides the most power in society."

Despite the event's nonpartisan billing, tables and booths bore signs promoting Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul.

Dixie Eklund, a volunteer for the Romney campaign, gave a speech touting the former Massachusetts governor's record as an executive who cut taxes.

Kerry Brown, a St. Petersburg lawyer who was decked out in a top hat and old-fashioned suit, addressed the rally as Abraham Lincoln. He echoed Lincoln's famous "House Divided" speech in reminding the crowd that "your opponents are your neighbors."

"I was concerned about our house being divided today," Brown said. "Are we now a house divided? Have we lost a common bond and language and belief of our creator being the source of our rights?"

A few blocks south of North Straub Park, members of the Occupy movement stood on a street corner holding signs spreading their message against corporate greed and for less disparity between the wealthy and the poor.

Many at the "Liberty and Justice" rally were unaware of the Occupy rally.

Hearing of their presence, Brown laughed.

"That's funny," he said. "I think I'll go down there."

Rally in St. Petersburg promotes liberty and justice, a few GOP campaigns 01/21/12 [Last modified: Saturday, January 21, 2012 10:25pm]
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