Austin protest targets toll road 'tyranny'
AUSTIN — A protest against toll roads highlighted a rally on the Capitol steps Friday, but the Texas Independence Day holiday put folks in the mood to raise hell about other grievances as well.
Many also complained about a national animal identification tag. Some grumbled about the state's loss of control of its borders. A few warned about the coming "North American Union." And some excoriated the United Nations for wanting "to take your gun," exhorting anyone within earshot to "get us out of the U.N."
The "liberty or death" chant of a thousand or more protesters marching up Congress Avenue to the Capitol conveyed a decidedly serious intent on an otherwise sunny Friday afternoon.
Famed blues guitarist Jimmie Vaughan elevated those feelings midway through the rally when the spotlight fell on him, and both he and audience connected with such lyrics as "I got the blues about tyranny" ... "Don't want no shackles on me" and "Down with Big Brother."
Much of the crowd quickly joined him.
"I want to be free. It's all about liberty," Vaughan said later. "I was born here. I'm going to die here, and I don't want to give it away to somebody else."
Many of the protesters fear that state leaders are going to give away Texas soil to a foreign country via toll roads. The Spanish company Cintra could build some of the state's toll roads under a 50-year contract.
"We feel that if we don't get heard now, we're going to be paying it out for the next 50 or 75 years. We're very upset with our own government supporting these foreign intrusions," said San Antonian Robert Throckmorton, a retired Air Force pilot.
"We just want all this toll madness to stop," San Antonio small-business owner Byron Juen said. "We will work diligently like we have done in the past (to defeat politicians who support such projects). We have a track record of ousting politicians that don't heed our warnings."
He singled out former state Rep. Carter Casteel, R-New Braunfels, who supported the Trans-Texas Corridor project.
Her successor, Rep. Nathan Macias, R-Bulverde, told the audience he agrees Texas faces serious urban transportation congestion but disagrees with the toll road agenda pushed by state leaders.
"Let's work together, public and private, to solve our transportation challenges," he said.
Much of the protesters' wrath was aimed at Gov. Rick Perry, whom they blame for orchestrating the Trans-Texas Corridor project and associated toll roads.
"We all know that the buck stops at the office of Governor Thirty-nine Percent. He refuses to listen," said Hank Gilbert of Troup, referring to the percentage of votes Perry garnered in November to win re-election.
Gilbert made opposition to the TTC a centerpiece of his unsuccessful run as the Democratic candidate for Texas agriculture commissioner last year.
The Perry camp shrugged off the criticism.
"In the '40s, some protested against the farm-to-market road system, in the '50s some protested against the interstate highway system, and today some protesters will leave the rally against the TTC using those very same roads," Perry spokesman Robert Black said. "Ain't progress great!"
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