On Tuesday evening, several dozen people turned out for the “Save America Freedom Rally” on the steps of the Wabash County Courthouse.

The event featured both local and statewide conservative speakers touching on several contemporary issues.

With a slow drizzle continuing throughout the event, co-organizer Laura Cole referenced a Thomas Paine quote about “the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot.”

“We don’t have any sunshine patriots here,” said Cole.

Before the event began with a prayer and recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, Victory Christian Church Pastor Timothy Morbitzer read part of an article from Dutch Sheets of “Give Him 15” regarding federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates, among other issues.

The stage was also adorned with a large photo of Marine Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, a Logansport native who recently died in Afghanistan.

Next up was Sen. Andy Zay, R-Huntington, who said his concerns about government overreach began when some workers were deemed “essential” and others were deemed “non-essential.”

“As a man of faith and a father of five I have never met a non-essential human being,” said Zay. “We don’t want the government to run our lives. I believe that you know what’s best for yourself.”

After Zay finished his remarks, Matt Dillon took to the stage. Dillon is the chair of the Wabash County Republican Party but will be appearing “in his role as” Wabash County Councilmember.

Dillon said he was against the recent federal vaccine mandates.

“Here we see not only an emperor without a barrier to totalitarianism but we see the hammer of socialism trying to conscript free markets into its armies,” said Dillon. “I see glimmers of Obamacare in all of this. We are so close to communism right now.”

Dillon said he was not convinced the Supreme Court would intervene to stop the mandates.

“We will not stand down. We will not retreat. This is our home,” said Dillon.

Up next was fellow Wabash County Councilmember Lorissa Sweet, who spoke about the feelings of despair she felt on Sept. 11, 2001, and the hope she felt on Sept. 12, 2001.

“The spirit of America was alive and well,” said Sweet. “We were a united nation. In our darkest hour as a nation, we were not defeated. We were united. As I stand in front of the TV now 20 years later in 2021 I get that sick feeling in my gut once again. I’ve never seen us more divided. But as I look around I see the spirit of Sept. 12 is alive and well.”

Sweet said she was also against the federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates, the additional federal unemployment stipend and purported election fraud.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of division. I’m tired of the lies. I’m tired of the censorship. I’m tired of the so-called fake fact-checkers. I’m tired of the fear-mongering. I’m tired of the mandates. I’m tired of the manipulation and I’m tired of my freedoms and your freedoms being taken away one by one by people who have forgotten what it means to be an American,” said Sweet. “My children and my grandchildren deserve better.”

After Sweet finished, a third member of the Wabash County Council spoke. Former Wabash County Republican Party chair and current Wabash County Councilmember Barbara Pearson started her remarks with a round of applause for the veterans in attendance.

Pearson said she had lost friends and family recently because of her strong political views.

“I am not a rogue Republican. I am a fed-up patriot,” she said, to applause. “Right now we’re fighting for the soul of our country and to me, that’s more important than someone liking me. We have a republic to save and we have to do it now. The freedoms you surrender today are the freedoms your grandchildren and great-grandchildren will never know.”

Pearson said she saw the actions of the state and federal government during the pandemic as signs of authoritarianism.

“Elected officials are not rulers,” said Pearson. “We the people elect our officials to represent us. And those elected officials should be doing what we the people tell them they should be doing. Just because they say so doesn’t mean we can’t challenge or demand change.”

Pearson said those who felt as she did should send money directly to candidates they support and not to the state or federal Republican Party “because they choose who to support.”

Pearson said she was inspired by Rosa Parks, and Desmond Doss, whose story was told in the movie, “Hacksaw Ridge.”

“We gotta fight like 1776 and I’m not talking about the violence, I’m talking about the spirit of those patriots who helped found our nation,” said Pearson.

To conclude the slate of scheduled speakers, former Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill took to the stage to touch on a diverse array of subjects from “cancel culture” to the “new world order of inclusion, diversity and equity” to abortion to George Washington.

“We are here because we love America. And America has become something we no longer recognize,” said Hill. “The problem with giving anyone in government the ability to mandate, they get a taste for it. Hold your elected officials accountable. Get rid of these rascals.”

As Hill exited the stage, calls to vote Gov. Eric Holcomb out were heard from the audience.

To begin the open mic portion of the event, Andy Lyons, a retiring Elwood Community Schools teacher from Marion, took to the stage. In April 2020, Lyons organized a protest outside the governor’s mansion in Indianapolis.

“You’re not alone,” said Lyons. “Everything they do is fear. They’re trying to keep you complacent and in your seat. Do not comply. Do not comply.”

Lyons concludes his remarks by speaking directly “to the men in this crowd and the men in this community.”

“You need to stand up for your families. You need to fight like you’ve never fought before,” said Lyons. “You need to get rid of the football game and spend time emailing your legislators, calling your city council, calling your school boards. The time is yours. The women for too long have been fighting the battle while we stood along being amused by sports as though we were Romans. It’s time to stand up and protect your family. It’s time to stand up and be a man. It’s time to stand up and be a leader. This garbage has to stop. I am calling the men out. Do what you are supposed to do, because that’s what God created you for to be the leader of the family. Do it. I don’t care what people think. Yes, you’re going to lose friends. Yes, you may lose your job. Stand for what is right and what is righteous under the Lord.”

After Lyons finished, a few more speakers took to the stage, including two local health care workers who said they were going to lose their jobs over refusing the COVID-19 vaccine.

As the open mic portion finished, Master Sgt. Bradley Frank, a Wabash native who has been on active duty at Grissom Air Reserve Base for the past 18 years, gave the closing benediction.

The event concluded with the crowd singing along with a rendition of “God Bless America.”

Rob Burgess, Wabash Plain Dealer editor, may be reached by email at rburgess@wabashplaindealer.com.