Join toll fight or don't bother complaining

What if they held an anti-toll rally and less than a mathematical rounding error showed up?

What if a group of motivated, well-intentioned people, led by Patrick Sasser at Notollsct.org, meticulously organized and planned a protest in Hartford for months — only to be met by disappointment when just a fraction of the crowd they had hoped for assembled? What if that same no-tolls group made multiple radio and television appearances, in addition to a big grassroots social media push, only to be short-circuited by a low turnout? What if all those things happened?

They did.

The cynical side of me might start to think that too many people simply just don't care.

For last Saturday’s anti-toll rally, Capital Police had the count at approximately 2,100 peaceful patriots protesting in the shadow of Hartford’s golden dome. About 3.5 million people live in Nutmeg State. That means .0006 percent of the Connecticut’s population showed up to protest.

A Sacred Heart University poll of the state’s residents found 59 percent oppose electronic highway tolls and only 34.7 percent of residents surveyed support the idea. That means, theoretically, about 2 million residents oppose erecting electronic gantries.

But only 2,000 show up? That is the definition of apathy.

I understand it was the first nice weekend in May and your kids maybe had Little League or soccer. Yes, there were proms and college graduation parties. I know the grass needs to be cut, the dog walked, barbecues were scheduled. Maybe your allergies were acting up. Life is busy.

Still, 2,000 people showing up for such an important event is disappointing.

The protesters who did show up were amazing. I know, because I was there. They were respectful and energized. They displayed their homemade signs, waved American Flags, many decked out head to toe in red, white and blue. Some came to the rally out of anger, some frustration, and some genuine despair; all prepared to fight another potential overreach and over taxation from Connecticut’s elected elite.

We’re talking hardworking people who simply can't afford to give anymore. They have drawn the proverbial final line in the sand. If Connecticut adopts tolls, many will conclude they have no choice but to find another state, pack up and move.

On Saturday, Connecticut state representatives and senators stood side by side with those construction workers, bartenders, photographers, landscapers and truck drivers. State Minority Leader Len Fasano and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides spoke along with Transportation Committee ranking members Rep. Laura Devlin and Senator Henri Martin.

I may have missed a few, but I did see state Reps. Crag Fishbein, Mike France, Doug Dubitsky, Devin Carney, Tom Delnicki, along with state Senator George Logan.

I made the attempt to say hello to former Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski, but he was being swarmed by supporters while handing out No Tolls T-shirts. It was essentially a who's who of Republican anti-tollers.

Two-hundred-and-forty-four years ago, our forefathers put their lives on the line to fight back against a tyrannical king. The memorable last sentence in the Declaration of Independence reads; "with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” Those men were willing to give up everything to battle against oppression. Other men motivated by their vision fought, bled and died in battles at Bunker Hill, Saratoga and Kings Mountain.

In total, 25,000 men lost their lives in the Revolutionary War — 8,000 in combat and as a result of poor diet, exposure, disease and unsanitary conditions.

Fast forward two centuries and most of our state residents can’t be bothered to give up one Saturday afternoon in pursuit of economic freedom. That apathy is what the powerbrokers in Hartford are counting on.

There are reports that Gov. Ned Lamont is willing to postpone the idea of tolls until a possible summer special session. If so, that’s a small victory you can attribute to the minority of men and women who stood up and fought. (Well, that and a lack of cohesion from the Democrats, who clearly appear to be begging for leadership from Lamont and not getting it.)

Remember, however, if you couldn’t find the time to join the fight, and someday that first toll bill arrives at your house from the state, the only person you should blame will be looking back at you in the mirror.

As Frederick Douglass once said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

Lee Elci is the morning host for 94.9 News Now radio, a station that provides "Stimulating Talk" with a conservative bent.

 

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