By Scotty Boman, Editor
Revisit this article for Libby Fest videos!
Mount Pleasant, MI – On the evening of June 26th Libertarians gathered for for the annual Liberty Fest Banquet (AKA Libby Fest 2021). This year the banquet was held as part of the 2021 Libertarian Party of Michigan (LPM) Convention. Winners received the 2020 Defender of Liberty Awards because they were being honored for accomplishments in the previous year.
The Master of Ceremonies for Libby Fest 2021 was business consultant and 2016 Vice Presidential hopeful Larry Sharpe. He built up excitement and auctioned off items in support of the LPM. Also in attendance was 2020 Vice Presidential candidate Jeremy “Spike” Cohen and his wife Tasha.
Former Congressman Justin Amash was the Keynote speaker. Amash took office as a Ron Paul Republican and had a decidedly libertarian voting record for the duration of his term. However, he broke from Republicans in another way when he became the first member of the Republican Congressional delegation to call for the impeachment of Former President Donald Trump.
While other members of Congress, such as Ron Paul, had Libertarian Party memberships, Amash was the first member of Congress to instruct the Clerk of the House of Representatives to change his party affiliation to “Libertarian.” This earned him the recognition of being “the first Libertarian in Congress.” After speaking to delegates on how to increase their influence, he found himself to be among the Defender of Liberty Award winners.
The Defender of Liberty Awards are subdivided into three categories. There was one winner for each category.
The Promoter of Liberty Award is intended to go to a libertarian whose efforts have done the most to promote the Libertarian Party and libertarian principles.
Justin Amash earned the award, at Libby Fest 2021, in a variety of ways including his libertarian voting record, transition to officially becoming a Libertarian member of Congress, and continuing to be supportive of the Libertarian Party after leaving Congress. He also stood out as taking the lead in civil rights near the end of his term as protests ignited around the country in response to police violence against African Americans.
In June of 2020 Representative Amash (L-Michigan), and Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts), introduced the “Ending Qualified Immunity Act” (HR 7085). He described the act as “Restoring Americans’ ability to obtain relief when police officers violate their constitutionally secured rights.” Violence being perpetrated by police has been more problematic than violence perpetrated by civilians because qualified immunity has made prosecutions of violent officers extremely difficult.
The Producer of Liberty award is intended to go to a dedicated,
behind-the-scenes Libertarian whose quiet labors over the years exemplifies the backbone of the LP. This describes Ms. Filus perfectly.
Catherine has faithfully ensured that the Michigan Libertarian arrives in member’s inboxes every month for the past three years. Her work involves formatting the publication to be compatible with MailChimp. She creates Summaries of articles that link to the website for people who wish to read more.
She often does this on very short notice since we often get articles past the deadline that are too urgent to leave out. She does this behind the scenes with no more than a brief mention in the “Officers and Staff” portion of the Newsletter, as her compensation.
The Spokesperson for Liberty Award is for a member of the
community whose activism and conviction have inspired contributions to the cause of Liberty. My choice for this award is Agnes Hitchcock for her activism dedicated toward restoring victims of excessive property tax assessments in Detroit.
As libertarians we know that all taxation is theft, but over-taxation of those least able to endure the loss is especially heinous. At a time when many Detroiters have been losing their homes to property tax foreclosures, Detroit News journalists uncovered the fact that a huge number of people were “over-taxed:” That is to say their property was assessed at an inflated value that caused their tax bills to be much higher than they would have otherwise been. This theft added up to $600 Million dollars.
Ms. Hitchcock played a critical role in motivating large numbers of protesters to rally at Detroit City Hall (The Coleman A. Young Center) to demand the City of Detroit pay full restitution for the error and “Make us whole.” Mayor Duggan and other office –holders were quick to offer half-measures, but Hitchcock and here comrades in “Call ‘em-Out!!!\Make Us Whole Detroit” stood their ground and lead chants of “Cut the Check!” In this article there is a photograph of Ms. Hitchcock being dragged away from the protest by police, because she wouldn’t be silenced: https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2020/02/28/protesters-call-duggan-mayor-pay-back-overtaxed-detroiters/4885105002/
Later in 2020 she organized activist to canvas the city with flyers calling for a “No” vote on the stealth property tax called “Proposal N.” Politicians tried to claim it wouldn’t cost Detroiters anything though it would raise $250 Million. She knew that bonds must be repaid, and that it would be the taxpayers who would be stuck with the debt. While the effort was unsuccessful, her activists were the most visible opposition to borrow and tax scheme. Here is an article about that: https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2020/11/04/detroit-proposal-n-blight-remediation-bond-heads-toward-passage/6161149002/
I have never heard Ms. Hancock call herself a libertarian, but I find that she gets motivated by government over-reach when it noticeably hurts those who are least able to bear the consequences. I think the Libertarian Party has often missed the boat by focusing on taxation and over-regulation as middle- and upper-class issues. There is homegrown activism in Detroit (and other urban communities) on a variety of issues where the libertarian approach can be applied. We should celebrate activist like Agnes Hitchcock who advance the cause of Liberty by mobilizing her neighbors to stand up to abuse of power by the political class and their cronies.