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People's Bicentennial Commission

People's Bicentennial Commission Club Button Museum
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People's Bicentennial Commission button back Club Button Museum
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Green illustration of coiled snake on a patch of ground with green text on a yellow background.

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1346 Conn. Ave. N.W.
Room 1025
Washington, D.C. 20036
(202) 833-9121

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The phrase “Don’t Tread on Me” with the image of a coiled rattlesnake can be traced back to a flag created by American general and politician Christopher Gadsden (1724-1805). He designed the flag in 1775 during the Revolutionary War. The flag was used by Continental sailors to express pro-revolution sentiments. The P.B.C., or People’s Bicentennial Commission, founded by Jeremy Rifkin, adopted the Gadsden flag in the 1970s. The P.B.C.’s goal was to use the 1976 Bicentennial to encourage an economic revolution. The group organized protests including one against big oil companies where participants threw empty oil barrels into Boston Harbor on the 200th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. The P.B.C. held a rally at the Capitol in Washington D.C. on July 4, 1976, and chanted slogans like “Mobil, Exxon, ITT, Down with corporate tyranny.” After the September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorist attack on the United States, the Gadsden flag became a symbol of defiance. The conservative Tea Party within the Republican Party adopted the flag as its symbol in 2009.​

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