“It’s not just about one side or the other – it’s about people,” protester Amanda Moore said.
President Donald Trump came to Johnson City Oct. 1 and held a historic rally at Freedom Hall with Republican Senate nominee Marsha Blackburn and Republican governor nominee Bill Lee.
Freedom Hall, which holds approximately 8,000 people, was at max-capacity. The president noted that there were 20,000 people outside that weren’t able to get in. There were also rally-goers who were put in an overflow room right beside the arena.
With the supporters outside were also hundreds of protesters lining the road to Freedom Hall, joined by the Washington County Democratic Party.
“I think this is a really important time in history,” Moore said. “You can’t not take a side.”
Moore is originally from the Bristol area but now lives in Georgia. She travelled to Johnson City for the rally.
“I think we’re following in the footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr.,” she said. “We need to make sure that our brothers and sisters are taken care of.”
For the most part, the protest was peaceful. It was right along the route many supporters would have to take as they left after being turned away when the event reached full capacity. Police surrounded the demonstrators to ensure everyone’s safety, but it became heated quickly when the supporters had to start walking through the protesters.
Moore says she understands why people like the president and why they voted for him.
“My brother is here seeing Trump, and I’m here protesting him,” she said. “I offered to drive him here, though. I want him to be able to see Trump if he wants to. He has that right. That’s what’s great about America.”
Elliott, who preferred not to give a last name, could also see the supporters’ reasoning.
“[Trump] brings the working class into the conversation,” he said. “He speaks to the people who are scared. He resonates with a lot of what the voters wanted.”
Although they understand the opposing viewpoint, they still strongly believe in what they are fighting for.
“We shouldn’t forget anybody,” Moore says. “We need to be asking the question, ‘These people are having these experiences under this administration, is that really what you want to represent you?’”
Many of the hundreds of protesters held up signs about policy.
Some of the notable signs were “Guns are not school supplies,” “Y’all means all,” “Global warming is real – there is no planet B” and “Women are in charge of their own bodies.”
The demonstrators, including Elliott and Moore believe that this protest will have a positive impact on the community and get their message out.
“This is a positive thing,” Elliott said. “Especially in East Tennessee, a state and area that leans so heavily Republican, to have so much public support is awesome.”
Moore also believes that peaceful protest is the most effective resistance.
“We have to see each other as individuals,” Moore said. “We have to show them our humanity. Love them as individuals rather than who they vote for or who they vote against.”