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Local Democrats stage protest during Blackburn’s visit

More than two dozen peaceful protesters lined the corner of North Main Avenue and Gay Street, on Friday, Aug. 16, to oppose U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn’s visit to Erwin. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn was met with more than two dozen peaceful protestors as she visited Unicoi County on Friday, Aug. 16.

Members of Unicoi County, Washington County and Sullivan County’s Democratic Parties were on hand to welcome Blackburn with signs that read “Truth Matters,” “Marsha, Donald’s Darling” and “Have You No Shame,” among others.

“We are here to let Marsha know our opinions on climate change, education, and gun control,” Unicoi County resident Brunhilde Tober-Myer said.

Unicoi County resident Rebecca Cummings said she took offense to Blackburn’s support of President Trump during the release of the Mueller Report.

“Marsha claims that Trump was exonerated,” Cummings said. “She needs to retract that statement.”

Unicoi County residents Bill and Judy Beckman were in attendance and felt the need to address the issue of the federal debt among many other issues.

“We are here to bring to the forefront several issues including the huge increase in the federal debt, dishonesty and corruption in politics, especially where Citizens United is involved,” Bill said. “Campaign finance reform is a huge issue. Racism is a huge issue. Dividing the nation is a huge issue and Medicare for All is a huge issue.”

Judy agreed.

“We have never been so divided,” Judy added.

Some signs held by the protesters were very personal. For Sarah Eberle of Johnson City, her sign had pictures of who she is out protesting for.

“I have three beautiful granddaughters and I don’t want to leave them a bad, nasty world,” Eberle said.

For 27-year-old Unicoi County resident Gerald Burke the reason to protest was for his children.

“I want to take responsibility for my community,” Burke said. “I see values that are not reflective to the community around me and I want to exercise my voice. My children have inspired me to get involved. They are going to inherit this community from me and I want to leave it better than when I found it.”

For Daisney LaCroix, the need for the youth to be represented is important.

“I’m here because these issues matter to me and my generation, and I came out to support those who are pushing for our voice to be heard,” LaCroix said. “If I could speak to Senator Blackburn, I would tell her, ‘You are a woman, you should understand that the Heartbeat Bill doesn’t protect women at all, period, it never will, especially young women and children that are victims’.”

Unicoi County resident Jim Priesmeyer fought the heat to bring awareness to the opioid and gun crises in America.

“I’m a gun owner myself, but it seems to me we have an under armed police force and an over-armed civilian population, and that needs to turn around,” Priesmeyer said. “I would say to Senator Blackburn we need an incremental plan to bring enforcement to our gun control laws, something needs to be done.”

Despite not getting any response from Sen. Blackburn during the Aug. 16 visit, the crowd felt accomplished by the number of protestors that attended the rally and the number of thumbs up and waves the group received by passersby.

“I’m so proud of Erwin and Unicoi County right now,” Unicoi County resident Jamie Rainey said.