NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE — Several protesters were forcibly removed from a rally Sunday for Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the Republican Senate nominee in Tennessee.
The protests began before Blackburn took the stage, as one woman yelled something about the “extremist Republican party” before being drowned out by chants of “USA!”
The woman wrapped herself around a pole, continuing to yell while the crowd chanted back before three men picked her up and carried her out of the room while she kicked and screamed.
After the woman was removed, three more protesters began yelling, quickly drowned out by the crowd again. One young man was wrestled to the ground by multiple men. As he fought back against the group, two young women, one wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt, knelt silently with their fists up near the middle of the theater.
Tennessee GOP chair Scott Golden was at the lectern as the protests started, and as the second wave of protests began, he said, “This is what this election is all about.”
The three protesters were removed as the crowd yelled. One man started a loud “Jobs not mobs!” chant. The woman in the Black Lives Matter shirt appeared to yell, “Fuck you!” back into the room as she was escorted out.
— Addy Baird 👽 (@addysue) October 28, 2018
More protesters were removed as Blackburn was speaking. After one woman was removed early on in Blackburn’s remarks, the congresswoman said, “I will always defend free speech, and our nation has been well served by focused, respectful political debate.”
Not long after, during a moment of silence for the victims of a mass shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at a synagogue Saturday, one woman yelled, “Marsha Blackburn is a white supremacist!” She was quickly drowned out by chants and escorted out. Blackburn responded, saying, “How despicable that you cannot even have a moment of silence.”
A final protester was removed while Blackburn was speaking. She, too, yelled anti-GOP comments but what she said was indecipherable over the “USA” chants.
In a statement minutes after the rally, the Bredesen campaign condemned the protesters who had interrupted the event, saying that it is “time to turn down the partisan rhetoric.”
“This is happening from both sides — it is a shame that people disrupted Congresswoman Blackburn’s event and it is a shame that Congresswoman Blackburn’s campaign staffers have been proudly screaming at 37 of Governor Bredesen’s events.”
About 150 people gathered at the CabaRay showroom for the Sunday rally, which was adorned with signs for Blackburn and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee alongside stop sign shaped signs proclaiming “Stop Schumer.”
With just nine days left before Election Day, Blackburn hit many of the same notes Trump and other national Republicans have been singing in the final days. That includes denouncing a caravan of immigrants traveling from Mexico to the United States’ southern border as an “illegal invading force,” and lashing out at Democrats for their opposition to the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“I was pretty clear from the beginning that I was going to be right there where Tennesseans are. You bring forward a constitutional judge as a nominee for the Supreme Court; I’m going to be a ‘yes’ vote,” Blackburn said.
Bredesen ultimately came forward and said, had he been a member of the Senate at the time, he would have voted to confirm Kavanaugh, but Blackburn said his belated support wasn’t nearly good enough.
“We know that it took my opponent 88 days to figure out where he was on that issue, and only after the vote was called did he decide where he was. We also know that the Democrats that were on the Senate Judiciary Committee spent a lot of time during advice and consent into search and destroy,” she said.
Blackburn also referenced the allegations of sexual assault that surfaced against Kavanaugh Sunday, calling them “eleventh hour scare tactics.”
“[The Democrats] delayed for weeks and they used eleventh hour scare tactics to try and keep Brett Kavanaugh off the Supreme Court,” she said. “But, fortunately, we’ve got some good solid Republican leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee, they stood up and they called out the Democrats for those smears.”
The Tennessee Republican spoke for only a few minutes before turning the mic over to Graham. “First thing I want to say is, if there’s any more protesters out there, now’s your time,” he said.
Graham spent much of his speech joking about Kavanaugh and his accuser Christine Blasey Ford, saying as the crowd chucked, “How would you like me to explain to somebody about a party 36 years ago that nobody says you were at?”
He added, “If I thought drinking beer made you that smart, I would’ve drank more beer!”
Graham later turned to the caravan. “If you’re a Republican, between Kavanaugh and the caravan if you’re not excited about voting you’re legally dead!” He added that as a lawmaker he has “tried to fix our broken immigration system,” but said he finds it “very offensive that people are marching on our border demanding to come into our country.”
“You go march into Mexico and see how long you last,” he told the crowd. “This is not right, folks. We can’t let this last.”
Attendees at the event Sunday said they were thrilled to have Graham there stumping for Blackburn. One woman, Becca Walsh of Nashville, who was sporting a “Let’s pray for America” sticker on her jacket, said she had already voted and just wanted to see Graham.
“He’s bold. He’s part of this revolution,” said Walsh, who said she is a former Democrat who left the party 15 or 20 years ago. She attended the event with her son Evan, 28, who said he too had voted for Blackburn, his first ever vote.
His mother meanwhile said she is fairly certain Democrats will defect, as she had years ago, to the Republican Party.
“I’m so proud to be alive right now,” Becca Walsh said. “We’re bringing people together into this party.”