Greeneville residents Rob McLintock, left, and Gary House take a moment to talk during Saturday's Overpasses for America rally on the Princeton Road I-26 overpass. (Photos by Max Hrenda/Johnson City Press)
In response to a declaration on immigration reform by President Barack Obama, a group of citizens took to the highways to express their disapproval of his, and the country’s, position on immigration.
On Saturday morning and afternoon, the Tennessee chapter of Overpasses for America held a rally on the Princeton Road Interstate 26 overpass to speak out against illegal immigration and to demand that troops be placed along the southern United States border.
On June 30, Obama announced he would bypass Congress and act on his own to reform immigration. According to OFA member and Limestone resident Harry Polk III, that announcement prompted Saturday’s demonstration.
“That’s what got me out here today,” Polk said. “We’re here to support the securing of our border, to keep the illegals from coming over here without being checked and thrown in camps and released into the American public.”
Although Polk began Saturday’s rally in rainy weather at 10 a.m., he said he came prepared for adverse conditions.
“I had a poncho and just stood out here,” Polk said. “It was comfortable. I stayed fairly dry. It wasn’t that bad, and it was well worth it.”
By Saturday afternoon, more than a dozen people had taken to the overpass bearing American flags and signs bearing messages such as, “We Stand Against Immigration Reform,” and “U.S. Border Is Dissolved! Send National Guard Now!” as some passing vehicles honked their horns and waved to show support. Although fewer than 20 people were at the rally on Saturday afternoon, Gary House, who drove from Greeneville to participate, said his resolution was bolstered by the show of support from the motorists.
“We’ve had a very good response,” House said. “Although there’s very few people here, I’m encouraged by all the support we’ve had from the passersby.”
Along with speaking out against immigration, some at the rally also had a secondary message to convey.
“I’m here to take a stand and hopefully get the word out to impeach Obama,” Polk said.
Polk criticized Obama for the handling of the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, along with his lack of involvement in the case against Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, a Marine reservist who is on trial in Mexico for allegedly bringing three firearms into Tijuana. While Polk had criticims, Kenneth Cillo, who drove from Kyles Ford — in Hancock County — to participate in Saturday’s event, said fear motivated him to speak out against Obama.
“I’ve never been so afraid of any president in my life as this guy,” Cillo said. “Maybe he doesn’t outright hate America, but he has a very negative view of this country. He says you’ve got to fundamentally change it. What is so terrible that needs fundamental changing?”
Though some at the rally were afraid of the direction the country was headed, Greeneville resident Rob McLintock said he was celebrating one of the country’s basic freedoms — his freedom of speech.
“We just figured it’s time to start standing up,” McLintock said. “It’s our right as citizens.
“If we don’t like something, we can demonstrate against it.”
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