Anti-Obama overpass protesters well within their rights

Tony Casey • Nov 10, 2013 at 7:04 PM

“Stop Him Now,” “Stop Obamacare,” “Impeach Obama” and “Wake Up America” are some of the signs displayed on the Princeton Road overpass over Interstate 26.

The messages on the signs are clear, but the handful of protesters want greater numbers. The group assembled Friday evening, comprised of only five, has no problem getting vehicles to beep their horns and give them a thumbs up as they drive by. What they seek is turning those beeps into bodies, so they can instill what they hope is real change.

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Members of the protest estimate about 75 percent of the vehicles that pass beep in support. They hope, at the very least, that each person who sees them out there will think about the issues at hand. “Overpasses for Obama’s Impeachment” is a group they say they represent, a group that has just under 70,000 followers on Facebook. They also represent a local group called “Northeast Tennessee Resistance.”

Group leader Susanna Corley-Purington, of Elizabethton, said they’ve tried to come at least once a week since the first week of August and try to be there for rush hour traffic on Friday as people are heading home from work, often on pay day. Corley-Purington said what they’re trying to resist includes the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, diminishing Second Amendment rights, infringement of personal freedoms and all other items on the Obama agenda.

“We’re trying to connect with the people as to what the problem is,” she said. “They’re feeling it with the Obamacare mess. People can barely live.”

Fellow protester Celia Martin, of Jonesborough, said she’s one of those people who drove by and showed support, before deciding to get out there and a wave a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag. Martin said she’s there representing her 7-year-old granddaughter.

“Obama changed her lunch to yucky food, and it costs too much,” Martin said her granddaughter told her.

As for the legality of it all, Corley-Purington said they spoke with law enforcement before taking their protest to the overpass, and were told as long as they didn’t attach anything to the bridge, they’d be within their First Amendment rights.

Capt. Brian Rice of the Johnson City Police Department verified the protesters’ rights and said they haven’t had any issues or complaints about the group.

“As long as it’s not a public nuisance, they’re well within their rights,” Rice said.

Corley-Purington said they’ve even seen support from passing police officers, saying they’ve even briefly turned on their lights in support.

While they’ve noted a great deal of support, even receiving $20 bills on two occasions, Corley-Purington said they’ve also had someone throw a drink on them in disagreement.

Similar protests in other states have resulted in arrests, including Missouri, where anti-Obama protesters were arrested for what police called a public hazard, saying the signs distracted drivers, causing accidents. The Johnson City protesters said they’re careful about how they conduct their protest.

One of the other protesters, Devin Hamaker, of Johnson City, held onto the “Impeach Obama” sign, and hopes his efforts will better the country.

“I want to restore the Bill of Rights back to its founders,” Hamaker said. “Restore the country back to its principles.”

Not everyone agrees with them, and that’s OK with Hamaker. “Idiots,” one passer-by screamed from a slow-moving vehicle atop Princeton Road, prompting a response from Hamaker.

“They have a right to say it, too,” Hamaker said. He said he’s not affiliated with any group and thinks Obama could be impeached for treason, lying under oath, and for killing Americans if his cause could get enough people behind it.

“We’ve got to get him out of the White House to restore America,” he said.

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