A campaign event for U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., in North Forsyth was interrupted by Black Lives Matter supporters on Thursday afternoon.
About four individuals began chanting "Black lives matter" during Loeffler's remarks at the Sawnee Mountain Park community building during a campaign event attended by several local officials and U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.
The issues began when Loeffler said she stood up against the Black Lives Matter organization as an owner of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream.
She said the organization was “very different than the statement, Black lives matter.”
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“There is no place for racism in this country. The life of every African American matters and is important. We have to root out racism wherever it exists,” Loeffler said. “That’s not what the BLM organization is about.”
Loeffler said the organization wanted to “defund the police” and “erode the nuclear family.”
One of the BLM supporters, Trinia Arnold James, then asked Loeffler whether she knew why those chanting “Black lives matter were protesting.” After some back and forth between the two, supporters of Loeffler began chanting, "Kelly! Kelly!" over the protesters, who responded by chanting “Black lives matter.”
The disruption ended the meeting, though some of Loeffler'ssupporters were able to speak and get pictures with her and Cotton as other members of the crowd continued to argue with the protesters.
The event was a part of Loeffler's campaign tour this month through 14 Georgia counties as she attempts to hold on to her Senate seat ahead of the special election on Nov. 3.
After organizers loudly played music to drown out the chants and collected chairs, signaling the end of the event, Loeffler had an opportunity to speak with reporters.
Loeffler said she opposed protesters and rioters who were destroying property, tearing down statues, defacing property, injuring law enforcement and killing people. Loeffleremphasized that she had introduced the Hold Rioters Accountable Act of 2020, which Cotton co-sponsored.
“This applies to any … looters, arson, anything that is unlawful,” she said. “We have to enforce the law. We have district attorneys that are not enforcing the law.”
Loeffler said she stood up for “the right for anyone to express themselves” but that “cancel culture is out of control.”
“We have to have an ability to have a dialogue with people without shutting people down, without canceling them,” Loeffler said. “That’s why I’m going to be every American’s voice and speak out when something is wrong and fighting for that right to speak out; that’s the First Amendment to the Constitution. I’m always going to fight back.”
She said the Black Lives Matter organization was Marxist and “wants to hijack this moment, and they have promoted violence, anti-semitism.”
Even after Loeffler and Cotton left for their next stop of the day, the Black Lives Matter protesters and supports of Loefflercontinued to argue and shout back and forth in the center’s parking lot.
The four protestors were Triana Arnold James – who unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic nomination for District 30 in the Georgia State Senate, which represents Carrolton and other areas in West Georgia – her two daughters and Nselaa Ward, who said she lives in South Georgia.
“We came here to have a conversation,” Ward said. “Previously, she was appointed, but now she’s being elected, so we really have to make sure that when she’s coming and representing Georgians, that she’s really representing our issues.”
Arnold James said she had dealt with protesters of her own during a press conference asking for the removal of a Confederate memorial at the Douglas County Courthouse and that she had attempted to have a dialogue at that event.
When asked if her actions were an effective way of spreading her message or if those in attendance heard her message, Arnold James said, “I don’t think the people did, but I believe Kelly did.”
“We’re saying Black lives matter because Black lives are in danger now,” Arnold James said. “Black men are being gunned down at an alarming rate.”
Before the protest, the event had been a fairly normal campaign event with remarks from Loeffler, Cotton and local officials, including District 22 state Rep. Wes Cantrell, District 24 state Rep. Sheri Gilligan, District 26 state Rep. Marc Morris and Forsyth County District 1 Commissioner Molly Cooper.
Cotton said he had spent a year at Fort Benning during his time in the Army and recalled the “Iron Mike” statue, which he described as “the kind of characteristic infantryman. He has his rifle in one hand, and he’s looking over his shoulder and he’s leaning over and it says, ‘Follow me.’”
“I’ve got to tell you, when you’re in Washington and you’re a conservative and you say, ‘Follow me,’ and look back over your shoulder, you don’t necessarily see a lot of troops behind you, but Georgia has a great warrior for your state and for America and the American ideal in Kelly Loeffler,” he said. “She’s only been there for eight months, but she’s done more in eight months than a lot of career politicians do in eight years.”
Before discussing the Black Lives Matter organization, Loefflerspoke for about 10 minutes and touted her conservative beliefs and work with President Donald Trump.
“I went to Washington to work for you,” she said. “I don’t owe anyone in Washington anything. I work for Georgians, so look, I am proud to stand with President Trump to stand up for our faith, our families, the Second Amendment, to protect our borders and to protect innocent life.
“Just like the president, I’m an outsider to politics. I’m a business person. We need more businesspeople in Washington, who know how to create jobs, who know how to balance a budget. We need more conservatives who will stand up to the fake news, to the swamp, the career politicians, and we need people who won’t back down, who will fight for our values to protect our American way of life here.”