Pushing back against the explosive protests targeting Donald Trump’s administration, supporters of the president launched a wave of counter-demonstrations showing the Republican their support.
One of the largest yet was staged on Monday outside the Georgia statehouse, where more than 250 people gathered for the “Spirit of America” rally to wave Trump campaign signs and patriotic flags and listen to more than a dozen speakers praise his policies.
They burst into chants of “four more years.” They sang “God Bless America” – twice. And they heard from a barrage of candidates who hope to tap into the president’s popularity among frustrated voters as they seek to run for higher office.
“These folks think they know what’s best for us. They think they’re the masters of the universe,” said state Sen. Josh McKoon, a Columbus Republican with an eye on a statewide bid. “But in America, the people still get a say. The revolution, the earthquake on Nov. 8 is just the first step.”
The events were organized by Georgia tea party guru Debbie Dooley, who also orchestrated a rally held on Saturday at the Okefenokee Fairgrounds in southeast Georgia. Her group is planning about 72 of the rallies around the nation, and she told the crowd that four will even be held in deep-blue California.
“How about Hollywood?” shouted one participant.
“Probably not,” Dooley laughed.
Katie Price trekked from Marietta to show her support for Trump, in part out of frustration with the media attention on the protests. Critics of Trump’s policies have marched in the streets of the state’s biggest cities – including 60,000 in Atlanta the day after Trump’s inauguration – sent a barrage of phone calls to GOP lawmakers and held a spate of town halls targeting Trump and his supporters.
“The Democrats are digging their heels in,” said Price, “and it’s childish.”
Abu Zahed of Doraville shouldered a billowing Trump flag, telling everyone he could why he supported the president.
“The anti-Trump protesters are crazy,” he said. “All he wants is to get us jobs and fight terrorism. How can you disagree with that?”
Standing next to them was Linda Shrake, who predicted the anti-Trump protests will disappear as the president starts to live up to his campaign promises.
“I really believe the future is positive and we should hold out hope,” said Shrake, who lives in Roswell. “The best is yet to come. And President Trump will continue to lead.”
The event was headlined by a number of early supporters of the president, who won Georgia’s March primary despite tepid support from many leading GOP officials.
Public Service Commissioner Bubba McDonald, the first statewide official to endorse Trump, was on hand. So was state Sen. Michael Williams, one of the first elected officials in the state to back his candidacy.
Bruce LeVell, who headed Trump’s diversity coalition and is now running for Congress, surveyed the crowd and then asked a question: Who supported Trump from the beginning? Just about every hand shot up.
On the outer rim of the rally, a handful of Trump critics patrolled, some with signs criticizing the president. Chris Moser of Lithonia held one placard declaring Trump a “fascist thug.”
“The people who are against the authoritarian, right-wing and unpatriotic Trump regime need to be represented,” said Moser. “And those people in there” – he pointed to the gathering crowd – “need to be exposed to our view.”
Inside the rally, Trump supporters tried to recapture the energy of his insurgent, outsider-themed campaign.
“The reason Donald Trump won was that people were mad as hell, sick of policies that didn’t work,” said Atlanta executive Michael Altman, adding: “He doesn’t need this job or this office. But we need him.”
Before the rally ended, Loganville City Councilman Rey Martinez had one more plea for the crowd.
“What’s up? Como esta?” he asked. “Let’s celebrate!”
And with that, he led the crowd in a halting rendition of Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration.” As rain threatened, the Trump supporters danced with glee.