UPDATE: Protesters, supporters heard at first Sevier County Commission meeting since controversial remarks

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SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A rally against racism and homophobia occurred Monday evening at the Civic Center before the Sevier County Commission meeting.

It’s the first meeting following the controversial comment by a county commissioner about a gay presidential candidate and claims that the rights of white men are being taken away.

Sevier County commissioner Warren Hurst said at the Oct. 21 meeting, in part, “We’ve got a queer running for president in this country. If that ain’t about as ugly as you can get. … By golly, a white male in this country has very few rights … and they’re getting took more every day.”

Criticism of the comments was sharp and swift, with several county leaders decrying Hurst’s comments.

The comments also received national attention.

RELATED: Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg responds to Sevier Co. commissioner’s homophobic comments

There have been calls for Hurst to resign, or be censured, but neither of which had happened at this point.

Residents speak at County Commission

As the November meeting began Monday night, protesters from the rally gathered outside the Sevier County Courthouse. Protesters were told they were not allowed in because there were not enough seats.

Members of Sevier County’s LQBTQ+ community, the Tennessee Equality Project and Indivisible East Tennessee, dressed in red to show their opposition to Hurst’s message.

The Commission began with the Lord’s Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. One person in the crowd shouted “and justice for all” in the final stanza of the pledge.

The first 15 minutes of the meeting were spent addressing the minutes of the previous meeting, four rezoning requests, a speed limit change, appointing new beer board members, an addendum to the employee handbook regarding a federal government change on compensatory time, and notaries.

All 12 items of business were approved, without comment 20-0. Five commissioners were absent.

With no censure motion on the agenda, the public had to apply in advance of the meeting to speak on the matter. Nine speakers signed up to comment, but one was not present.

Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters reminded the crowd inside the meeting room that comments should be respectful, be less than 3 minutes and stay on the topic for which they signed up to speak about.

Four people spoke out against Hurst. One of the four asked for a censure. A person was escorted out during Pastor Billy Bailey’s remarks.

The other four spoke in support of the First Amendment and Hurst’s right to speak after last month’s vote to proclaim Sevier County as a Second Amendment sanctuary. Two criticized the media.

The meeting was adjourned afterward with no comments from Hurst or other commissioners.

Outside the Sevier County Courthouse protesters spent the full meeting chanting and could be heard in the Commission meeting room on the third floor.

Watch the full meeting here


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