Hours after the Louisville, Kentucky grand jury’s announcement regarding indictments in the death of Breonna Taylor led to protests that turned into riots, a group rallied Friday on Franklin’s Public Square to recognize local law enforcement and show their support for the U.S. Constitution.
The rally was originally scheduled for Constitution Day on Sept. 17, but the rain threat from Hurricane Sally led organizer Laurie Cardoza-Moore to change the date.
“I was afraid Sally would rain on my rally,” said Cardoza-Moore, founder of Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, as, ironically, a light rain Friday made setting up a challenge. “I’d been hearing so much from the community who were frustrated about how our constitutional rights were being trampled and not upheld and the anti-American, anti-Judeo-Christian attacks on our values.”
Cardoza-Moore decided to host a rally to talk about the issues and honor local law enforcement on the front lines. Williamson County Sheriff Dusty Rhoades and Franklin Police Chief Deborah Faulkner were given Tree of Life awards to let their departments know they have the community’s support. The award is given to those who stand against anti-Semitism and for the Constitution, liberty, freedom and education, Moore said.
“As citizens of Williamson County and Franklin, we’re rallying to let law enforcement know we have their backs, just as they have ours,” Cardoza-Moore said. “It’s time to let [the rioters] know they are not coming to our cities to riot.”
The light rain didn’t dampen the spirits of those who gathered and the speakers and local legislators who addressed issues like the anti-American sentiment rising across the nation and educational curriculums and textbooks that gloss over American history, don’t teach it accurately or promote other ideals.
Tennessee state Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) and Rep. Scott Cepicky, a Republican whose District 64 includes Maury County, addressed changes legislators have made in textbook selection and urged supporters to be strong and determined.
“Rallies like this give us courage,” Casada said. “We know we’re in the majority, but we need the silent majority not to be silent anymore.”
Tennessee state Sen. Jack Johnson received a roar of support when he told the group, “Law enforcement has been under assault. I stand with the thin blue line.”
Johnson cautioned those moving to Tennessee from states where riots, taxes and business regulations have finally hit a pinnacle to remember what they left and respect what their new locations have built.
“Our job is to embrace them and educate them about why our constitutional principles are so important and why Tennessee is such a great state,” he said.
Not everyone at the gathering was a supporter. Local teens Samuel Rowland, Evan Fuller and Mike Oxmaul said they came to “observe and see the other side,” with whom they disagreed.
The teens said they attended a Black Lives Matter rally and were more in line with their thinking. They were polite but disagreed with President Donald Trump’s stand on abortion and the “$10 million he’s spending propping up the coal industry.”
Ashley Washburn was at the rally showing her support with her two sons.
“I’m concerned about how our freedoms are being eroded,” she said. “I want to hear about how I can make a difference and let our voices be heard.”
Local singer-songwriter John Ford Coley invited the gathering to join him in singing Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” and “America the Beautiful” before the main event, the presentation of the Tree of Life awards to Rhoades and Faulkner.
“We honor law enforcement for the community, because they uphold the Constitution, liberty and freedom,” Moore said. “It’s the sheriffs and police who protect and support our constitutional rights.”
While accepting the award, Rhoades said law enforcement isn’t perfect.
"We make mistakes, but we do our best and we’re here to protect and keep Williamson County safe,” he said.
Faulkner wasn’t in attendance but will receive her award at a later date.
Other speakers included “Counter Culture Mom,” Tina Griffin, whose four children led the Pledge of Allegiance; Franklin Alderman Bev Berger; former radio talk show host Steve Gill; Gary Humble from Tennessee Stands; and Pastor Dale Walker, president of the Tennessee Pastors Network, who led the closing with a story by Paul Harvey and a prayer that the country will survive the current turmoil.