Security officers forcibly dragged a demonstrator out of a rally for Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn Sunday night, according to reports and video posted to social media.
Blackburn supporters and demonstrators exchanged jeers at a rally in Davidson County, Tennessee, where GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina also appeared. Blackburn was quick to attribute the demonstration to “the liberal angry mob” in a statement.
Republicans have leaned on the “mob rule” line of attack to energize the party’s base ahead of the midterm elections. Democrats and other critics say that rhetoric is misplaced, pointing to a surge of far-right violence against marginalized people.
Blackburn supporters chanted “USA! USA!” as one demonstrator was removed by a security officer, video posted by ABC News shows. Two more demonstrators held up fists and kneeled before being escorted out by authorities. One attendee appears to raise his middle finger at the women.
The heated exchanges escalated when Blackburn paused for a moment of silence to honor the victims of the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday.
“Marsha Blackburn is a white supremacist!” a protester called out in a video posted to YouTube by a Blackburn supporter, only to be drowned out by boos and chants of “USA! USA!” from the crowd.
Blackburn described the disruption as “despicable” and pointed the finger at her opponent, former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the contest Leans Republican.
The Bredesen campaign distanced himself from the demonstrators on Twitter. Spokesperson Alyssa Hansen tweeted, “it is a shame that people disrupted Congresswoman Blackburn’s event and it is a shame that Congresswoman Blackburn’s campaign staffers have been proudly screaming at 37 of Governor Bredesen’s events.”
Tennessee’s News Channel 5 reported the man dragged out by security was detained by police. The demonstrators — one of whom wore a shirt that read “Black Lives Matter” — were asked to vacate the rally before the event began, a request they attributed to racial profiling, according to a video posted on Facebook by the arrested worker.
Graham echoed Blackburn’s allegation that the protesters represent a collapse of civility in an interview with Fox News following the rally.
“All the people who want to yell at me would turn the country into a mob,” Graham said.
Nashville Metro At-Large Council Member Erica Gilmore said the protesters were acting within their rights under the First Amendment in a statement posted to Twitter.
“In a time of such heightened hatred, it is important that we have a constructive dialog,” she said.
Watch: Tennessee Senate Candidates’ Debate Finale