Trump protesters, backers face off weekly at gazebo

The Warren Sentinel

FRONT ROYAL — The division between the political right and left permeating the nation can be seen locally, with Chester Street serving as a demarcation line.

Recently, protesters of President Donald Trump have gathered at the gazebo while supporters have settled in front of Main Street Pawn Brokers.

This began when President Trump was inaugurated, and Front Royal resident Len Sherp felt his policies threatened the countryís democratic institutions.

Sherp initiated a weekly protest at the gazebo titled Vigil for Democracy, which has set up camp every Wednesday since the inauguration from noon to 1 p.m.

Ralph and Mike Waller own the Main Street Pawn Brokers across the street. Upon seeing the vigil, they wanted to battle the protest by showing support for the president, Ralph Waller said. So, they began sitting on a bench in front of the shop holding up a Trump-Pence campaign sign.

Several vigil members mentioned they obtained a permit for the gathering, and wondered if the Trump supporters had gone to such lengths.

Ralph Waller responded that he thinks being at the location in front of his shop constitutes a permit.

The vigil began small with about three participants the first couple of weeks, but has since gathered a steady stream of about 20 protesters, Sherp said. They hold a variety of signs representing their qualms that week.

Issues that have troubled Sherp include the alleged Russian "meddling" in the election, Muslim bans, President Trumpís unreleased tax returns, alleged violations of the emoluments clause, and no congressional checks and balances.

Sherp said President Trumpís ideas negate what made America great. He also worries the president believes himself to be ìabove the lawî and does not realize he is an employee of the people.

"I think that the issues we are protesting are worthy of protests," Sherp said.

Although President Trump easily won Warren County in the election, Sherp said the vigil has received far more thumbs up than thumbs down. Still, a few have driven by and called them "idiots."

Last week, the Wallers were joined by a "Catholic group" who, in addition to supporting Trump, expressed opinions on certain issues, Waller said.

"The Catholics were different. They were supporting Trump, and they got the anti-abortion and the homosexual issue. That's what they were talking about," Waller said. "My cohorts, we go out there, more or less to hold up a Trump sign."

Members of the Catholic portion of the pro-Trump side of the street, Mary Ann Kreitzer and Darden Brock, thought the protests are unfair.

Brock noted babies were in strollers on their side of the street, compared to one of the protesters who had a dog in a stroller.

Kreitzer, donning a ìpro-lifeî shirt, said the nation should pray for President Trump and not protest. Last Wednesday, this is just what happened, and many prayers were said on the president's behalf in front of the pawn shop.

Kreitzer, Brock and Ralph Waller, noted they were not protesting when Barack Obama was elected.

"He was the president. No matter what, he was the president," Ralph Waller said. "I disagreed with a lot of the things he did, but he was the president."

Sherp disagrees, and recalls anti-Obama rhetoric upon his election. That included comparing Obama to a dictator and a lot of nasty bumper stickers, he said.

"What is wrong with protests? Our right to protest and to speak our voice is something that is guaranteed by the constitution," Sherp said.

Sherp said the vigil is ìopen to all,î and participants have included citizens from Warren County, Luray, and Winchester. Even visitors from Pennsylvania joined in when they saw the protests.

Sherp intends to keep the vigil going "until I am convinced that the people in whose hands we have entrusted the government are keeping safe the Constitution." If that takes four years, he intends to protest for four years.

"In a democracy, the two things we have are our vote and our voice. I intend to make my voice known and I intend to vote," Sherp said.

He would, however, like to find common ground with those at the pawn shop.

"If the people across the street wanted to come over and hold their Trump and Pence signs, because it's a vigil for democracy, if they wanted to do that, they could do that," Sherp said.

Waller also would like to see an end to the division that spans from Congress, to the national media, to the local protest, he said

"We think the country should be united. Tearing down the president is not going to help out country," Waller said.

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