LITTLE ROCK — About 50 protesters were on hand Monday morning as Arkansas’ six electors met to cast their ballots in the old Supreme Court Chamber at the state Capitol.
With hand-lettered signs saying “Take it to the House,” “Drain the Trump,” “Trump is a threat to America”Â and other slogans, the protesters filled the chamber gallery situated on the west side of the chamber opposite the bench where justices used to interpret state law prior to construction of a separate Supreme Court facility.
One woman, holding a sign saying “Take it to the House” and a video recorder, walked through the room, stopping to record protesters, state officials and reporters at various times before the proceedings got underway.
Leonard Wilson of Conway said he was motivated to come to the Capitol by fears that Trump has little regard for basic American freedoms.
“It’s not that I’m looking for any particular person to be president. I just think Donald Trump has no intention of upholding his oath of office,” said Wilson. “He’s shown no interest in upholding the First Amendment, and if he doesn’t, the whole Constitution could collapse.”
The electors, including Jonathan Barnett of Siloam Springs, Jonelle Fulmer of Fort Smith, Keith Gibson of Lavaca, Tommy Land of Heber Springs, John Nabholz of Conway and Sharon R. Wright of Hope, entered the chamber about 9:30 a.m. After congregating near the entrance, then meeting briefly with Secretary of State Mark Martin, the six electors walked around to the protesters, stopping to shake hands, cordially chatting with several as they made their way through the crowd.
Gibson said while he hasn’t been persuaded to deny the president-elect his vote, he appreciated the protesters for their determination and resolve, and said his view of the protests is that it is a valuable element of the democratic process.
“The people who would take their time to come out and express their opinion, I really value that and appreciate it. Im glad they’re here. They aren’t going to appreciate my vote when it’s all over with but that’s OK. They’re all very friendly, they’ve been very cordial, and I appreciate it,”Â Gibson said.
Nabholz said he has received more than 5,000 emails and at least 500 letters from protesters across the country, with the majority of those having been respectful in tone, even though nearly all voiced strong opposition to the president-elect.
“It would be 99 percent against Trump, although there have been a smattering in support of Trump,” said Nabholz, who commented that, while he understood some of the concerns of protesters, his commitment to the state to vote for the Republican president-elect would have to supersede those concerns.
“I did consider my role seriously and took a fresh look at it, and I feel like I’m doing the right thing,” he said.
Following the vote of the electors and the announcement that Trump had received all six of Arkansas’ electoral votes, one unidentified protester called out, “Release his tax returns!”Â and another called out, “You voted for a Fascist! You voted for a Nazi!”Â Martin admonished the crowd to remain silent with a threat that he would clear the chamber if there were more outbursts.
When the vote confirming Mike Pence as vice president was announced, there was another outburst from the gallery as a protester shouted, “You voted for a homophobe!”Â The woman was quickly escorted from the chamber by Capitol police, and no further calls from the gallery were heard.