Bus faces Dahlonega backlash
It was a rocky rollout for Michael Williams’ Deportation Bus Tour in Dahlonega as the Georgia gubernatorial candidate was greeted by protestors and a mariachi band while pulling into the Greenbriar Shopping Center Saturday morning.
The handful of supporters for the state senator, all of whom arrived with the vehicle, were far outnumbered by protestors as a sizable local crowd had been waiting in the parking lot for more than an hour in order to demonstrate against Williams and his bus which is emblazoned with the words: “Murderers, rapists, kidnappers, child molesters and other criminals on board…FOLLOW ME TO MEXICO.”
The bus had been gaining notoriety and national coverage for several days after Williams’ online video debuted on YouTube last week.
“We’re going to implement my 287-G deportation plan that’s going to fill this bus with illegals to send them back where they came from,” he said in the campaign video.
The video was initially deemed hate speech and temporarily removed from YouTube.
Dahlonega resident Glenda Pender said she took offense to the campaign tactic.
“ To me, a lot of the anti-immigrant talk is code for hatred,” she said.” … I think history shows us that a lot of people feel better to have people to look down upon. And I think that’s become a movement in our country. And I think Michael Williams is building on that.”
“Taken by itself what’s racist about it?” he asked The Nugget. “…Is illegal a race? I don’t care what color you are. If you’re illegal you don’t need to be here.”
When pressed, Williams said he included the reference to Mexico because that’s where “the influx of people” are coming from.
Though Williams was scheduled to arrive in Dahlonega at 7:30 a.m. the bus didn’t pull into the parking lot until more than an hour later.
When it did, the band and protestors marched along the sidewalk that runs next to the East Main Street shopping center as the sounds of mariachi mixed with chants from the crowd.
This musical element was the brainchild of event organizer Marisa Pyle of Indivisible Lumpkin.
“I was talking to the city marshal and he said you can’t have megaphones,” she said with a grin. “So I was thinking ‘What’s better than a megaphone? Live music.'”
As that music echoed across the parking lot, Williams said the reaction to the bus has been “all across the board” at each stop.
“We’ve had people that absolutely love it,” he said. “…And we have other people that take it the wrong way and add their own personal prejudices to it and don’t like it.”
He suggested that he hasn’t seen as many supporters on the tour because many may have declined to attend due to the threat of protestors who have used “bullying tactics and intimidation.”
Before leaving, Williams said he might not see eye-to-eye with the crowd in Dahlonega but he appreciated the mariachi band.
“I love it,” he said. “One of the things that I appreciate is creativity. Even if it’s creativity at my expense.”
Dahlonega resident Sallie Sorohan pointed out that the morning music also provided a lively alternative to that other Saturday morning event.
“How else could we compete with the royal wedding?” she said with a laugh.
After about 10 minutes the Deportation Bus headed to Blairsville with protestors singing “Hey-Hey-Hey Goodbye” in its wake.
(And for an inside look at The Nugget visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCcUNFCtkfo)