In Beaufort, protesters rally for -- and against -- Joe Wilson

September 12, 2009 

Alison Davidow, left, voices her disapproval of U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson while picketing Wilson's Beaufort office Saturday on Port Republic Street.

BOB SOFALY/ THE BEAUFORT GAZETTE

They were on separate sides of the street -- literally and figuratively.

In front ofU.S. Rep. Joe Wilson's Beaufort office on Port Republic Street, protesters held up signs that read "Learn Respect." Protestors chanted "Joe Must Go."

On the other side of the street, Wilson's supporters shouted back at his detractors and held signs that read "Joe Wilson is right" and "Joe Wilson is my spokesman."

More than 75 people -- the majority of them protesting against Wilson -- crowded the corner of Port Republic and West streets Saturday to make their feelings known about the representative's outburst during President Barack Obama health care address Wednesday night to a joint session of Congress. Wilson shouted "You lie!" when the president said his health care plan would not extend benefits to illegal immigrants. Wilson has since apologized to the White House for his remarks, calling them "inappropriate and regrettable."

Alison Davidow of Beaufort said Wilson's behavior embarrassed all of his constituents in South Carolina's 2nd Congressional District, which includes Beaufort County.

"Those people who were thoroughly disgusted -- but not surprised -- by Congressman Joe Wilson's behavior needed to do something," Davidow said. "We want to show other South Carolinians that there are those in the 2nd Congressional District who are not potted plants."

Wilson's office was not open Saturday but Davidow said that mattered little to protesters.

"We really didn't expect him to be there," Davidow said. "He'll probably get the message, and we will feel better for having exercised our First Amendment rights," she said.

Having moved to South Carolina from Philadelphia about three months ago, Judy Finman of Hilton Head Island said Wilson has turned South Carolina and the district into "the laughing stock of the nation."

"I can't believe I live here," Finman said. "What this man did to our president, a man of great dignity, really resonates with people in other states."

Ashley Ingram of Beaufort was on the other side of the issue. He felt the wrong man got an apology this week.

"I really feel like Joe Wilson deserves an apology for the lies being told about him and about the (health care) bill," Ingram said.

Carrying a sign that said "Stop spending my future," Ingram's 11-year-old son, Jake, shared his father's affinity for Wilson.

"Joe Wilson should be president for speaking the truth about President Obama," Jake Ingram said.

Though the exchange became heated at times, there were no arrests. Beaufort Police Chief Matt Clancy and another uniformed officer stood watch over the crowd during the hour-long demonstration, which concluded with protesters singing "God Bless America." Some stuffed their signs in the door of Wilson's office.

Wilson's Beaufort field representative, Cris Steele, declined to comment on the protest.

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