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MILLERSBURG -- A cacophony of causes competed for consideration in front of the Holmes County Courthouse on Saturday, Feb. 25.
Under a leaden sky filled with dark, scudding clouds, cutting winds and an ever-changing downfall of drizzle and pellet-like snow, about 85 sign-toting protesters lined up along Jackson Street in downtown Millersburg to try to get their messages out to those passing through the village.
But the purpose of the protest may have been missed by some, as the crowd contained both anti-President Donald Trump protesters, as well as Trump advocates. Add in a diversity of opinions loudly voiced by passing shoppers and motorists, and the hourlong rally -- which was actually organized by the Holmes County Democratic Party -- took on an odd flavor.
Shortly before noon, carloads of people pulled into a parking lot behind the courthouse and emerged from their vehicles carrying signs with messages ranging from "No Wall!" "Resist!" "Thou shalt not tell alternative facts" and "Save ACA/Save Lives," to "Jesus was a Liberal," "Love thy neighbor," "Immigrants add flavor" and "Smash Fascism!"
Before long, the protestors had formed a line down the sidewalk and were doing chants like "Ho Ho, Hey Hey, ACA is gonna' stay" and "No wall! No wall!"
Jamie Morris of Wooster, one of the first to arrive, said she came because people from Holmes County had come to the Wooster rally on the square a few weeks earlier. Morris said she had major worries about the future of the Affordable Care Act because she had a son with special needs and her parents had limited financial resources for their medical care.
Big Prairie resident Greg Stoner, noting it was his first time attending a protest, said he was concerned over Trump's repeated attacks on the free press, without which, he said, "everything we have will be gone."
Killbuck teacher Shelby Evans, who said she attended the Wooster protest, said her main concern is the public schools and that they not be turned into charter schools.
That concern was shared by Dan Houston of Wooster, who attended the rally with his wife, Linda. Dan, who is partially disabled, said that in addition to his worries over charter schools, he is very concerned about future of the ACA, and especially as it regards pre-existing conditions.
Richard Stoner of Nashville, who carried an elaborate sign festooned with American flags, said he had turned out because "I don't like the political atmosphere in the country and the reversal of progress I'm seeing."
Stoner's wife, Theresa, who participated in the Washington, D.C., peace march in 1969 and more recently in protests in Cleveland and Wooster, said she was representing a variety of issues. She said the messages coming from the new administration are "not the values we want to see ... kindness and caring."
Traveling up from Westerville for the rally was Jim Miller, who grew up in Millersburg. He was protesting for equal pay, noting he has "many nieces who work as hard as anyone else. It's not fair that their pay isn't equal," he said.
But there were other points of view at the rally as well. Larry Morehouse of Holmesville, saying he thought the gathering was a pro-Trump rally, worked his way up and down the line of sign-carriers loudly chanting, "Build the wall!" and "Build it higher!" when the other protestors tried to shout him down with chants of "No wall!"
Andrew Wolff of Millersburg and a group of friends displayed a large yellow "Don't Tread on Me" flag -- symbol of the so-called Tea Party group -- in front of the courthouse stairs. Wolff said the protestors "don't stand for the values I stand for -- smaller government, freedom and self-reliance. I want the conservative voice heard."
Another Millersburg resident, Barry Flinner, made his way up and down the line of protestors carrying a red, white and blue Trump/Pence campaign yard sign. "You should be working. WORKING!" he harangued the protestors, often adding, "Thank you, President Trump."
Passing motorists also made their opinions known, with many honking in support of the protesters. However, some motorists had lettered their vehicles with the word "Trump," which they drove back and forth. Some paused in front of the protestors before squealing their tires and angrily shouting or shaking their fists. A pickup truck drove back and forth with a man in the bed waving a large flag that said "Trump/Make America Great Again."
One man stood on the opposite side of Jackson Street pumping his fist in the air and loudly chanting "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" He was quickly joined in the shout by the line of protesters opposite him.
Reporter Paul Locher can be reached at 330-682-2055, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.