Friday, January 20, 2017

Hundreds of East Tennesseans heading to Trump presidential inauguration

Thousands of people from across the country will travel this week to Washington D.C. for the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, and several notable East Tennesseans will be among them.

Gov. Bill Haslam is planning a trip to mark the occasion, as well as former Knox County Sheriff – and current Knox County Trump chair – Tim Hutchison.

Former state GOP chair Susan Williams will also leave Thursday for the nation’s capitol.
“I really do look forward to the swearing in,” she said. “It may be raining, cold, muddy, but again, it’s a historic event.”

Former TN GOP chair Susan Williams

This will be Williams’ third inauguration. She said politics aside, it’s important to witness the peaceful transition of power.

But she’s also a conservative at heart – and while she didn’t support Trump early in the campaign, now, she preaches party loyalty.

“So it’s fun, time for the Republicans to come back, so I’ll go and party with my friends,” she said.
But not everyone is hitting the road to show support for the new president. Terry Walker Smith, of Knoxville, will be attending the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday. She says her bus trip was sponsored by local organizers to help her tell her story.

Walker Smith lost two sons to violence. In 2007, her son Djuansay was stabbed to death. In 2009, his brother Christopher was gunned down.

Now, she advocates for justice for victims’ rights.
Terry Walker Smith will attend the Women's March
“I’m going on behalf of all mothers that have lost their children to violent crimes,” she said. “For mothers and on behalf of women to be their voice to represent them.”

Kimberly Peterson heads the local chapter of the Women’s March. She said they believe about 1,000 women will be attending from across East Tennessee.

Both Peterson and Walker Smith are quick to note – not all attendees are there to protest Trump. Many hope to raise awareness for women's issues and stand in solidarity.

“We are just very proud so many local women are getting out of their comfort zone and sending the message that women's right are human rights,” said Peterson.

She also noted the local chapter has covered the trip cost for 14 women with a scholarship program.
But whatever the reason for the trip, Williams said she hopes after this week, the U.S. can begin to heal after a contentious election season.

"Hopefully we'll get him sworn in and everyone will go, ‘OK, he's our president now,’ and try to work with him,” said Williams.

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