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Protesters gather outside Kentucky Capitol

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Posted at 12:58 PM, Jan 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-09 19:35:52-05

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — As lawmakers discussed bills inside the Kentucky State Capitol during a rare Saturday session, protesters began to gather outside for a demonstration at noon.

Constitutional Kentucky Founder Tony Wheatley, whose organization co-sponsored the event, told LEX 18 News the protest was organized to remind lawmakers whose interests they should represent.

“We want to let them know that we’re watching the bills they’re trying to pass,” Wheatley said. “We want to make sure it is a clean bill and let them know we’re here to dispute it if need be.”

House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 1, the bills being discussed by lawmakers on Saturday, both tackle the role government plays in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event brought together various groups of people, including several armed militia groups who declined an interview request to LEX 18 News reporters while at the protest.

While firearms are not prohibited on the grounds of the Kentucky State Capitol, with tensions high in the aftermath of rioters storming the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday, the image of armed protesters outside the State Capitol led to heightened security concerns inside.

“We’re not here to start trouble,” one protester told an LEX 18 reporter.

The point the protest was intended to make was that constituents don’t want the government overstepping how much control they have over Kentuckians, according to Wheatley.

Several members of the crowd did tell LEX 18 News they decided to show up to the State Capitol to stand for issues beyond what takes place in Kentucky alone.

“If the legislation doesn’t see that the people are standing up and saying we're not gonna put up with this anymore, I think we're gonna see the anger increase because people are tired of being told what to do in this country. America is the land of the free,” said Gene Strickland, who drove to Frankfort from Clay County to participate in the demonstration.

“We want trust and we don’t have it. It’s us that puts these people in office. It’s us that put people in the White House. They work for us,” said one woman. She added she disagrees with how the COVID-19 pandemic has been managed by Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration because of it’s impact on the state’s economy.

“We love the USA and we want to keep it the way it’s always been. We have men and women fight for our freedom and if it comes down to where we have to do that again, we’re ready to do that,” said Greg Johnson, who attended the protest with his three daughters.

Shortly after the rally had mostly finished, Governor Andy Beshear sent out a statement in reaction to the presence of armed protesters.