Vonda McDaniel, president of the Central Labor Council of Nashville/Middle Tennessee, led a march to the intersection of Wedgwood and Magnolia to join demonstrators near Belmont University before the presidential debate. Photo by Clint Confehr

By Clint Confehr

EDGEHILL, TN — Jobs, good pay, health care and pensions are what voters want, the Nashville/Middle Tennessee Central Labor Council president told demonstrators near Belmont University before the Presidential Debate began Thursday.

“We are in the heart of a red state,” said Vonda McDaniel who came up the ranks as a rubber and steel workers union member. “Tennesseans have different opinions on moral issues, but we can agree that we want jobs with family-sustaining wages … jobs that provide health care and a dignified pension.”

Nearby, “Democrats for life” is what Harriett Bradley’s sign said among other placards. Another woman was wearing what appeared to be pajamas with the president’s face printed on cloth. “Orange man good,” she said, walking across a driveway where demonstrators anticipated the president’s arrival.

McDaniel, a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, is “grateful for the folks who came out” during the pandemic. She led a march from the old Murrell school near Watson Grove Baptist Church to the intersection of Magnolia Avenue and Wedgwood Boulevard. Labor advocates got Biden-Harris signs from Democrats near a coffee shop and Smoothie King as they marched toward the neighborhood with a Polar Bear mascot.

Former Trump supporter Shannon Mulcahy said she lost her job at Reynard Manufacturing in Indianapolis, Ind. “He said he’d stop our jobs from going to Mexico, but they did.” United Steelworkers aren’t at that factory now, she said, indicating the plant is closed. “Stop off shoring” and “Keep jobs here” are what her sign says.

Many demonstrators seemed to be Tennesseans. Julie Ford of Robertson County held a white Trump flag near the “Dump Trump” sign held by Elizabeth Williams, a naturalized American from Great Briton who said there were “not as many as I expected” at the rally.

Ava Frank of Ft. Wayne, Ind., came in a commuter van with 13 others working for Created Equal of Columbus, Ohio. They “urge voters to vote anti-abortion,” she said.

Among hundreds of protestors were the Nashville press corps and foreign media including David Mirejovsky, a U.S. correspondent from Česká televize, a public television broadcaster in the Czech Republic. Nearby was Michael Higgins whose Big Hit Sports International Facebook pages show athletic training in Prague. He indicated he lives in Franklin, supports Trump, and says, “Immigration is important, but we need to be more open and accepting.”

Lauren Roling of Middle Tennessee advocates Marquita Bradshaw for Senate, adding, “I was never a Trump supporter.” She voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders in the primary.

Dozens of antiabortion protesters included some holding placards showing aborted fetuses.

Other protestors like Brenda Waybrant of Nashville said Belmont University should not accept funding from Nashville-based CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America, a private prison management company. Nashville-based film maker Paige McKay wants: “People over profit; Rights for all; and Vote Trump out.”

Madelyn Clemmons’ hat says “Trump Hair Don’t Care.” The blond daughter of Sam and Shannon Clemmons of Oak Hill attended a class by zoom with Emerson College, Boston, while holding her laptop computer while standing on her brother’s front yard in Edgehill. “I go to a very liberal school and have to be ready to give my reasons” for supporting the president’s re-election. Her reasons include: a good economy; gun rights; and pro-life policies. Her father, Sam, opposes tax hikes. Raising taxes on corporations prompts them to leave the country, he said.

Up hill from the Clemmons were Kevin Ruiz and Eddie Velez who rent a house facing Belmont. “We’re from Miami,” Velez said as they watched the demonstration from the front porch. “It looks like everything is under control,” Velez said, explaining they’re here because of a body building and nutritional supplement business. “I thought I’d see older people demonstrating,” he said, noting demonstrators were largely young people. Velez, an Hispanic, is originally from New York City. Ruiz’s parents immigrated from Cuba.

Also living in Edgehill are Ruth Davis and her daughter, Dr. Dorothy Turner. They wanted to see a part of history and didn’t participate in the rally. Turner’s voted every time she could. “With the divisiveness, it’s important that you vote and have your voice heard,” Turner said. Davis has lived in Philadelphia, is impressed with Barack Obama’s public service, and adds, “We are deeply impressed with Kamala Harris, our sorority sister.”

Also attending to see history were Collins Agyeman and Vandy classmate Rudy Broome. Agyeman’s parents immigrated from Ghana and live in Houston. Broome’s from Oakland.

David Knorr held a sign with a cartoon showing a fly holding a Biden-Harris sign on white hair. The cartoon caption: “Dude, there’s a fly on your head.” Knorr’s from Atlanta, got his masters at Vanderbilt. He’s waiting for his fiancee to finish her degree.

A few blocks away from the university, the Belmont-Hillsboro Neighborhood Association encouraged residents to put lights on their window sills and/or luminaries on their porch and front walkway “to show solidarity,” Dan Ashamed said while watering his lawn a few blocks from a closed entrance to the college campus. Solidarity for what was unclear, but he and other neighbors complied.


Clint Confehr

Clint Confehr — an American journalist since 1972 — first wrote for The Tennessee Tribune in 1999. His news writing and photography in South Central Tennessee and the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical...