O’Linda Watkins and Al McSurely

O’Linda Watkins, left, and Al McSurely read out the names of people killed in the El Paso shooting. (Photograph by Jaymie Baxley/The Pilot)

About 30 people gathered near the gate of Country Club of North Carolina on Wednesday to protest a private fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis.

Organized by Moore County Indivisible, the demonstration was planned before the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio. But the recent attacks led protesters to hone in on Tillis’ past opposition to more restrictive gun control laws and his relationship with the National Rifle Association, which has spent millions in support of the politician.

Several protesters gave speeches denouncing Tillis for not breaking from the party line on gun control. In an interview earlier that day with The Associated Press, Tillis said he supports so-called red flag laws that would allow authorities to temporarily confiscate firearms from potentially dangerous people.

"I think it's something that’s going to provide more tools for law enforcement and the community to speak up so that we can potentially end, or at least substantially decrease, these incidences of mass violence," he said.

Ana Blackburn

Ana Blackburn speaks during a demonstration on Aug. 7, 2019, at Country Club of North Carolina. (Photograph by Jaymie Baxley/The Pilot)

But Noah Ambrose, a Dayton native whose family lives in Moore County, told protesters that the shootings were “made only possible through the use of weapons of war.” According to police, the gunman in Ohio was armed with a semi-automatic pistol loaded with a 100-round magazine.

“And let us also not forget that Sen. Tillis, to date, has taken over $4 million from the NRA,” Ambrose said. “We are here to show him and the NRA that enough is enough and that change will be delivered swiftly.”

Investigators believe the shooter in El Paso shared a racist manifesto online before targeting Hispanic shoppers and employees at a Walmart store on Saturday. Ana Blackburn, the state NAACP’s Latino liaison, told protesters she blames President Donald Trump's “violent rhetoric” for fueling aggression toward immigrants and people of color.

“But let’s be real, he could not have achieved that power unless his party enabled him to do so,” she said. “And that includes Thom Tillis.”

Protesters outside Country Club of North Carolina

Protesters outside Country Club of North Carolina in Pinehurst. (Photograph by Jaymie Baxley/The Pilot)

O’Linda Watkins, president of the Moore County chapter of the NAACP, condemned Tillis for “hiding behind” the gated community during his fundraiser, which cost $250 to attend. Watkins, who was twice arrested for participating in sit-ins at Tillis’ office when he was the state’s House speaker, said the lawmaker “has refused to meet with NAACP.”

Al McSurely, a longtime civil rights attorney who is married to Watkins, later read out the names of the 22 people killed in El Paso. Each name was followed by shouts of “presente” from protesters.

Moore County is home to the deadliest mass shooting in modern North Carolina history. Eight people were fatally shot in March 2009 by a lone gunman at Pinelake Health and Rehabilitation, a Carthage nursing home that specialized in the treatment of Alzheimer’s patients.

Debby McGovern of Moore County Indivisible

Debby McGovern of Moore County Indivisible speaks through a megaphone during a protest at Country Club of North Carolina in Pinehurst. (Photograph by Jaymie Baxley/The Pilot)

Dogs wear protest signs denouncing Sen. Thom Tillis

Dogs wear signs criticizing Sen. Thom Tillis' record on gun control during a protest in Pinehurst. (Photograph by Jaymie Baxley/The Pilot)

Protest sign at a fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis

Protest sign at a fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis in Pinehurst. (Photograph by Jaymie Baxley/The Pilot)


Jaymie Baxley is a reporter covering crime, public safety and general news for The Pilot. He previously worked at The Robesonian in Robeson County and The Daily Courier in Rutherford County.

(7) comments

John H Hamblen

Repeal of 2nd Amendment of Constitution is the only way to have gun Control.

That still does not stop crazy, hate or stupidity. We have a much deeper problem than gun. Pray we find a solution!

Jim Tomashoff

repealing the 2nd amendment will never happen. but banning ALL semiautomatic guns, regardless of their shape, banning ammunition clips that hold more than six bullets, requiring mental health examinations BEFORE issuing a gun permit, and making retesting compulsory, both at the cost of the applicant, instituting a buyback program at fair market value, and applying a very significant annual personal property tax on all guns under current ownership that are not offered by their owners for resale to government, could make a major dent in our murder rates. and kent, mark, don't tell us that just as many will be murdered by other means. that's bs and you know it.

Frank Staples

And once again a firearms illiterate J.T. hits the keyboard to rant about a subject that he knows little about. A buyback program? Are you serious? Using MY money to buy ( under penalty of law, of course ) MY firearm that I've already paid for with MY money. Semi- automatics have been around for about two hundred years but now you decide that you don't like them? And the size of the magazine, or clip as you call it, what would that do to make any difference? I ask because I've heard lefties say that a person could be rushed in the time it takes to change magazines...but I can change one in about three seconds so I'm sure you're just mouthing something that you heard from some other firearms illiterate being, right? Ok, on re-reading your comment I see what you're doing...your last leftist president, you know, the one that kept drawing lines in the sand? He left us with a slew of debt so all your little fees are to try and make up some of his ridiculous spending. Oh, and speaking of bs...Mark and Kent are right on the money...more people are killed by thugs with knives than thugs with rifles...bet you didn't know that or you might not have been so nasty to them. And yes, if there were no firearms at all our murder rate would be the same only with other tools!

Mark Hayes

Tomashoff ... Read my comment, makes no mention of me telling anyone about murders by other means, more of pointing out the dogs being used to carry signage on their backs on a rather warm day, PETA would not approve of this I'm quite sure.

Kent Misegades

Doing the dirty work of the Democrats. Claiming that a gun kills people is like claiming that cars kill people in highway accidents. People kill people. Gun ownership was significantly higher in the 60s but we had fewer such shootings. What has changed - the most recent 17 shooters were all caused by men who grew up without fathers.

Elaine Sills

Thanks, Jamie, for covering this event.

Mark Hayes

Cruelty to animals in full display.

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