A Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in North Carolina spoke out recently against a Bladen county official who threatened to call police on citizens who recited the pledge of allegiance at a local meeting.
Standing next to a tank at the National Guard Armory on Tuesday, Iraq war veteran Greg Gebhardt said the pledge and the American flag are “symbols of our republic that have made this country great, that will keep this country great.”
Gebhardt’s remarks came as part of a Right to Pledge Rally he organized in response to Democrat Louella Thompson, who serves as chairwoman for the Bladen County Board of Elections.
Last month, Thompson threatened to call law enforcement at the end of a contentious meeting of the Bladen County Board of Elections in the east of the state. She said reciting the pledge constituted a disruption of a government meeting.
“If that happens again law enforcement will be called,” Thompson said. “It is against the law to disrupt a meeting. That is going on and that is what happened today with the reciting of the pledge.”
On Tuesday, Gebhardt slammed those who defended Thompson and worked in a reference to former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
“The one thing that really resonated with me in this particular situation is a lot of the very same people that defended this woman that said she’d have folks arrested for saying the Pledge of Allegiance and want to somehow silence our First Amendment right to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, are by and large the very same people that defended Colin Kaepernick’s right to take a knee during the national anthem,” he said.
“So, you can’t defend Colin Kaepernick and then tell us that we can’t exercise our First Amendment right to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.”
Kaepernick, 32, played six seasons in the NFL but hasn’t played a down since 2016. It was during the 2016 preseason that Kaepernick sat during the national anthem, telling reporters after the game that he “wouldn’t stand up” and “show pride” for a country that “oppresses black people and people of color.”
He later changed his stance to kneeling, a practice that was followed by others across the league. The resultant backlash to Kaepernick’s protest contributed to an 8 percent decline in TV viewership across the league, according to surveys.
“I’ve sworn an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States three times, and that includes the Bill of Rights, so we’re here to peacefully assemble, exercise our First Amendment right to stand proud and recite the Pledge of Allegiance to honor the flag,” Gebhardt said this week.