SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. — After Warren Hurst drew national attention for his homophobic comments during a county commission hearing, the commission met again Monday.
The meeting started at 6 p.m. in the county courthouse.
You can watch public comments from that meeting below:
"We got a queer running for president if that ain't about as ugly as you can get," Hurst said in October. "Look what we got running for president in the Democratic party. We can go over here to Hoss's jail [Sevier County Sheriff] and get better people out of there than those running for democratic to be President of the United States."
On Monday, the Tennessee Equality Project and Indivisible East Tennessee organized a rally and protest. Attendees were asked to wear red clothes as they march from the Sevierville Civic Center to the county courthouse for the commission meeting.
Roughly 100 people gathered to march to the meeting. By the time it started, about 200 people were outside as it went on and could be heard from inside the meeting chanting throughout.
Inside the meeting, public comment was limited to a handful of speakers -- many of those who supported Hurst's right to speak. Those protesting were also represented with others calling on the commission to censure Hurst for what was said in October, saying it was discrimination. Between both sides, most were displeased with the negative attention the county had attracted in light of the comments.
"I am not here to condemn or commend the comments of last month," one man said. "I am here to defend the commissioner's right to say whatever he wants to say whenever he wants to say it. Because if I don't stand up for his right to the First Amendment, then who is going to stand up for me when I am attacked?"
Others called on the commission to censure Hurst, saying his statements did not reflect on the county or its people -- and that it's part of his duty as a commissioner to ensure everyone in the county is welcome.
"We need somebody new, somebody more understanding," one woman said. "I know that a lot of you don't agree with me, and the fact that you denied a lot of people that came from our rally to come in here tonight proves to me that you are so insecure that you cannot even have opposition. But change is coming, and you can embrace it or not."
Shortly after public comment began, one man interrupted a speaker and yelled 'You don't read the bible, you're a heretic,' before officers dragged him out of the meeting room. Aside from the initial incident, people remained thoughtful and listened to all perspectives.
"When I first started this thing out Commissioner Hurst, I wanted you to resign. But I think what we actually need is to come together as a community and to state definitively that we love everyone. You as commissioners have a responsibility to uphold your post for everyone regardless of how they look or how they love," one speaker said.
Some felt Commissioner Hurst, who has yet to publicly respond to local media since video of the October meeting came to light, has been inaccurately and unfairly portrayed in the news.
"Our First Amendment rights must be protected, even when others make statements that are not reflective of our own personal views. The local media covering the historic vote made Commissioner Hurst's comments the entire story," one person said. "I am personally appalled at how distasteful and biased the local media outlets were and are to allow a smear campaign to villainize a man for his choice of words and not reflect a full, accurate and unbiased representation of a historic event or allow any other context of the medium which precluded commissioner Hurst comment."
The event mentioned was the passage of a resolution to add Sevier County to a growing list of 'gun sanctuaries' in East Tennessee.
10News has reached out to Hurst directly several times for comment -- including at Monday's meeting -- but has yet to receive any response.
Several protesters called for Hurst's resignation. No action was taken at Monday night's commission meeting.
Hurst's term ends in 2020. He is eligible to run for re-election.
Before public comment, the county commission heard a series of rezoning proposals at the meeting. They also considered proposals to appoint members to the Sevier County Beer Board, as well as a resolution to set a speed limit on some Sevier County roads.