Texas Gov. Rick Perry wined and dined with Republican donors Thursday in Charlotte, N.C. However, the dinner wasn’t all smiles and giggles. The fundraiser, which was held at a Tex-Mex restaurant, also drew protesters who were angry about the GOP presidential frontrunner’s stance on immigration.
According to the Charlotte Observer, the protesters carried signs with messages such as:
“Say No to Rick Perry’s In-State Tuition for Illegal Aliens!” and “Rick Perry – Endorsed by Mexico!”
The protest was organized by Americans for Legal Immigration, a group that staunchly opposes what they perceive as Perry’s “soft” stance on immigration. In 48 hours’ notice, the group rounded up 15 protesters.
“The protest was a big success. We plan on announcing several other protests on Monday. We want to generate an environment where Rick Perry is protested everywhere he goes for his unpopular support for illegal immigration,” William Gheen, president of ALI, told The Christian Post.
“We are going to protest until the chickens come home to roost.”
After the dinner, Perry held a question and answer session with the media. Two men heckled Perry as he was trying to give answers. Gheen denies knowing the two men and says they had nothing to do with his organization.
“Either those two men were overzealous in their actions or they were agent provocateurs hired by Perry to make us look bad. “
“You can’t dismiss the idea that they may have been planted in order to engage in activities designed to make us look unflattering. In politics it happens all the time,” continued Gheen, who has worked on 44 political campaigns.
The Charlotte incident was just the last bump in the road for Perry on Thursday. Earlier in the day he held a press conference in Knoxville, Tenn. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that “two unidentified men with video cameras made disruptive statements about the constitution and told Texas Gov. Rick Perry to stay out of Tennessee.”
Reportedly, Perry hit back, saying he wouldn’t leave the state because “Tennessee is very important. If you look back Tennessee has been one of [the states] that has made the difference – it’s a swing state.”
Rick Perry’s self-admitted “inappropriate” choice of words in the GOP presidential debate last Thursday is what sparked many people to voice their opposition to the governor. In a question about his immigration record, Perry defended his support for a bill providing some undocumented students with in-state tuition. He explained, "If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they've been brought there, by no fault of their own, I don't think you have a heart."
Many conservative voters were offended by Perry’s comments.
Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza and GOP presidential candidate, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer, "Today, I could not support Rick Perry as the nominee for a host of reasons. Him being soft on securing the border is one of the reasons."
Perry has since apologized for his poor choice of words.
A Fox News poll released this week shows Perry is beginning to slide, with 19 percent of Republican primary voters backing him. Former Massachusetts Governor Romney is back on top with 23 percent and Cain has risen with the support of 17 percent.