ATLANTA — Outside of Tyler Perry Studios ahead of the Democratic presidential debate on Wednesday, a couple hundred people stood together on two small islands in the middle of a busy highway.
Presidential candidate supporters and various organizations rallied and protested outside of the studio hours before candidates took to the stage. Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Yang all had crowds.
Supporters of President Donald Trump among the crowd could be counted on one hand.
But the “Yang Gang” was by far the rowdiest and the youngest group. Yang, the 44-year-old entrepreneur, was among the 10 candidates who debated in Atlanta. Supporters said Yang doesn’t get as much media attention because he is Asian-American and boasts unconventional ideas.
Trent Lusby, 24, of Cumming, said the group of supporters isn’t just the youngest but also the most diverse. Lusby supports Yang’s “democracy dollars” proposal that would take money out of politics.
“I like to think Yang will bring change,” he said.
Despite policy differences, Democratic candidates fall in line on the scale of hot button issues — except one. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard recently expressed her pro-life stance on abortion.
For a small group in the crowd of protestors, her admission reaffirmed their place in their party. Pro-life Democrats promote anti-abortion policies sitting on the left-leaning side of the aisle.
“We believe if the Democratic Party was being consistent, they’d protect the most vulnerable — the baby in the womb ...” said Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life. "It’s hard to understand why our party is so wrong on this.”
The group is hoping to draw the attention of candidates, she said, to the fact that there’s a part of the party that doesn’t want to see abortion expansion.
Others in the crowd said they hoped the candidates address impeachment, education funding, human trafficking — a prominent issue in Atlanta — and immigration.
Adelina Nicholls, executive director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, said that the candidates have fallen short on strong statements supporting the immigrant community and condemning Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) actions of targeting latinos for deportation.
“We are in a crisis,” she said, “that needs to be resolved ... we are here because we want someone to listen."
Riley Bunch covers the Georgia Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites.