They came armed with pamphlets and stickers, and toting signs opposing annexation.
About 1,100 Forsyth County residents attended a public hearing last night at Joel Coliseum on Winston-Salem's plan to annex 14 areas that cover about 34 square miles and include about 24,000 people.
Council members will vote on the proposal June 16.
If approved, the people annexed would officially become city residents June 30, 2004.
Vernon Robinson is the only council member who has publicly opposed annexation. Council Member Robert Clark has said that he is gathering all the information he can before making his decision. Others have not publicly taken a position.
Robinson was among the 140 people who signed up to speak for three minutes. The crowd applauded when it was announced during roll call that he was present.
In the first 90 minutes of the meeting, no one spoke in favor of the proposal.
"I think the driving force of this annexation is that Durham has replaced you as the fourth-largest city and your egos are propelling you to get that spot back," said Darwin Parrish of Pfafftown.
Winston-Salem has dropped from the fourth-largest to the fifth-largest city in the state, according to the 2000 Census.
City officials have said that the city's reasons for wanting to expand its boundaries are twofold:
Winston-Salem is growing. By annexing areas around it, the city can plan for and have jurisdiction over the building of the infrastructure to support its growth.
Many people who live outside Winston-Salem work and shop in the city, and take advantage of such city services as police protection but the don't pay city taxes.
State law allows cities and towns to annex surrounding areas if certain standards are met, including population density and minimum levels of development.
However, such actions have been historically unpopular.
This time around, Forsyth County residents opposed to annexation say that the city's proposal offers no benefit to them. They have argued that they did not get to vote for the council members who will make the final decision and that therefore annexation is unfair. Together they have formed groups that are trying to fight the action in various ways.
Petitions against annexation are circulating around the county.
A group called the Citizens Against Forced Annexation has set up its own Web site. There, opponents have been posting their anger and concerns online, and sharing information about their plight.
Some people have threatened to have council members recalled.
To do so there would have to be enough signatures to equal 25 percent of the entire vote for mayoral candidates in the last election.
Based on figures from the 2001 election, about 7,600 would be needed for each member of the council the group wants to remove.
Residents arrived at the coliseum last night with hand-painted signs that read "No Bang for Your Bucks."
One sign simply read "No Annexation."
N.C. Citizens for a Sound Economy, an anti-tax activist group, handed out stickers that read "No Forced Annexation."
Joyce Karawiece, a spokeswoman for the group, said that more than 1,000 people had signed anti-annexation petitions by 9:30.
Other groups handed out lists of elected officials ranging from the governor to members of the city council.
"We know this is a very emotional issue," Mayor Allen Joines said during his opening remarks. "We want to be sensitive to you."
His statement was met with heckling from members of the audience.