Knoxville Prepares for Racially-Charged Rally

(WVLT) - Spiritual leaders are urging community members to unite to work constructively to end violence, as another "black crime on whites" rally is planned for Saturday in downtown Knoxville.

The rallies are apparently in response to the murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom in January.

Volunteer TV's Gary Loe spoke with authorities and clergy members and has a look at their plans for Saturday.

Knoxville police have developed a safety plan for what's described by rally organizers as a "peaceful protest against black crime on whites."

Meantime, clergy members are encouraging folks to stay away from Saturday's rally.

A similar rally last month in downtown Knoxville attracted white supremacists protesting the January murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom.

All the accused killers in the case are black and the young couple is white.

Police and the parents of the victims have said publicly the crimes are not race-related.

Another rally is planned Saturday, this one by Ken Gregg, representing the "ABC group."

Spiritual leaders are joining together, urging East Tennesseans to work constructively to end violence.

"We think that church people all over Knoxville are trying to bring people together in brotherhood and in hope, and not set people against each other and divide them," said John Bohstedt, past president of Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.

Knoxville's NCAACP president, also a pastor, asks people to reach across racial boundaries in unity.

"What is taking place on saturday has nothing to do with knoxville; the people who are coming in outside of knoxville trying to change the environment of our city," says Ezra Maize.

City officials say they've worked with state and federal law enforcement agencies to handle an unknown number of protesters expected to attend.

"The purpose of it is to make sure everyone has their opportunity to exercise their right to free speech, but also to make sure that everyone remains safe while doing so," Darrell DeBusk, spokesman for the Knoxville Police Department.

While protesters rally, spiritual folks will pray.

"Religions of most persuasions really want to teach people to love each other and to make connections and not to judge each other and to hate each other," John Bohstedt.

Protesters will hold their rally in the courtyard next to the city-county building in downtown Knoxville.

And a transportation note, Main Street will be closed to traffic during the event.

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