Knoxville group ends meetings over disruptions

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) Five years ago the Kroger in East Knoxville was thought to be closing. That's when Michael Covington and others went into action and hosted the first East Knoxville Community meeting.

"The loss of that Kroger would have been critical to East Knoxville," Covington said. "I went out that very night, and I spread that story."

Years later that store is still open, and that group still meets monthly. While their means have morphed, their goal is the same, to improve life in East Knoxville. To do that they have a new speaker each month talking about the inner workings of government.

"It started out as such a respectful civil neighborhood oriented kind of gathering," Covington said.

In recent months, group member said that changed. Members of the group said some people have gone to their meetings to an officer-involved shooting.

Meeting members said the new people who showed up on Monday night bombarded District Attorney Charme Allen with questions after she reportedly told the crowd up front she couldn't talk about the case. Covington said isn't what they started meeting for.

"When you have to start thinking about doing things to maintain order, and generally that's going to involve law enforcement, that's now what we're about,"Covington said. "If it cannot be a civil exchange, if we need to be guarded about who we invite to speak, or guarded about who might attend, that's a time we need to take a step back an evaluate."

Covington says those disruptions are just one of the reasons they'll stop hosting the monthly meetings for now, but said that could change.

"We've pretty much done as much as we can do right now that's not to say that we won't come back at some point in the future," Covington said.

Copyright 2019 WVLT News. All rights reserved.