Police Blocking Off Roads in Preparations for Rally

(WVLT) - For the second time in less than a month, downtown Knoxville will be home to a racially-charged rally.

Organizers plan to protest as a response to the murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom.

The couple was white and all the suspects arrested in connection with the crime are black.

Volunteer TV's Mike McCarthy spoke with police and with the organizer of the rally.

Downtown might feel like deja vu come Saturday afternoon.

But, organizers of this rally say you can expect it to be bigger and louder.

"Always remember Channon and Christopher!"

Those are words that could echo again in downtown Knoxville.

"This will be a much bigger rally and for that reason, a much better rally," says Jamie Kelso, with www.stormfront.org.

Just three weeks ago, white supremacists rallied outside the old Knoxville courthouse.

So tomorrow could feel familiar.

"This is really a bunch of angry white folks," says Kelso.

They are angered by the murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom.

"We want this particular crime to be categorized by the prosecutor here as a hate crime, a racial hate crime," says Kelso.

Organizers say the two-rallies aren't connected.

But police say they'll treat them the same.

Just as they did three weeks ago, the Knoxville Police Department, state and federal officers will stand curbside.

"We're not trying to stop anyone's right to free speech. We're just trying to maintain everyone's safety while they do so," says Darrel DeBusk, with the Knoxville Police Department.

And part of that effort means traffic control.

On Friday, KPD officers bagged most parking spots around the courthouse, mostly on Main and Locust.

"We actually have to close 3 or 4 roads," says DeBusk.

By midmorning on Saturday, Main Street, Hill Avenue, Walnut, and parts of Locust around the courthouse will be off limits to traffic.

"We will be completely peaceful, completely law abiding, and we're exercising our first amendment rights," says Kelso.

"We hope it goes as smoothly as it did last time," says DeBusk.

The last time wasn't a cheap time.

KPD says their rally expenses along totaled $50,000, with $35,000 going to officer overtime and $15,000 to equipment.

"It's not an organization that doing it. There's not a list of people coming. It's just people spontaneously coming here," says Kelso.

That could mean hundreds of protesters.

A far cry from the roughly two dozen who showed up last time.

Organizers don't have an expected number of participants because the rally's largely been promoted online.

KPD says all the road closures will be limited around the courthouse.

If your plans bring you around this area, KPD says everyone needs to be careful.


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