Local rally sparks conversation between protesters and counter-protesters


ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) — A long day of protesting in Marion, Virginia on Friday didn’t stop the New Panthers Initiative from gathering on Independence Day in Carter County.

The group was in Elizabethton on Saturday for a Black Lives Matter rally along with a counter-protest at the Covered Bridge Park.

Both groups showed passion for their two different purposes, and the rally sparked conversation among the Black Lives Matter protesters and counter-protesters.

Despite their difference of opinions and the large concerns counter-protesters had in regard to the protest, the gathering remained peaceful.

“Some people got the idea that this group of people, many who I know and respect, are here for violence, and that’s just not the case,” said Andrew Cox with the New Generation Freedom Fighters, another regional Black Lives Matter movement group.

The New Panthers Initiative’s planned protest at the covered bridge in Elizabethton on Saturday raised concerns from people in the area.

“We don’t want a group that comes in and creates the havoc that these groups have been associated with,” said a man who did not want to share his name with News Channel 11, but did stand on the counter-protest side of the New Panthers Initiative protest. “I mean, I realize that the Black Lives Matter members — they’re not always associated with the violence — but often people who come with them are.”

The Elizabethton Police Department stood between barriers set up for both protesters and counter-protesters of the New Panthers Initiative.

RELATED: Elizabethton PD aware of planned Saturday protests at Covered Bridge, reminds public of safety laws

“It’s not about the fight; it’s not about winning; it’s not about color or whatever, and everyone just wants to one-up everybody,” said Chancellor Morgan, who also stood near the counter-protest side of the New Panthers Initiative.

Members of the Black Lives Matter movement group wished a conversation between both the two groups could have happened before Saturday’s event to avoid confusion and misunderstanding of their purpose.

“I’m disappointed that there was no dialogue between different groups until today,” said Cox.

Through the chanting, a conversation did spark between several group members of both sides.

“We just want to spread awareness to people and let them know that we’re not here out of hate,” said Jackson Brown with the New Panthers Initiative. “We’re here out of love because we want them to understand that we’re tired of being looked over.

“I feel like if they had the chance to live a day in our shoes, they would refuse to because a lot of people that chose to overlook the things that are going on on our side, and instead of really wanting to learn firsthand what’s going on, they critique and criticize things.”

Elizabethton Police Chief Jason Shaw said the protests resulted in neither arrests nor citations.

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