Racist remarks go viral after Black Lives Matter protest in Elizabethton

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ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL)- A video showing the interaction between protesters and counter-protesters has gone viral after several racist remarks were caught on camera during an Elizabethton Black Lives Matter protest.

Saturday’s protest was held at the Covered Bridge Park in Elizabethton.

While police said there were no arrests made during the event, there were examples captured on video where counter-protesters were using strong language and making racist remarks.

In that video you can hear a woman say, “White lives matter, white lives are better.”

News Channel 11 has learned the woman’s name is Sonya Holt.

A man standing next to her said at one point during the recording, “We should have kept you *expletive* slaves, that’s what we should’ve done.”

Sierra Gilmer, 16, is a New Generation Freedom Fighters board member and she captured the above video on her cell phone.

“I was live streaming on the Instagram on Johnson City BLM and just happened to get that on video. It was crazy. We kind of knew what to expect going into it. We knew there was going to be a counter-protest there. We knew that things might get a little bit crazy. However, I wasn’t expecting that…”I was just, you know, going down the line and just recording what people were saying and she walked up to the camera, and I asked her if she wanted to say anything and she said, ‘Yes’, that she had a lot of things to say. She started screaming everything that she did and telling me that, I’m just a poor little black girl with a messed up mind that, we should have been kept as slaves and all these things.” Gilmer said.

Photo: WJHL

Gilmer spoke to News Channel 11’s Pheben Kassahun about that video Monday afternoon.

“…I wasn’t expecting that.”

Sierra Gilmer, New Generation Freedom Fighters board member

Gilmer was front and center of the protests, absorbing the hate words from the two counter-protesters.

“I think it’s just important for people to realize that racism is happening everywhere and it is in your community, no matter how much you think it might not be. I had a lot of people reach out to me saying that they didn’t realize that this was a problem in Elizabethton but now their eyes are open. So, I think people just need to stay aware and address it when they see it,” Gilmer said.

She was not the only protester who was met with hate speech. Fellow protester, Seth Loven, was on the receiving end too.

“Gay, homosexual, piece of crap. You’re going to burn in hell,” the words that came out of Sonya Holt’s mouth in a different video taken by Seth Loven.

“There’s very little that will hurt anymore because I did grow up being gay, so there’s very little that can hurt,” Loven said. “The words were very powerful because what if another LGBT that is going through a lot- what if they heard those words? And their already having possible suicide thoughts or things like that.”

Photo: WJHL

“We have to love as God would love and that’s the way I feel about Sonya. I love her as God would love and sexual orientation had nothing to do with that, that day. It was solely about Black Lives Matter,” Loven said.

“If I could talk to her, I would just tell her that I love her anyways and I think that it’s a learning experience. She should take it as a learning experience and apologize to everybody because I’m not the only person that she talked to like that, and educate herself, educate her children and move on with her life,” Gilmer said. “I think there were some that were saying things just as much as she was but there were also a lot of people who came up to me and were saying that they don’t claim her that they don’t stand for the same things that she’s standing for, so I definitely think that the majority of the people who were there did not agree with that she was saying.”

News Channel 11 also reached out to Elizabethton’s Police Chief for a comment about the remarks that were captured on camera Saturday.


“There were some heated moments and ugly exchanges of words, but there were also civil conversations and cool heads prevailed.”

Chief Jason Shaw, Elizabethton Police

“The vast majority of the individuals there came to peacefully protest or just watch and provide an audience to those that wanted to speak.   There were some heated moments and ugly exchanges of words, but there were also civil conversations and cool heads prevailed.  Officers of the Elizabethton Police Department did our best to keep the peace and keep anyone from getting in a physical fight or receiving physical injuries.  There were no injuries or assaults, we can’t stop people from speaking, no matter how hateful or ugly it may appear.  I am proud of my officers in handling a very tense situation, and we could not have done what we did without all the help we had from all the agencies we had supporting us, the Carter County Sheriff’s Department, Carter Co Rescue Squad and EMS, Carter Co. 911, Elizabethton Fire, Park and Rec, and Street Departments, Elizabethton Carter County EMA, and we also had several local Constables present in our downtown area.  We also had many residents drop off water, drinks, and snacks that helped to keep us and all our team hydrated and fueled, I can’t thank them enough. And to answer your other email, we did not have to make any arrests during the event.”

Chief Jason Shaw, Elizabethton Police

Rumors were circulating on social media about Sonya Holt’s place of employment.

Carter County Schools was quick to dispel one of those rumors in a Facebook post.

Another post on social media Monday indicated that Sonya Holt worked at Keith Family Vision in Johnson City.

News Channel 11 reached out to that business Monday and confirmed she is no longer an employee.

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