‘This is not who we are’: Elizabethton community criticizes racist remarks made at Black Lives Matter protest

Local

ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL)- Many Elizabethton residents hold firm – the viral video of two people making racist remarks at a local protest over the weekend does not represent the community.

“I think the majority of people know that this is not who we are,” said Elizabethton Mayor Curt Alexander.

Alexander said he was disappointed seeing the video of two people yelling at protesters at the Covered Bridge Park on Saturday.

The video, captured by a Black Lives Matter protester, shows a man shouting, “We should have kept you *expletive* slaves, that’s what we should’ve done.”

The man has not been publicly identified.

A woman identified as Sonya Holt can also be seen in the video saying, “White lives matter, white lives are better.”

Holt was seen in another protester’s video making homophobic comments.

On Monday, News Channel 11 confirmed that Holt is no longer an employee at Keith Family Vision in Johnson City after social media posts indicated she worked there.

“An isolated incident like this does not define who Elizabethton, Carter County, East Tennessee is,” said Alexander. “We’re better than that, we’re above that. We don’t always have to agree but we should be respectful.”

Other community members said they were also disturbed by the behavior on video.

“I was shocked. I really was. Because that doesn’t represent our community at all,” Elizabethton resident Donna Buchanan told News Channel 11.

Elizabethton resident William Whitley was at the park July 4th when the incident happened.

“It was a really bizarre situation,” he said.

William Whitley was a counter-protester at Saturday’s event

Whitley was part of a group of counter-protesters and said they were there to support the police. This group aimed to not shout at anyone, according to Whitley. He said other people joined in who were not part of the original group. This included Holt and the other man on video.

“I have no idea who she was. She wasn’t part of the group,” Whitley said.

Whitley believes Holt and the man were angry when two Black Lives Matter protesters came over to their group and put their fists up.

“They were irate. I mean they were losing it. We did tell that lady, and that man, ‘these young girls have a right to be here on this side,” said Whitley.

Whitley believes the racial comments from Holt and the man distracted from positive dialogue that did happen between the two sides at the event.

“It made it sound like everyone in Elizabethton was prejudiced, that we hated people, that the whole thing was all about this, about that lady who, in my opinion, is a racist,” Whitley said.

The counter-protest organizer, Carter County resident William Grant, spoke with News Channel 11 on Monday. Grant also said he didn’t know Holt, and wanted to sit down with members of Black Lives Matter groups who were at the park.

“I’ll sit and talk to each one of them there at the same time,” said Grant.

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