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South Pittsburg residents upset with what some feel were racially-targeted police actions (MEETING AUDIO)

At the May city meeting in South Pittsburg, many residents showed up to express their concerns and anger with some actions recently taken in the city to the mayor and commissioners.

Those in attendance were furious regarding the Tennessee State Patrol’s “strike team” that was called-in to help with crowd control near the annual National Cornbread Festival festival grounds the last weekend of April, and say that the whole situation was a show of racial discrimination.

The biggest concern was regarding how the patrol team treated those in attendance at an annual gathering near the city’s Moore Park and along First Street — a longtime and predominantly African American neighborhood.

City officials say a large crowd had gathered there on Saturday night, April 29th, causing the road to become impassible. After people refused to clear the road and at the request of South Pittsburg Police, the State Patrol was then called-in for backup.

In case you missed it… You can listen to the entire meeting now by clicking the red “Play” button below and listening to the recorded audio of the meeting on our SoundCloud. 

Residents in attendance who were making their opinions known to city officials say that this was the second year that this organized gathering was held for those in the neighborhood, and there’s never been any issues in the past.

One woman in attendance, Jackie Walker, said it reminded her of the late Dr. Martin Luther King’s march in Selma, Alabama during the turbulent Civil Rights Movement era, with what appeared to be a racially-profiled approach to the situation saying the actions made city leaders “look like fools.”

Several videos of the confrontation have been circulated on social media websites such as Facebook over the weeks following the incident, and according to Walker, residents are not happy.

“This took South Pittsburg back years,” Walker said. “You think that the blacks aren’t upset? They’re very upset about that.”

Allegations were made that some of the officers used obscene language and made accusations, calling out some of those in attendance as “thugs”, among other things. Official reports say some language was also used against the officers, too.

Walter Officer, another concerned citizen, said that nobody was doing anything and it was a peaceful event.

“You’re sitting on a powder keg, and it’s about to explode,” Officer told the mayor and commissioners. “Then you’ll sit back and wonder why this went on.”

Mayor Virgil Holder said that he was contacted at home by residents — both black and white — that night concerning the large crowd on First Street that made the road impassible. He said some of those residents said they didn’t feel safe. Holder went on to say that he did support the actions taken that night as a result of the crowd size and community concern.

“Nobody was arrested. Nobody got hurt. If we had set back and not done anything, someone would’ve gotten hurt.”

Other members of the community went on to voice their opinions as well before the motion to adjourn the meeting was made.

One resident in attendance said she loves her hometown, but hates what’s going on and that the black community was targeted…asking residents to discuss these concerns more palces and to try and work together to solve the problems, comparing efforts for cooperation to that of the community’s love and pulling-together each Friday night in the fall to support the town’s local football team — the South Pittsburg Pirates.

Residents also voiced their opinions on other issues involving the city and its’ involvement with the annual festival. The mayor said the city will have more involvement with the planning and organization aspects of the festival going forward.

A replay of the May city meeting will air Saturday morning on our media partner, KWN TV, on Charter/Spectrum cable channel 195. You can hear the audio from that taping above on our SoundCloud page.

Staff Report from Contributed Content





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