State Rep. Rick Staples on Confederate monument rally: White nationalists not welcome

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Tennessee State House Rep. Rick Staples sounded off about a rally expected to happen this weekend in Knoxville over a Confederate monument. The memorial on 17th Street gained a lot of attention after the protests in Charlottesville. It was vandalized several times with paint and has since been cleaned up.

The memorial honors the Confederate soldiers who died in the battle of Fort Sanders. It lies in the 15th district, which is the area Staples represents.

Protestors are expected to come to 17th Street to rally behind keeping this Confederate monument in place. Staples said any white nationalists who decide to come to Saturday’s rally are not welcome in the 15th district.

Previous story: Demonstrators rally behind Confederate Ft. Sanders statue; counter protests planned

“We cannot give in to that hatred and those hollow individuals that are trying to bring negativity to our community,” he said.

A group called Confederate 28 initiated the protest by posting on an online forum called Stormfront. It is a popular forum for white nationalists, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“I have a concern individuals will come here and try to bring darkness to our city,” said Staples.

Staples discouraged counter-protestors from coming to the rally. He said it could make things worse.

“Have your own positive rally. Do not go out there just to meet these individuals. They are here to be attention seekers,” he said.

Unlike some of the other rallies we’ve seen across the country, permits aren’t required for Saturday. Therefore, the city does not know who all will show up in protest. Confederate 28 said in a statement it organized the rally because “Appalachians still have a sense of pride in its history.”

“We don’t want to have any type of monument that shows a negative part of history that caused death of individuals or pain to other individuals,” Staples said.

While demonstrators are protesting in Fort Sanders, three other community groups will be gathering at Krutch Park for a Kindness rally. That is planned for 1 p.m.

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