KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – University of Tennessee Chancellor Beverly Davenport is sending a message of civility, free speech, and safety ahead of a potentially heated rally on Saturday.
At the center of the rally is the Confederate monument on 17th Street in the Fort Sanders area. A petition is asking for its removal, while several others are asking for it to stay. It’s also been the target recently for vandals. Three people were cited earlier this week by University of Tennessee police for vandalizing the memorial.
Students on campus have concerns about their safety. The unknown factors and recent violent rallies in the news like the one in Charlottesville have them worried.
“You know you look at things that have happened in the past and the violence and you just hope it doesn’t happen here,” said one student, who plans to stay home.
Other students said they would be participating in the rally as counter protestors in favor of the monument’s removal. Several students WATE 6 On Your Side spoke with said they didn’t even know about the monument until Thursday when they opened up their email to find Chancellor Davenport’s message. Davenport said she wants them to express their voice, but be respectful to others.
“Hopefully if there is a rally, it’s as peaceful as possible and hopefully if there are more than one groups, maybe they can learn from each other,” said another student.
Most students said they weren’t offended by the memorial, mostly because they didn’t notice it until seeing a Facebook post or Davenport’s email.
The protest is expected to begin at 1 p.m. near the monument along 17th Street. In addition to UT’s team, the city said Knoxville police, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and Tennessee Highway Patrol will all have officers and deputies ready to react.