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“No destruction, no property damage, no violence, no bloodshed, just peaceful conversation:” leader of civil rights group planning Saturday protest says

On the evening of Saturday, July 11 Rogersville will be host to the second protest in two weeks. This time, the protest will be led by Johnson City-based civil rights group known as the New Panthers Initiative.

A leader of NPI, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Review that this protest is in direct response to the ‘counter protest’ that took place two weeks ago on June 26.

Through the week of June 26, social media misinformation spread like wildfire with claims that members of Antifa or Black Lives Matter were coming to Rogersville to deface the Veterans Memorial in front of the court house.

Hundreds of people gathered around the Memorial on the Courthouse lawn and on side streets that evening in what some participants told the Review was a “show of support for veterans, heritage and police”.

In reality, no members of either Black Lives Matter or Antifa were on their way to Rogersville; rather, a local environmental group, Care NET CCC, had planned to meet at Swift Park for “prayer and dialogue” with members of Hasson Street Christian Church.

“We are just planning a peaceful protest,” the NPI leader told the Review of the July 11 event. “We have supplies from our outreach that we plan on giving out to some of the families and attendees that need anything. We also plan on speaking with anyone who wants to hear what we have to say.”

Since the protest was announced, the City of Rogersville also released a statement that read in part, “We respect each individual’s right to peacefully assemble to petition the government for a redress of grievances. However, the Town will not tolerate violence, the destruction of property, or personal injury.”

Rogersville Police Chief Doug Nelson also told the Review that he and other local law enforcement agencies are preparing and “are not going to let anything happen to our town or any of our citizens.”

RPD, the City of Rogersville and NPI all echoed to the Review a sentiment in common: they want Saturday’s event to be peaceful.

Dispelling misinformation

The leader told the Review that NPI is made up of local people from the Tri-Cities and is not part of a national group.

“We all met at the protest in Johnson City,” he said. “We all realized that we wanted to see change in our community, and all of us are like-minded. We just sat down one day and decided to do something ourselves. We were tired of waiting on other organizations to provide services, education, firearm training and things like that to the community. We thought, ‘we can make a group and do all these things ourselves.’”

“We are in no way, shape, form or fashion affiliated with the New Black Panther Party out of Texas,” he added. “We are also not affiliated with Antifa.”

Though he noted that he did not wish to disclose the number of people within the group, he noted “we are expanding every day.” As far as how many people are planning to attend Saturday’s protest, he said “It will probably be about the same turnout as our other events.”

The NPI have protested in Knoxville, Johnson City, Kingsport and Elizabethton Tennessee as well as Marion, Virginia.

Community response

The NPI organizer told the Review that they have received a range of responses since they announced the Saturday event.

“The response from allies has been positive for the most part,” he said. “We actually had been requested to come there from several people who live in the community. The response from the opposing side has been overwhelming, of course. They’re doing a ‘call to arms,’ want to make sure that nothing happens to their town and that we aren’t coming there for violence. They’re saying that we’re Antifa and this, that and a third. I even saw a post this morning where a woman went on a long rant, basically calling for hit squads to come.”

He went on to add that, though he did not attend the June 26 event, several Hawkins County locals told him that they were verbally assaulted and harassed at the June 26 event and asked NPI to come in response.

When asked how NPI responds to violent or aggressive threats, he said, “We stay level-headed. We’re not coming for violence, and we’re not coming to antagonize or engage people. We’re coming for conversation. We’re coming to try and change people’s minds, talk to them and let them know why we feel the way we feel and why the causes that we believe in are important on a fundamental level for all human. Not just black people, but all people.”

“We’re not here to loot or burn”

“I don’t understand why some people’s first reaction (when they hear about the planned protest), is ‘We need to defend ourselves,’” he added. “We haven’t made any overt threats. We’re not there to antagonize anybody, loot, burn, damage any property or hurt anyone. I feel like a lot of people don’t understand what we’re about, and they think that, because they see all these things on the news that that’s everyone—and it’s not. Not everyone wants to have chaos. We definitely don’t. We want to bring order, unification and solidarity. We will defend ourselves if we have to, but we personally do not want it to get to that point. We’re hoping that, when we leave, everybody can have a peaceful conversation. Maybe we can find some common ground and come to terms on a lot of things with a lot of different people.”

“Nobody’s coming to do anything to the Veteran’s Memorial”

At the June 26 counter protest, several of the counter protestors told the Review that they had heard from multiple social media posts that “a crowd of outsiders” were enroute to Hawkins County with the intent to deface the county’s Veterans Memorial.

“Nobody from our group is coming to do anything to the Veteran’s Memorial or damage any property,” the NPI leader said in response. “No destruction, no property damage, no violence, no bloodshed. Just peaceful conversation.”

He went on to add that NPI hadn’t even planned to come near Rogersville until they were made aware of the June 26 event in downtown.

What NPI believes

“We believe in equality, equity, representation for all people—regardless or race, color or sexual orientation, or creed,” the leader said. “We believe that the education system needs to be looked at and reevaluated as far as the things that we teach in our schools. We believe that the community should be accountable for the community. 100 years ago, you could walk into a community and find members who were pretty much the police, the mayor, the aldermen and the Chamber of Commerce. You didn’t have all these official titles, but people took care of their community together. I think that’s something we need to revisit. We believe that non-violent felons should have their rights reinstated and we are actually contacting lawyers to try and help us with that.”

He went on to add that NPI believes that communities should focus more heavily on entrepreneurship in the black community as well as local businesses as a whole.

What do you hope that people take away from Saturday?

“I really hope that people will stop turning a blind eye to the problem that’s going on,” he said. “The instant reaction is, ‘we don’t have a problem with racism.’ But, when we say that we’re coming to talk about it, they put a call out to militia and alt-right groups that are known for violence. It’s crazy to me how you can say that you want peace, and you want acceptance, but, as soon as something comes along that you don’t understand, you react with fear, anger and hatred. That’s not conducive to anything you’re saying.”

He added, “We just hope that people understand that there is a problem in this region—not just in Rogersville, but in this entire region—with systemic racism. People want to say that we are causing the problem, but, if there wasn’t a problem there to begin with, us pointing it out wouldn’t offend people so much.”

Community outreach

As part of the community outreach program NPI operates, they give groceries and hygiene products to at risk or needy families. Some of these products are donated to the NPI from Tri-Cities Tennessee/Virginia Mutual aid, and some of them are purchased out-of-pocket from NPI members.

They often set up a table outside of the Family Dollar in Johnson City that serves as the supply distribution center.

“We might be doing outreach and knock on a door and somebody will need something, like a size of baby diapers, that we might not have,” he said. “One of us will relay that information to someone at the table in front of Family Dollar, and they’ll just go get it.”

City of Rogersville responds

In response to Saturday’s planned protest, the city of Rogersville released the following statement:

“The Town of Rogersville has received information, pursuant to informal notification contained in social media as well as various media publications and broadcasts, that a Black Lives Matter demonstration is being planned to be held in Rogersville on July 11, 2020. The Administration of the Town has taken notice of other similar demonstrations that have been held in various municipalities throughout the State of Tennessee and the nation, some of which have been peaceful and some of which have been violent; leading to the destruction of property and personal injury.

The Town of Rogersville is a peaceful community and municipality which has been in existence since 1775 and bears the distinction of being the second oldest town in Tennessee. We are proud to have forged a history of a town without racial or class discord of any nature whatsoever. We believe our community is an embodiment of the declaration that “all men are created equal” as contained in our nation’s Declaration of Independence. The citizens of our Town, of all races, colors, and religions, have gone to great efforts to preserve the historical character and beauty of the Town of Rogersville, and we are proud of what we have accomplished together.

We respect each individual’s right to peacefully assemble to petition the government for a redress of grievances. However, the Town will not tolerate violence, the destruction of property, or personal injury. The Town and all its public safety resources will be available to ensure that our citizens and the public will be protected.”

Local law enforcement prepares

RPD Chief Nelson told the Review that, though RPD had not directly contacted NPI and didn’t plan to, he and other local law enforcement agencies were preparing for the event.

“We’ve got extra agencies that will be coming in to help us and make sure there is no violence, damage or anything like that,” Nelson said. “We’re not going to let anything happen to our town or any of our citizens. That’s the main thing that we want to do is protect them.”

When asked what RPD is expecting from the event, Nelson said, “we expect them to come here and be peaceful just like they’re supposed to be. We’re not going to let them cause any problems, and we don’t want anybody here to cause problems. If they do, we’ll act accordingly and take care of it.”

He also went on to refute the claim that locals were intimidated at the June 26 event.

“People had contacted me saying that they (NPI) was saying that some locals had been intimidated here and that’s why they’re coming,” Nelson said. “That’s not happened. I haven’t had anybody complain to me about that or heard anything about locals being intimidated. I think that’s something they came up with.”

This event could also possibly be the largest civil rights protest that Rogersville has ever seen, though the Review has not confirmed this.

“This will be new to us,” Nelson said. “I don’t think anything of this scale has ever happened here. I don’t remember anything like that within my lifetime.”

Food distribution and block party scheduled for Saturday morning

Second Harvest Food Bank will be doing one of their public food distributions on the morning of Saturday, July 11 through a partnership with Callahan Baptist Church and The Shepherd’s Center in Rogersville.

Families feeling they need food have to fill out a request this week, which can only be obtained through The Shepherd’s Center. Each family will receive a voucher and families cannot be served Saturday without the voucher.

According to Sheldon Livesay, ministry director, Second Harvest will have several large boxes containing cheeses, meats, produce, and dry food items. We will only be able to serve one voucher per vehicle, since these boxes will fill most cars.

Livesay asks that recipient families clean out their cars before coming.

A limited number of boxes are available, and the distribution is split between two time frames.

The first group is asked to come between 9-10 a.m., and the second group is asked to come between 10-11 p.m. so public streets are not blocked.

As with Christmas distribution, recipients are asked to line up from the Shepherd’s Center along Washington Street towards Depot Street.

After the food distribution, families are invited to return at noon for lunch and a block party with bicycles and gift certificates, games and music.

The Block Party will take place across the street from The Shepherd’s Center in the Market Place location.

Carpenter brings in the Gold; runs 144 miles in 48 hours 

DAHLONEGA, Georgia — Longtime Hawkins County resident Doyle Carpenter made world-wide news lasts weekend and brought home the “gold” in a north Georgia town where gold was discovered in the 1800’s.

Carpenter ran 144 miles in 48 hours to set a new world record.

One of those rare people who are known as ‘ultra-marathoners’, Carpenter enters races that are over 50 miles in length. He has been an avid ultra-marathoner since the early 80’s, when he was 48, earning a world record in 1988 for running 221 miles in 48 hours.

After 32 years of running, Carpenter was attracted to a 48-hour run that is held each Fourth of July weekend in historic Dahlonega, where major gold deposits were found in the 1800’s.

On Sunday, after 48 grueling hours in the July sun and heat, Carpenter crossed the finish line to set the course’s first world record and the first world record for his age of 80 years old.

Not many 80-year old men would ever think of running 144 miles in 48 hours!

Carpenter, however, has always been up for a challenge. He ran his first marathon in 1976 and has run and held titles in 24-hour and 48-hour races, six-day races and other runs like the Cross Tennessee Race that runs along US 331 from the Alabama to the Kentucky state lines, for a distance of 132 miles.

While 26-mile marathons receive a great deal of publicity with throngs of people lining the course, ultra-marathoners usually run their courses alone.

A familiar site in Hancock County is Carpenter running the backroads with his dogs, climbing and descending Clinch Mountain and mountain trails that run between Hwy. 31 and Hwy. 66.

Farming and running is just a way of life and Carpenter says he gets the most out of life by doing both.

Carpenter himself sponsored a 60-mile race for five years in the 80’s called the Indian Run which was part of the Ultra-marathoner, “Ultra-500” series.

Twenty miles of The Indian Run ran along the crest of Clinch Mountain, made into a trail by the forestry department. A few years later the focus on creating trails was abandoned and when this trail grew up and became hazardous to run, Carpenter pulled his race from the circuit.

If you happen to be traveling across Clinch and see Carpenter out for a run, give a wave and a “howdy” for a world class runner that lives right here in East Tennessee!

Volunteer’s Emma Lukens

Hawkins Co. Schools announce back to school plan

Hawkins County Schools announced their reopening plan on Wednesday, which is marked by three phases that directly correlate to the amount of community spread of COVID-19

These three phases outline whether schools will remain open and the way in which teachers will deliver instruction to their students.

“We are not assuming we will begin the school year on August 4 with regular classroom instruction,” the plan reads. “We are identifying the phases we will work within if the data dictates a change in instructional delivery.”

Director of Schools Matt Hixson presented the plan to the Board of Education in a lengthy special-called meeting on Wednesday morning. Stay tuned to the Review for further coverage of this meeting.

The plan can be read in its entirety at

Three operating phases

School system leaders outlined the following three possibilities for school opening in the fall. The plan also noted that these scenarios correlate with community spread and will take public health recommendations into consideration.

Green Level: Schools remain open, operating as normal with general safety precautions in place. Hawkins County Schools will enlist parents and community in assisting with ensuring student safety and health.

Hawkins County is currently in the green phase based on the number of local COVID-19 cases.

At this time, the county’s COVID-19 numbers are below the threshold of 10 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 of population over a 14-day period.

Should the county’s numbers rise above this threshold, the school system might proceed into the yellow phase. However, Hixson noted that school administration takes multiple other factors into account before making this decision.

He and other administrators go over this data with the regional health office on a weekly basis.

Yellow Level: Schools are eventually forced to alter educational models. Hawkins County Schools would employ a remote/in-person hybrid learning scenario. Under the yellow phase, the model would consist of bringing half of our students into our classrooms Mondays and Tuesdays, working with all students remotely on Wednesdays while administrators deep clean all facilities, and bringing the remaining half of the student population to classrooms on Thursdays and Fridays.

Red Level: Schools close to students on campus, and there are subsequent school/community-based closures. In the event of school closures, Hawkins County Schools would employ their remote learning plan, consisting of all teachers teaching students remotely in live sessions where possible.

The plan also goes into great detail on protocols for screening students as well as how each phase will affect school dining, extracurricular activities, and athletics.

The plan also further states that the goal is to “put student and staff safety first.”

Virtual education options

Hixson also noted that due to a recent increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, the school system will be offering two virtual learning opportunities for any interested Hawkins County student.

“We are operating our Hawkins County Virtual Academy for the second year and have increased available spots from 40 to 150 students this year,” Hixson said. “We will also be offering an additional online program, new this year, to assist with those who may not feel safe attending school in-person. Once enrolled in either online program, students will be required to commit to a parent/student class aimed at virtual learning success and commit to a full semester in the online setting.”

If students and/or parents are interested in either online program, they can access the following link and fill out the required information by August 1:

Rogersville City School announces back to school plan

Both Hawkins Co. and Rogersville City Schools announced their fall reopening plans on Wednesday, and both are marked by three phases that directly correlate to the amount of community spread of COVID-19.

These three phases outline whether schools will remain open and the way in which teachers will deliver instruction to their students.

The plan can be read in its entirety at

Taking community spread into account

Similar to the Hawkins Co. Schools plan, RCS’s plan outlines three possibilities for school opening in the fall. All three correlate with community spread and will take public health recommendations into consideration.

“Within each of the pandemic scenarios above, the virus will manifest in local communities in one of three ways at any given point in time,” reads the plan.

The plan takes the “Basic Reproductive Number” into account, which can often be seen abbreviated as “Ro” throughout the plan. This “refers to the number of new infections resulting from a single infected person.”

When Ro is greater than 1, each infected person is spreading the virus to more than one other person, and the virus is increasing in the population.

When Ro is equal to 1, each case spreads the virus to one other person, and the number of cases in a population stays constant over a period of time.

When Ro is less than 1, each infected person transmits the virus to less than one other person, and over time, case counts will decrease in the population.

“Schools will be able to open if Ro is less than 1 and remain open if transmission remains low,” reads the plan. “If Rogersville experiences community spread of the virus on a widespread basis such that Ro is much greater than 1, then schools will likely be required to close to help break transmission chains. And if Ro remains close to 1, or spread is localized to very discrete areas, then closures become school- and situation-dependent.”

Three operating phases Green: defined as very few, if any, active COVID-19 cases locally, with a Ro significantly less than 1. This level of community spread corresponds to late Phase Three to Phase Four.

In this phase, changes to class sizes, spacing, movement and dining are unnecessary.

Yellow: Ro is close to or equal to 1 with a significant amount of circulating disease in the given geographic area. This level of community spread corresponds to Phase Two to Three.

Under this phase, desks will all be facing the same direction toward the front of the classroom with as much space between them as possible. Students should either wear masks, use a physical barrier to the side of desks, or distance students six feet apart. Teachers should try to maintain six feet of spacing between themselves and students as much as possible but should wear masks if closer than six feet. Classroom windows should be open when possible and conditions allow. Assemblies of less than 50 students at a time are discouraged but allowed as long as facemasks remain in use. Large-scale assemblies of more than 50 students should be discontinued.

The flow of foot traffic will also be directed in only one direction if possible. If one-way flow is not possible, hallways can be divided with either side following the same direction. Efforts should be made to try and keep six feet of distance between persons in the hallways.

Face masks should be worn at all times in hallways. Staggered movements at incremental intervals should be used if feasible to minimize the number of persons in the hallways as able. Floor tape or other markers should be used at six-foot intervals where line formation is anticipated.

Red: expected when case counts in Rogersville have increased or accelerated rapidly, Ro is significantly greater than 1, and leaders have decided to return to Phase 1, or complete shutdown of the city.

Under this phase, schools are closed.

Face masks and hygiene

Under the green phase, no personal protective equipment is required, and students and staff are asked to wash hands per normal operating status.

Under the yellow phase, all staff and students should wear face masks when they are in common areas, including moving between classrooms; masks may be homemade or disposable level one (basic) grade surgical masks; N95 respirators are not necessary, except for nurses and custodial staff cleaning and disinfecting an area exposed to a positive case.

Students should wash their hands or use hand sanitizer after changing any classroom; teachers in the classroom should wash their hands or use sanitizer every time a new group of students enters their room.

Privacy or barrier screens may also be placed at the side of desks in classrooms.

The plan further states that school officials will meet weekly with public health officials and city leaders to discuss case numbers and community spread. It also specifies that the level of community spread and the basic reproductive number are the two factors that should carry the most weight when making decisions. However, numerous other factors will be taken into consideration.

The plan also goes into great detail on what extracurricular, athletic and dining activities will look like under each phase. To read the plan in its entirety, visit