Knoxville hosts both hate and generosity on Saturday

Snowcones were popular at sunny Shoes for School event Saturday.

Snowcones were popular at sunny Shoes for School event Saturday.

In the morning last Saturday, I witnessed scores of volunteers of all races come together in a huge event to help the less fortunate — also of all races.

In the afternoon, I stood on Market Square and watched hate mongers shout “White Power!” while surrounded by police and counter-protesters.

The contrast could not have been more stark. I’m grateful I had the morning experience to help me keep the afternoon one in perspective.

The morning event was “Shoes for School,” an annual activity sponsored by the Knoxville Area Urban League and Enterprise Rent-A-Car to provide new athletic shoes to underprivileged children in time for the start of school. It involved 38 companies and organizations, 28 community service groups and 240 volunteers. More than 1,100 children got shoes and school supplies.

The afternoon event was, of course, the march of a hate group, the National Socialist Movement, from Market Square to the courthouse. The organizers of that event were not from Knoxville. But the counter-protesters were. (I was on Market Square because I had unwittingly scheduled a nail appointment at Salon Visage at the same time as the march.)

The police in a show of force in downtown Knoxville Saturday.

The police in a show of force in downtown Knoxville Saturday.

The morning event was bright and cheerful with music and ice cream and huge inflatables. The afternoon event was creepy with a noisy police helicopter circling overhead and police SWAT team members hanging onto an armored vehicle in the center of the square. Appropriately, the sky darkened as a storm gathered to the west.

While some on Facebook and Twitter suggested that Knoxville should be embarrassed by the hate march, I was actually proud of Knoxville on Saturday. We provided the resources to do some good for people who needed it. And we met the modern-day Nazis with an even larger demonstration than they had brought showing our disagreement with their position. Our law enforcement officials made it abundantly clear that law-breakers would not be tolerated — and they weren’t.

A normal Saturday turned into a very thought-provoking day. Here are photos from both events. I think they pretty much tell the story.

I was a beautiful Saturday morning when organizers set up Shoes for School in East Knoxville's Caswell Park.

It was a beautiful Saturday morning when organizers set up Shoes for School in East Knoxville’s Caswell Park.

The folks from Enterprise Rent-A-Car handed the shoes out from a big Enterprise truck. From left: Sally Brown, Will Hill and Latessa Wheeler.

The folks from Enterprise Rent-A-Car handed the shoes out from a big Enterprise truck. From left: Sally Brown, Will Hill and Latessa Wheeler.

Taylor Carter, left, and Megan Elizabeth Romero helped hand out the shoes.

Taylor Carter, left, and Megan Elizabeth Romero helped hand out the shoes.

Tim Romero, of Enterprise, also is on the board of the Knoxville Area Urban League.

Tim Romero, of Enterprise, also is on the board of the Knoxville Area Urban League.

Gwen Brown, of BPR, handed out school supplies. She also is an Urban League board member.

Gwen Brown, of BPR, handed out school supplies. She also is an Urban League board member.

Peyton Hairston, the chairman of the Urban League board, assists his colleagues from TVA with their banner.

Peyton Hairston, the chairman of the Urban League board, assists his colleagues from TVA with their banner.

TVA brought one of the most in-demand items!

As the temperature rose, this inflatable waterslide got more and more popular.

As the temperature rose, this inflatable waterslide got more and more popular.

Games such as this one at the Mercy Health booth entertained the students as they waited their turn to pick up shoes.

Games such as this one at the Mercy Health booth entertained the students as they waited their turn to pick up shoes.

What's a game without a selection of prizes?

What’s a game without a selection of prizes?

The folks from Pellissippi State Community College staffed this big inflatable that they provided. From left: Cynthia Dirl, Patti Rogers, Benita Turner and Rosalyn Tillman, who also is an Urban League board member.

The folks from Pellissippi State Community College staffed this big inflatable that they provided. From left: Cynthia Dirl, Patti Rogers, Benita Turner and Rosalyn Tillman, who also is an Urban League board member.

Stocking up on brand new school supplies.

Stocking up on brand new school supplies.

The folks from Schwan passed out ice cream.

The folks from Schwan passed out ice cream.

These fellows liked it!

These fellows liked it!

Becca Boyd of Sysco passes out Rice Krispies -- they don't melt! Her boss said of this event, "We'll never NOT do it."

Charlotte Spurr of Scripps Networks passed out school supplies in her company's booth.

Charlotte Spurr of Scripps Networks passed out school supplies in her company’s booth.

Adorable.

Adorable.

Knoxville Area Urban League CEO Phyllis Nichols, center, poses with Tammy Strader, left, and Becky Lane of Denark Construction. Denark contributes logistical help in setting up the site.

Knoxville Area Urban League CEO Phyllis Nichols, center, poses with Tammy Strader, left, and Becky Lane of Denark Construction. Denark contributes logistical help in setting up the site.

The Urban League booth was staffed by Qiana Hardy, standing, a member of the Urban League Young Professionals, Aaron Kyle and Brenda Roper, both Urban League staff members.

The Urban League booth was staffed by Qiana Hardy, standing, in white t-shirt, a member of the Urban League Young Professionals, Aaron Kyle and Brenda Roper, both Urban League staff members.

Tierney Bates, left, past president of the Urban League Young Professionals, chats with Jeremy Cook of SunTrust Bank.

Tierney Bates, left, past president of the Urban League Young Professionals, chats with Jeremy Cook of SunTrust Bank.

U.S. Cellular folks gather at their booth.

U.S. Cellular folks gather at their booth.

A little later, in the heart of downtown Knoxville, another group was getting organized. The mood wasn’t quite so cheerful.

Bicycle cops clustered outside the Market Square Garage prior to the 3 p.m. start of the National Socialists Movement march.

Bicycle cops clustered outside the Market Square Garage prior to the 3 p.m. start of the National Socialist Movement march.

A police helicopter hovered over downtown.

A police helicopter hovered over downtown.

The white things the policemen have are newfanglede handcuffs.

The white things the policemen have are newfangled handcuffs.

Here's the start of the march on Market Square. They shouted "Sieg Heil!" and "White power!"

Here’s the start of the march on Market Square. They shouted “Sieg Heil!” and “White power!”

The middle of the march.

The middle of the march.

An armored vehicle trailed behind the marchers and drove down the middle of Market Square.

An armored vehicle trailed behind the marchers and drove down the middle of Market Square.

The crowd of counter protesters was much larger than the group of marchers. The counter protesters waited on Main Street.

The crowd of counter-protesters was much larger than the group of marchers. The counter-protesters waited on Main Street.

This was still on the sidewalk the next day.

This was still on the sidewalk the next day.

Photo credit: My friend Andie Ray took five of these photos: the police show of force, the bike cops, the chopper, the handcuffs and the counter-protest.  Thanks, Andie, for letting me use them.

4 Responses to “Knoxville hosts both hate and generosity on Saturday”

  1. Hey, everybody: Let’s stand up against racism. Join the Knoxville Area Urban League today. It’s only $25. Here is a link to their website. http://www.thekaul.org/ Click on “get involved” for instructions on how to join. Let’s make a statement about our city.

  2. That is amazing. I love the comparison of the two events side by side, so radically different. Great read!

  3. Thanks, Lynsay.

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