Federal prosecutor booed at forum on religious tolerance

Federal prosecutor booed at forum on religious tolerance

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Tuesday night the crowd booed the US District Attorney of East Tennessee and the FBI Special Agent in Charge of our region at an event held in Manchester. Tuesday night the crowd booed the US District Attorney of East Tennessee and the FBI Special Agent in Charge of our region at an event held in Manchester.

By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

MANCHESTER (WATE) – A forum set up to discuss tolerance and civil rights turned into a protest over free speech.

Tuesday night the crowd booed the US District Attorney of East Tennessee and the FBI Special Agent in Charge of our region at an event held in Manchester.

The event was hosted by the American Muslim Advisory Council and was meant to ease tensions between local residents and the Muslim community in the area.

It's an area that has been in spotlight after a Coffee County commissioner there came under fire for a Facebook post that outraged the Muslim community.

Hundreds gathered in protest outside the event. Inside it was standing room only as hecklers booed and hissed at US District Attorney Bill Killian.

"Folks I'm not going to fight this," Killian said over the roar of the crowd.

FBI SAC Kenneth Moore spoke at the event as well, and says the protest wasn't a surprise.

"It was expected, the blogs over the last two weeks, the Internet if you will, has been running nonstop with comments about the event itself," SAC Moore said.

The event was scheduled after, but not related to, an incident in which a Coffee County commissioner posted a picture of a gun on Facebook with the line, "How to wink at a Muslim."  Many in the crowd saw the forum as an infringement on their right to free speech.

"I think the key take away from last night that the public should be aware of is the FBI will not open an investigation into anyone that is simple exercising their protected rights, whether it's speech worship or assembly," SAC Moore said.

The tension was high as an organizer from the American Muslim Advisory Council discussed the arson of a local mosque and was met with cheers.

But free speech is free speech and as SAC Moore points out, hate speech is still protected.

"It's not illegal to hate when we talk about protected speech,"  SAC Moore explained. "However, you can cross a line when you make a threat to commit harm to someone that is not protected speech."

SAC Moore stressed the reaction to the event was a reason why these forums are so important in the effort to spread awareness and tolerance.

US District Attorney Bill Killian's office said they had no comment on Tuesday night's events.

 

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