KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Knox County Democratic Party released a statement Monday urging an end to hostile rhetoric surrounding court-ordered mask mandate in Knox County Schools, which they say has been exacerbated by some county leaders.
A federal court judge issued a temporary injunction in a lawsuit on Sept. 24, telling Knox County Schools to enforce a mask mandate. That lawsuit alleges Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order and Knox County Schools’ lack of mask mandate violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. The plaintiffs are families of students considered high risk for COVID-19 complications if exposed to the virus. Knox County Schools closed campuses to students on Monday in order to make preparations required by the mandate.
The Knox County Democratic Party sent out a press release on Monday asking Knox County Mayor Jacobs, “…to publicly, forcefully and immediately call on his radical supporters to stand down and not endanger our children.” The party demanded that children be able to attend school safely and condemn other local elected officials for what the statement calls, “helping fuel such rhetoric.”
This call to action comes after what Democrats claim are threats of violence and blockades made against the school system. State Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) posted a series of tweets on the subject, including a video clip from an anti-mask rally where a speaker discussed possibly blocking entrances to schools in protest of the mask requirement.
The threats have not been verified. Knoxville Police released a statement on Monday stating they’re aware of potential demonstrations or protests regarding the mandate and they will be, “Actively monitoring the situation and will respond appropriately if any issues arise that warrant police presence or intervention.”
In the party’s statement, Democrats said, “Anyone who engages in these dangerous actions should immediately be arrested by law enforcement. Any elected officials who call for these actions need to be condemned.”
Knox County Mayor Jacob’s responds to call to action
Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs says he has never suggested or advocated for the blockage of school entrances, approved of unhinged discourse or encouraged violence. He also said he’s not the GOP City Council candidate, the GOP Election commissioner or a member of the school board.
In a statement made on Monday afternoon, he said, “Be tolerant and respectful, especially of schools, other families and their children. We saw this before and people have very passionate feelings on both sides, but we all have to remember we don’t want our community to be torn apart. We need to try to be tolerant of one another. Do not direct your frustration at the schools and certainly not at kids in schools. We need to be cognizant of what we’re doing and saying because it can have an impact on students. I want everyone to be very aware of the frustration we all feel, but we must express that in a responsible way.”