In January of 2007, a Knoxville TN couple out on a date were carjacked, raped, and brutally murdered. The victims were both white. All five suspects arrested in connection with the crime are black. You can read about the horrific crime here.
The case captured the attention of some white supremacist groups, who said this was a hate crime and it was not receiving the same media attention that it would if the races had been reversed.
Local media covered the crime extensively, more than any other murder case in recent history. It was also reported in other newspapers nationwide and on cable news. Right-wing bloggers such as Michele Malkin weighed in on the alleged racial aspects surrounding media coverage of case.
In May, a group led by Alex Linder, a Missouri based white supremacist and operator of the racist Vanguard News Network, held a "rally against genocide" in downtown Knoxville on the courthouse steps. Hal Turner, a controversial New York radio talk show host, also spoke at the event. Linder was arrested after entering a restricted area and scuffling with police.
Although there are plenty of local supporters of the white supremacist cause, up until recently the criticism of local media and protest regarding black on white crime had come mostly from outside the community or even the South.
That change last week, when a Tennessee-based outfit calling themselves the "ABC Group" ("Against Black Crime") organized a rally in Knoxville to protest black on white crime. They had a rally on the courthouse steps and picketed offices of local news outlets. According to the local paper, the organizer has ties to the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party. There were counter-protesters and a strong law enforcement presence, but thankfully no violent confrontations. There were two arrests, one for possession of a handgun and one for drug possession.
Local officials, prosecutors, and public defenders involved in the case have been targets of criticism and threats on racist websites. More recently, a nationally syndicated Miami Herald columnist who wrote about the controversy was the target of threats. When the Miami Herald asked that the columnist's home address and phone number be removed from a website, the website's operator replied that "Frankly, if some loony took the info and killed him, I wouldn't shed a tear. That also goes for your whole newsroom."
The parents of the victims have spoken out about the protests. One parent says:
"I think any kind of crime like that's a hate crime," said Gary Christian. "Was it racial? No, I don't think so."
Gary says he doesn't like his daughter's pictures posted all over for the protesters personal agenda.
"I don't like anybody using my daughter," Gary said. "Everybody go home, Get this court over with. Let the people pay for what they did."
Sadly, both families' losses have been lost in the controversy.
Separate criminal trials for four suspects facing dozens of state charges are set to begin in May of next year. The fifth suspect is in federal custody. Prosecutors have not yet said whether they will seek the death penalty for any of the suspects. Locals speculate that the trials will receive national media attention, and Knoxville is bracing for the possibility of a long, hot summer of 2008 if cable TV concerns such as CNN and CourtTV show up to create a sensational media circus atmosphere. Regardless, you haven't heard the last of this case.