In the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, at a Stand Against Hate Rally held in Knoxville the following day, August 13, State Representative Rick Staples (D-Knoxville), one of several speakers at the event, said “I decided today that I am going to be dangerous.”
In comments that lasted about five minutes and were livestreamed on Facebook by the Knoxville News Sentinel, Staples said that, as he approached the stage and “saw the sea of people standing here in solidarity,” he was “struck with an epiphany.”
After sharing his perspectives on what is going on in the country, which he refers to as “evil,” Staples then said those things are not why “we are living and witnessing a dangerous time in America,” rather it’s dangerous “because right now today we’re standing together against that evil.”
Staples was elected in November 2016 with no Republican challenger after being selected by the Knox County Democratic Party to replace 28-year Representative Joe Armstrong on the ballot. Armstrong was convicted of a felony for filing a false tax return. Staples has had his own legal battles related to non-payment of child support for a minor son he had with his now-estranged partner.
Staples called on other elected officials to “serve” and, in support of our neighboring state, said “And so all the way from Knoxville, Tennessee we declare love, we’re praying and we’re standing with you in Charlottesville and Virginia.”
In closing, Staples issued a call to action, saying “Don’t let today just be a response. Let today be the springboard for action. I’m your servant. Stand with me. Let’s fight. Let’s stand together.”
Staples concluded, “And when they look at us and they wonder, let ‘em know, we’re some dangerous son-b******.”
Since the rally on August 13, the Knoxville’s Confederate Monument at Fort Sanders has been defaced and a petition to Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero for the removal of the monument has been initiated with 2,247 signatures to date, while three petitions to keep the monument have been initiated with 5,529, 6,086 and 685 signatures, for a total of 12,030 in favor of keeping the monument.
The vandalizing of the monument prompted Confederate 28, a self-proclaimed white nationalist group and often referred to as a white supremacist group, to “inflame the local population” to defend the monument. Confederate 28 claims that local media hyped the rally such that other protests are expected Saturday, although Confederate 28 will not be present and made a statement August 23 that the organization has been dissolved.
As The Tennessee Star has reported, there is ongoing concern for the protests that are scheduled at the monument Saturday which has resulted in the banning of firearms in the designated demonstration areas.
At Krutch Park Extension, the Compassion Coalition is sponsoring a separate Knoxville Kindness Rally with the Arts & Culture Alliance of Greater Knoxville and the Alliance for Better Nonprofits to “provide Knoxvillians with a peaceful, non-violent opportunity to show the world that we stand for the core values of love, justice and human dignity.”
The transcript of State Rep. Rick Staples comments can be read here:
[Introduction of State Rep. Rick Staples at -46:31 through -41:21.]
How’s everybody doing today?
When I was walking up to this area and saw the sea of people standing here in solidarity, I was struck with an epiphany. We are living in and witnessing a dangerous time in America.
I’m not saying it’s dangerous because of the political rhetoric that has divided our country and spurned on the hatred that led to yesterday’s actions. No. Am I saying that we’re living in dangerous times because of organizations that want to take the lives of innocent individuals and shed blood for no good reason? I tell you now, no. And you’re probably thinking I’m saying it’s dangerous times in America cuz it seems like there’s no chance for truth, for peace and for love, and I tell you no.
It’s a dangerous time in America because right now today we’re standing together against that evil, against that rhetoric against that backward. This are dangerous times.
[Inaudible] rhethoric and the divisiveness and the violence will not be met with a challenge. It’s a dangerous time for anybody that believes for one second that we’re done fighting and the fight is over. It’s a dangerous time. Because we’re standing here today declaring that no more will you when you stand against us, that no more when you shed blood that no more when you tell us we’re different. We are Americans, no matter how we look.
No matter who we choose to love. We are Americans, no matter what political party we vote in. And America stands strong together and not divided, America stands strong for life, liberty and love and today we showed that we’re going to stand for that. That we’re going to fight for that. This is not just a one-time event or one-time opportunity. We are real Tennesseans. We are real Americans, and we are dangerous people standing here today.
I will not retreat into social media. I will not walk away from conversations that I know are uncomfortable. I will not walk away from a challenge when you come up to me and try to tell me I’m any less or any different because of the color of my skin, who I choose to love and how I choose to vote.
I decided today that I’m going to be dangerous. I’m telling every elected official to stand up against yesterday’s violence and if you’re worried …
… if you’re worried about what they’ll say about you in the paper, on the social media or your next political venture, well maybe you don’t need to be in office anyway.
But those rallies against us, [inaudible] those among us and those we love and try to push divisiveness and expect us to stand back, I declare today, we are dangerous.
It’s a hard thing to hug somebody, it’s a hard thing to respect somebody, it’s a hard thing to have tolerance and understanding, it’s a hard thing and we’re seeing this from the national level to shut your mouth and open your ears. It’s time for individuals that have been elected to serve the people to finally realize, underline serve, and actually do it.
I was a part of the national emerging leaders program on the University of Virginia Darden Law School, just a few weeks ago in July, and it’s one of the most diverse, educated, tolerant campuses, it’s a beautiful place to be on, the fact that that tragedy happened yesterday is not indicative to those individuals. And so all the way from Knoxville, Tennessee we declare love, we’re praying and we’re standing with you in Charlottesville and Virginia. We’re standing here together today to let ‘em know that this will not happen to the state of Tennessee, this will not happen in Knoxville, this will not happen [inaudible]
I’ll close by saying this, don’t let today just be a response. Let today be the springboard for action. I’m your servant. Stand with me. Let’s fight. Let’s stand together. And when they look at us and they wonder, let ‘em know, we’re some dangerous son-b*******.
Thank you very much.