Jonesborough—What began as a peaceful illegal immigration demonstration turned briefly physical Saturday morning in Jonesborough after one side charged the other over the presence of a Mexican flag.
Carl Twofeathers Whitaker, a Sevierville resident who is running as an independent candidate for governor, was charged by members of a Hispanic group seeking to take the flag away from him.
Whitaker led the Tennessee Volunteer Minutemen, an organization dedicated to ensuring aliens immigrate to this country legally, in what he said was to be a silent response to a group of Hispanic protesters in front of the Washington County Courthouse.
The Hispanic group of 12 members was speaking out about immigration rights while the group of six Tennessee Volunteer Minutemen watched.
The Hispanic group, led by Azul Christian Caravaggio, is walking to Washington, stopping off in various locations along the way. Group members were holding signs saying “Are We Really Illegal?,” “Minute Men + Hatred = Evil” and “We Don’t Choose Our Race, 1 Race, The Human Race.”
The Tennessee Volunteer Minutemen had signs, too, but group members mainly held American flags and chanted “U.S.A, U.S.A, U.S.A.”
“We are doing this because we don’t think we are illegal,” Caravaggio said. “We don’t think the human body can be illegal.”
Caravaggio also thought seeking a better life in the United States is impossible to do legally, for most. She compared illegal immigrants to European settlers, saying European immigrants killed the indigenous population of North America when they arrived.
“I don’t know where else we can go,” she said. “It’s not a crime to come to this country just because you want to work,” Caravaggio said.
Tensions mounted and things started to get heated when Whitaker and the Hispanic group began exchanging their views on immigration, something Whitaker said he never intended to happen.
The Hispanic group became angry at Whitaker because he had a Mexican flag tucked in his back pocket. They thought it was a deliberate provocation, aimed at disrespecting them.
Whitaker said he couldn’t hold his protest sign properly unless he stuck the flag partially in his pants pocket.
As Whitaker was being interviewed by a WCYB-TV reporter, several of the immigrants charged him in an apparent attempt to grab the flag.
Authorities reacted quickly, separating the two sides and breaking up the rally that had been scheduled to last for an hour.