UT Students to Sponsor Sister March

The University of Tennessee will play host to a march in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington on Friday, January 20th.

More than 200,000 people have committed to attend the march in Washington D.C on the march’s Facebook page, and “sister marches” are being held in all 50 states and in 32 countries. According to the Facebook page, the purpose of the marches is to “send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office.”

The UT Sister March will be the only official march taking place on Friday, the day before the actual inauguration.

The University of Tennessee’s March for Human Rights, sponsored by the Undergraduate Anthropology Association, will gather just an hour after President-elect Trump’s swearing-in ceremony begins. Marchers will meet at 12:30 outside the Humanities and Social Sciences building, known on campus as the HSS amphitheater. The faculty notification about the march stresses that “people of all colors and identities are invited.”

Kendy Altizer, a doctoral candidate in the department of anthropology at UT, is a member of the Knoxville chapter of the Women’s March on Washington, and she was a key organizer in UT’s sister march.

“We started to see sister marches pop up, and it really gained traction. When I applied for a permit for this march, there were less than 200. Now there are 660, all over the world. Over a million people will be attending these. We needed to have one here,” Altizer says.

The march’s Facebook page has 26 RSVPs, but Altizer says she is expecting up to 400 people. There won’t just be students demonstrating – Altizer has been receiving RSVPs from the greater Knoxville community.

Kate Stamper, a senior at UT, will be one of the students speaking at the march.

“I think it’s important to have this march, because a lot of women are not able to travel to DC. It’s a real villager to be able to take off work and go to DC. It gives students who can’t travel a chance to stand against the Trump presidency,” Stamper said.

The official Women’s March on Washington will occur on Saturday, Donald Trump’s first day as United States president. What began as an online event created by a retired attorney in Hawaii is set to be the largest demonstration in protest of the Trump presidency. Organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union are partnered with the march. Celebrities such as Scarlett Johanssen and Katy Perry are expected to attend. Even an Illinois Congressman who is skipping the inauguration will be coming out for the march.

As surprising as the force with which the event spread worldwide may be to some, for Stamper, the reason for marching is simple.

“I want to stand on the right side of history,” she said.

This story was also published on The Tennessee Journalist news website. To view it there, follow this link:




After an Electoral Disappointment, Planned Parenthood Prepares for an Uncertain Future

Planned Parenthood Action Fund backed Hillary Clinton for president since the primary elections, and their candidate suffered a shocking loss. Now, with a confirmed pro-life president and strong Republican majorities in Washington, what are the main concerns and plans of action going forward? Tory Mills of Planned Parenthood in Knoxville sheds some light on what could be on the horizon.

These. Doors. Stay. Open. Those were the words, signed by Cecile Richards, sent out to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund email list the morning after Donald Trump was elected. The emails to supporters, the mobilization for action, and the fears for the future haven’t stopped in the days since.

While abortion has been a hot-button issue since before Planned Parenthood’s founding 100 years ago, the health care provider has been dealing with a resurgence of bad press since the video scandal of 2015. Since then, the health care provider has dealt with a shooting in Colorado, and a threat of widespread clinic closures after new abortion laws were passed in Texas. Those laws were struck down by the Supreme Court, a major victory for Planned Parenthood and its advocates.

However, the new administration brings a new wave of uncertainty. President-elect Trump reaffirmed his pro-life stance in his first post-election interview, casting doubt on the future of Roe v Wade. Vice president-elect Mike Pence was once called “a one-man crusade” to deny Planned Parenthood federal funding.

Planned Parenthood, supporters, and affiliated organizations have been active on social media the hashtag #standwithPP since the election.

Tory Mills, external affairs manager at Planned Parenthood of Knoxville, clarified what those two potential outcomes, an overturning of the Roe decision and federal defunding of Planned Parenthood, would mean for clinics across the nation.

In Trump’s words, “If Roe ever were overturned, it would go back to the states.” For some states, this would mean complete outlawing, something that hasn’t been seen in America since 1973.

“It would create a landscape like we’re already seeing in some states like Texas. We saw dramatic increases in the number of women forgoing birth control and other family planning needs. We actually saw a huge increase in the number of folks who were trying to give themselves abortions. We see this in other countries too, where abortion is illegal. The need for abortion does not go away; people just do it in an unsafe way,” Mills said.

#Prolife groups on Twitter have also been active, viewing the election of Donald Trump as a victory for their cause.

What would abortion made illegal mean for Planned Parenthood?

“I think the biggest concern is less for Planned Parenthood and more for our patients. We do so many things. I’m less concerned for Planned Parenthood; we just celebrated our hundredth anniversary, we are truly not going anywhere, but for the millions of people whom that would affect.”

Mills shared the 2008 statistic that 1 in 3 American women have abortions in their lifetime. As she said “abortion is a part of a lot of people’s lives.”

While overturning a Supreme Court decision would have a big impact, it’s a distant prospect for now. The more immediate consequence for Planned Parenthood to fear is the potential loss of federal funding.

Mills explained that some clinics do receive Title X funding that helps to provide family planning services on a sliding scale. The vast majority of federal money received by Planned Parenthood comes from Medicaid reimbursements. That means Planned Parenthood could be affected not just by defunding, but by cuts to Medicaid and potential repealing or amending of the Affordable Care Act.

Would revoking of funds at the federal level actually close Planned Parenthood health clinics?

“I think it depends on the Planned Parenthood. I think even if it doesn’t close centers, it doesn’t allow us to serve patients in the way that we want to and in the way that is so important to us by making sure that they can afford their birth control and that they’re getting the healthcare they want from the provider that they want,” Mills said.

With all the prospects on the horizon, one would think morale among those on the pro-choice side of the fence would be low. But Mills said in Knoxville, that hasn’t been the case.

“I think I’ve seen over 200 new volunteer applications come across my desk in a week. We had two guys who stopped by yesterday to drop by a handwritten note and a $20 bill. I think people are moving to action, and that is what I hope for, more than kind letters, more than notes, more than donations, I hope that we take this as a call to action.”

Action has been the theme of the emails sent out by Cecile Richards almost daily since the election. Action is also the overarching theme of those on the pro-life side of the fence. While Planned Parenthood is maintaining its stance of the last 100 years: ‘we aren’t going anywhere,’ the fears of what’s in the future aren’t going anywhere either.

 For a more in-depth version of my talk with Tory Mills, click below.

You can also view this story on Medium.com by clicking here.

Knoxville Church Hosts a Service to Cope With Election Day Stress

If Tuesday taught us anything, it’s that every American has different ways of dealing with election day stress. Some turned to family, some to alcohol-centered watch parties, some to ranting on Facebook and Twitter. For The Episcopal Church of the Good Samaritan in Knoxville, the answer was prayer.

When they saw the stress their congregation was under as the world waited to see who would be the next president, the Reverends Cal Calhoun and Caroline Vogel hatched an idea. For half an hour on Tuesday night, before the polls closed and the obsessive CNN watching began, they would offer their congregation a place to come together and quietly pray for the nation.

“We’ve been listening to our parishioners, and people are worried and fearful and anxious. There’s just a lot of emotions floating around,” Vogel said of why they decided to have this service.

When some think of political prayer services, it calls to mind fervent vigils of conservative evangelicals praying for the election of one particular candidate. That was not the cast at Good Samaritan. There was very little discussion of candidates as the dozens in attendance slid into the pews. Instead, there were quiet greetings and expressions of nerves.

“We wanted to create a place for people to have a sacred space around something that’s making them feel anxious,” Vogel said.

The small crowd prayed for wisdom, understanding, tolerance, and perseverance in our nation. The atmosphere during the service was serene, and the only political propaganda in sight was the Tennessee-shaped “I voted” sticker still worn by Rt. Rev. George Young, bishop of East Tennessee.

After sharing communion, the parishioners greeted each other with smiles and optimism. When asked why this service might have been helpful in calming election night nerves, Vogel said “I think our spiritual life, and hopefully our faith, can ground us in a way that very few things can in the world.”

Attendees included church members and stressed-out citizens who were told about the service and wanted a place to unwind.

For an audio version of this story, click the link below:

Community Watchers Weigh in on Sex Offender Residency Requirements

All but a few Knox County elementary schools have registered sex offenders living within a mile. But according to a school security officer and a neighborhood watch leader, its not a problem in their communities.

If a parent found out that a registered sex offender was living 1,001 feet away from their child’s school, you might expect a reaction based out of fear. But for community watchdogs in Knoxville, fear is not often the case.

Most citizens are aware that a national sex offender registry exists. Those convicted of sexual offenses are usually required to register under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), which is a federal law. The Tennessee registry allows you to see a photo, an address, and information about why the person is on the registry.

Over 20 states have enacted residency restrictions for those on the registry. In Tennessee, no sex offender, regardless of whether their crime involved a minor, may live within 1,000 feet of any “public school, private or parochial school, licensed day care center, other child care facility, public park, playground, recreation center, or public athletic field available for use by the general public,” according to section 211 of Tennessee’s legislation.

Beyond that 1,000 feet, there’s wiggle room.

An investigation of the registry shows that of the 50 elementary schools in Knox County, all but seven have at least one registered offender living within a mile of school property, and all 50 have offenders within three miles. Presumably, this means convicted sex offenders living in the same neighborhoods as young children.

Jennifer Mirtes, head of Inskip Park and Pool Neighborhood Watch in North Knoxville, says her group is aware of both the offender locator and the 17 offenders living within a mile of Inskip Elementary School. The Inskip Community Association includes a watchlist with its monthly newsletter.

Mirtes said that while the close proximity concerns her as a community member, she’s never seen any problems occur in the neighborhood.

“I’ve been out trick or treating with my kids when they were little and those people kept their lights off,” she says.

Mirtes and the mission of the Inskip neighborhood watch group stress simply keeping an eye on the neighborhood so “bad elements know this is not the place to do business.” In terms of sex offenders, Mirtes’ watchful eye has never observed anything but compliance.

Tony Boles, one of two security officers at Pond Gap School in South Knoxville, says the residency requirement is fair, but “it could definitely be pushed back a few hundred feet.”

When Pond Gap has issues with people being on school property who shouldn’t be there, it’s never a sex offender issue.

“They know the laws. They’re smart people,” he said.

“Not to say there aren’t any in the area; there are. But we’ve never had an issue.”

How many registered offenders live nearby your neighborhood school? This map can show you both a one and three mile radius of any elementary school in Knox County

Knoxville City Council Saves $2 Million on New Garbage Contract

If you’re tired of Knoxville’s system of hauling four metal garbage cans to your curb week after week, the City Council has come to your rescue. The Council approved a new solid waste management contract at their latest meeting that’s going to save the city $2 million and save its homeowners three garbage cans’ worth of inconvenience.

The Knoxville City Council has approved a new solid waste management contract that could save the city nearly $2 million a year for the next seven years and take some of the pain out of garbage day for Knoxville homeowners.

The vote was unanimous apart from an abstention by Councilman Marshall Stair, whose law firm has represented Waste Connections of Tennessee, Inc.

Waste Connections was the winner out of four bidders for Knoxville’s solid waste needs, with a $2.9 million bid. That’s down from the $4.9 million current contract Waste Connections has held with the city for over a decade.

Why the drop in price?

According to Public Works Director Chad Weth, new garbage carts will be the star of the show.


Public works director Chad Weth was present at Tuesday’s meeting to answer any questions the council might have about the waste contract.

At a meeting in September, the council voted to set aside the $2.9 million to purchase 60,000 new garbage receptacles. Knoxville residents will now be permitted one 95-gallon garbage carts to replace the four 32-gallon cans currently allowed.

Weth says this will save the city money in work time. A  semi-automated machine will dump waste out of the carts and into trucks, instead of individual workers hauling bags out of cans.

“It allows a more modern look, and that’s where the cost savings come from with the new haul-in contract.”

But the new contract will provide benefits for citizens as well.

“A lot of times people put garbage down in there, and it gets blown over, or an animal gets in it. These carts are standardized carts; they won’t allow that to happen,” Weth says.

Weth also mentioned the benefits of garbage not getting wet when it rains, and less litter from cans blowing over.

Finnbarr Saunders brought up concerns before the vote about the size of the cart and “perceived difficulty in moving it around.”

Weth assured the council that any person who has difficulty because of age or physical ability can apply for backdoor garbage service, which is free. Those interested can contact Knoxville’s 3-1-1 call center to apply or ask any questions about changes to solid waste services.  

The new contract is worth $3.8 million total and will take effect on January 1.

For an audio version of this web story, listen below: