Citizens Protest US Attorney's Attempt to Curb Free Speech

Citizens Protest US Attorney's Attempt to Curb Free Speech

William Killian, the U.S. Attorney for East Tennessee appointed by Barack Obama in 2010, proved to be an unpopular speaker at an event held in Manchester, Tennessee on Tuesday by the recently formed American Muslim Advisory Council of Tennessee. An overflow crowd of 1,000 local conservative and Tea Party activists greeted Killian’s presentation, which one attendee dismissed as “canned,” with cries of “traitor,” “resign,” and “go home.”

A large crowd began to gather outside the Manchester-Coffee County Conference Center an hour before the event, which the organizers called “Public Disclosure in a Diverse Society,” was scheduled to start. Those at the “pre-rally” held signs and listened to patriotic songs and speeches from local political leaders, including Tennessee State Representative Joe Carr, a conservative firebrand who recently announced he will challenge incumbent Congressman Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), who currently represents the nearby 4th Congressional District.

When the doors opened, only 600 members of the crowd were able to fit into the room where the event was held. The remaining 400 members of the crowd remained outside the building. 

John Anderson, a grassroots activist from nearby Bell Buckle, Tennessee, held a sign that read: “In America, you are free to practice your religion, and I am free to insult it.” Anderson told the Chattanooga Free Times he wanted to know “why two federal employees are not looking into [Attorney General] Eric Holder” rather than holding the night’s event.

Killian asked the event be held ostensibly in order to improve “understanding and tolerance of Muslims and their religious beliefs.” Most of the crowd in attendance, however, viewed the evening as an effort to intimidate Americans who exercise their free speech to criticize Muslim acts of terrorism.

Lee Douglas, organizer of a Tennessee 9-12 project who was one of those inside the room, told Nashville talk radio host Ralph Bristol on Wednesday that “there was no exchange of ideas” between Killian and those in the crowd. “There was no opportunity to ask questions,” he said. “This was a show put on by Muslims. There was a young Muslim woman who said that Sharia law was simply the practice of community outreach.”

“What Killian said was deceitful,” Douglas told Bristol. “He was there to explain why he could charge people with violation of the law, to intimidate them” for exercising their free speech rights.

Tennessee State Senator Mike Bell, a Republican from Riceville, told the Chattanooga Free Times he attended the event because “I had concerns when I read Bill Killian’s statement.” After he heard Killian’s presentation, Bell said he was still “not certain of Killian’s position on free speech.”

Killian sparked the controversy and drew charges that he was attempting to deny free speech First Amendment rights to any Americans who spoke critically of Muslims in a  May 21 interview with the Tullahoma News. In the interview, Killian described why he had asked that the June 4 Manchester event be held. “This is an educational effort with civil rights laws as they play into freedom of religion and exercising freedom of religion.” 

Killian then took a sharp turn away from the purported “educational” purpose for the event, and issued a veiled threat to Muslim critics.This is also to inform the public what federal laws are in effect and what the consequences are.” (emphasis added)

Killian also provided fodder to those who see him as a Muslim apologist and Christian antagonist by attempting to create a false moral equivalency between the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings and the innumerable jihad inspired Muslim terrorist attacks. “Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were both Christians as was the guy who shot up the Sikh temple. Sikhs are not Muslim. Many people think they are Muslim, but they split off with the Hindu religion.”

Timothy McVeigh was an atheist, and unlike Muslim acts of terrorism, the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombings and the Sikh temple attacks did not claim that their actions were an expression of any religious belief.

The free speech at which Killian took aim was a controversial Facebook posting put up by Barry West, a Coffee County Commissioner, that showed an image of a man aiming a shotgun with a caption that read “How to Make a Muslim Wink.” Killian stated that “If a Muslim had posted ‘How to Wink at a Christian,’ could you imagine what would have happened? We need to educate people about Muslims and their civil rights, and as long as we’re here, they’re going to be protected.”

“Internet postings that violate civil rights are subject to federal jurisdiction,” Killian told the Tullahoma News. “That’s what everybody needs to understand.”

Killian also displayed an antagonism to Christianity and a fundamental misunderstanding of the origins and meaning of the First Amendment to the Constitution. “We want to inform everybody about what the law is, but more importantly, we want to provide what the law means to Muslims, Hindus and every other religion in the country.” he said.  “It’s why we came here in the first place. In England, they were using Christianity to further their power in government. That’s why the First Amendment is there.”

Mr. Killian is a Democrat who donated $1,300 to the Barack Obama 2008 campaign and $500 to the Tennessee Democratic Party that same year, according to Federal Election Commission records.

After the event, Killian did not speak to reporters, leaving by a door that had no public access. Sharry Dedman-Beard, Law Enforcement Coordinator/Public Information Officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Tennessee told Breitbart News in an email on Thursday: “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is not issuing any further comments on the event at this time.  However, a transcript of the remarks made by U.S. Attorney Killian are [sic] available on our website.”