Watch: Tennessee Demonstrator Lets Loose with Homophobic, Racist Tirade; Loses Job

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday July 7, 2020

This counter-protestor in Tennessee, identified in reports as Sonya Holt, hurled racist and homophobic invective, media outlets say
This counter-protestor in Tennessee, identified in reports as Sonya Holt, hurled racist and homophobic invective, media outlets say  (Source:Screen cap / Sierra Gilmer / Twitter)

A Tennessee woman whose racist and homophobic jeers were caught on video is no longer employed by an optometry business, according to media reports.

Sonya Holt reportedly lost her job at Johnson City's Keith Family Vision Clinic after a video that showed her screaming racially charged and anti-LGBTQ taunts hit the Internet. Among her jeers was the cry, "White lives matter, white lives are better," reported UK newspaper the Daily Mail.

Holt was part of a group of counter-demonstrators who showed up when a local chapter of Black Lives Matter gathered in Covered Bridge Park in Elizabethton, Tennessee, on July 5, reported local news outlet Johnson City Press.

Holt also reportedly screamed at a Black Lives Matter protestor, "You're a gay homosexual piece of crap who's going to burn in hell," reported local news station WCYB.

The video spread across multiple social media platforms. In the video, Holt is heard declaring to the person recording the moment, "You're just a poor little black girl who's got a messed-up mind."

Demonstrations — most of them peaceful — have taken place around the country and internationally, protesting police violence targeting African-Americans in the weeks since then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the neck of George Floyd for almost nine minutes, killing him. Chauvin ignored Floyd's pleas and disregarded the concerns of witnesses who grew concerned after Floyd lost consciousness and went limp. Chauvin continued to kneel on Floyd's neck for about three minutes after that point. Chauvin has since been arrested and charged in connection with Floyd's death, as have three other officers who were at the scene.

The clip was recorded by Sierra Gilmer, the news channel reported. Gilmer told the station:

"The biggest thing to take away from this is just to realize that racism is in your community however much you think it might not be."

"There are a lot of people that reached out to me saying that they didn't realize that this was happening in Elizabethton and they didn't realize there were people there like that."

The Daily Mail included a full version of the video Gilmer took. In that video, Holt can be heard addressing Gilmer with: "White lives matter, you black crazy twisted person."

Counter-protestors around Holt encourage her and also hurl epithets at Gilmer. The Daily Mail version of the video is replete with beeps that mask out slurs and profanity. The Johnson City Press reported that one man among the counter-protestors — many of whom wore hats and shirts supportive of President Donald Trump — let loose with, "we should have kept you [racial epithet] as slaves."

As the video end, the counter-protestors have struck up a chant of "USA! USA!"

Watch the Daily Mail version of Gilmer's video below. Warning: The clip contains offensive rhetoric that some may find upsetting.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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