Protesters, hecklers disrupt Muslim forum in Tennessee

June 5, 2013 at 3:07 PM   |   Comments

MANCHESTER, Tenn., June 5 (UPI) -- Hecklers repeatedly interrupted speakers at a forum in a rural Tennessee community discussing the Muslim faith, witnesses said.

One woman in attendance at the Manchester Convention Center said the interruptions were so intense at times she was afraid of other audience members, The (Nashville) Tennessean reported Wednesday.

The event, sponsored by the American Muslim Advisory Council, included presentations by a U.S. Attorney and an FBI agent about freedom of speech.

Elaine Smith, from neighboring Bedford County, said she couldn't hear much of the discussion "because the audience was so disrespectful."

"I cried when I got here," she said. "It makes me really sad especially when these people say they're Christians. The God I worship doesn't teach hate."

U.S. Attorney Bill Killian was continuously interrupted as he gave a PowerPoint presentation on hate crimes and the First and 14th amendments.

Kenneth Moore, an FBI special agent in charge of the Eastern Tennessee district, tried to quiet the crowd.

"People think we want to step on and stifle their First Amendment rights," he said. "Nothing could be further from the truth."

"The Constitution and Sharia law cannot coexist," said Victoria Jackson, a former "Saturday Night Live" star who was among the protesters. "Islam is evil."

Manchester was chosen for the event because of a Facebook post last month by Coffee County Commissioner Barry West that Muslims were best greeted behind a shotgun barrel. He has since apologized for the comment.

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