More than 30 people gathered in downtown Franklin Tuesday to rally in support of Gracie Solomon, a 14-year-old girl who is alleged to have suffered sexual and physical abuse at the hands of her father, former WSMV Channel 4 News anchor Aaron Solomon.
The allegations, which Aaron has vehemently denied and is not facing any criminal charges over, were made public last month after Gracie published a now-viral video on social media.
In the video, Gracie accused Grace Chapel Church, Grace Christian Academy and the Williamson County court system of ignoring both her and her mother Angelia Solomon's repeated cries for help. Gracie had also accused her father of being involved in the death of her then-18-year-old brother Grant Solomon, who died in July of 2020 in what was reported to be a single-vehicle accident.
On May 21 of this year, Aaron filed a lawsuit for defamation against Angelia and 29 others alleged to have been sharing the allegations against him online. Originally scheduled to be held at the Williamson County Courthouse in Franklin on June 1, the lawsuit's first hearing was later rescheduled to take place on Tuesday, June 22.
"We are here in support of Gracie Solomon"
While Tuesday's rally was planned to coincide with the first hearing of Aaron's lawsuit, that hearing was rescheduled over the weekend to July 28. Nevertheless, the rally went ahead as planned in front of the courthouse in downtown Franklin.
"Justice for Gracie!" protesters shouted in front of the courthouse, bearing signs that read "we believe Gracie" and "Grant deserves justice."
One of those protesters was Olivia McCarthy, a longtime friend of the Solomon family who could be seen holding a sign that read "free Gracie."
"We are here in support of Gracie Solomon, we are here in support of free speech, we are here in support of Grant Solomon," McCarthy said. "Gracie testified on camera that she has been victim of a lifetime of molestation, that she has been raped by her father, and that she believes her father murdered her brother."
Grant died during the early hours of July 20, 2020, after meeting his father at the Ward Performance Institute baseball training facility in Gallatin.
According to Aaron, he and his son had parked next to each other in the facility's parking lot. The only witness to the incident, Aaron told Gallatin police that he saw Grant walk to the rear of his truck to collect his baseball equipment. Looking down to "check a work email," Aaron said that moments later he noticed the truck rolling backwards, only to discover Grant pinned underneath it.
According to medical records, the only injuries Grant suffered were three bruises to the front of his body and one laceration on the back of his skull. Given the assumption that Grant would have had to have been dragged several feet across pavement by the vehicle, social media pages created in support of Gracie have called into question the official story behind Grant's death.
"There has been no investigation into [Grant's] death worth mentioning; the only investigation that occurred was taking the statement of [Aaron] and then the investigation was closed. That is not an investigation - none of the evidence adds up, and there is so much evidence disputed that it deserves to be looked at and an investigation must be opened for justice."
Another protester, Houston Sarratt, told the Home Page that he had attended the rally both as a friend of the Solomon family and as a means to help encourage the community to "continue to put pressure on the system" that he felt had failed Gracie time and again.
"I've been very concerned that the kids are not being heard by a system that seems to be very biased towards the father's side," Sarratt said.
"We're here to encourage people to do everything they can to continue to put pressure on the system; the courts, the schools, the churches, whatever it is to get an investigation going into what's really going on here, and to continue to support those who have not been heard."
As Sarratt spoke, the more than 30 protesters began to march around downtown Franklin, chanting things like "freedom for Gracie" and "justice for Grant!"
Looping around the downtown area before eventually ending up back at the courthouse, one protester spoke to the impact Gracie's video testimony had had on her.
Now a resident of Williamson County, Amber Keeler had been separated from her mother at the age of 13 after a custody dispute between her parents that ultimately ruled in favor of her father. Now 31 years old, Keeler said that her father had abused her in a similar manner as to what has been alleged by Gracie.
"I was 13 years old when my dad brainwashed me, charmed the courts, brainwashed DCS (Department of Children's Services) [and] had them all believing that he was an amazing father," Keeler said.
"During that time my father abused me; he had me alone as a single father and abused and tortured me for 10 years until I ran away. I've been [in] no contact with my dad now for four years and I've been back in a relationship with my mom since I was 23. I'm now 31 and I have three daughters of my own and a son on the way."
Keeler said she was first made aware of Gracie's story through a friend who had shared it with her on social media. Watching Gracie's video testimony for the first time, Keeler said, was difficult.
"I pulled up the video, and I sobbed," Keeler said. "It was like looking at a 14-year-old version of myself. I had never heard another girl speak of the things that were done to her [as] similar [as to what] was done to me by my father."
While the rescheduling of the lawsuit's first hearing hampered attempts to confront Aaron directly, protesters vowed to return to the courthouse on July 28, and in greater numbers.