Why did the neighbors gather in the Finches' front yard in Chapter 15 of To Kill a Mockingbird?

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     In Maycomb, grown men stood outside in the front yard for only two reasons: death and politics. I wondered who had died.  (Chapter 15)

But no one had died. Led by Sheriff Tate, the group of men who suddenly appeared in Atticus's yard were all friends. They decided to speak outside, away from the ears of Atticus's children and Aunt Alexandra. They had come to warn Atticus about Tom's move to the county jail the next day.

... Mr. Tate was saying, "I don't look for any trouble, but I can't guarantee there won't be any..."  (Chapter 15)

Link Deas was worried about " 'that Old Sarum bunch,' "--the men who would eventually show up in the form of a lynch mob the following night. He also scolded Atticus for deciding to defend Tom in the first place. Atticus didn't believe trouble was forthcoming, telling the group that the Old Sarum crowd rarely got drunk on Sundays. When Jem suddenly screamed to Atticus about a nonexistent phone call, the "men jumped a little and scattered." Atticus told Jem to answer it, and "Laughter broke them up." The tense meeting dissolved, and Atticus had to explain to Jem and Scout that the men were only his friends, and not a "gang" who " 'wanted to get you...' "


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