As part of the national uprising against racism, thousands of people throughout Middle Tennessee have taken to the streets over the past two months to express their disdain for police brutality, racism, transphobia, and white supremacist memorials. Protesters vary in age, race, sexuality, and socioeconomic background but they are united despite the COVID-19 crisis to make known their frustration in historic fashion.
About 1,000 people marched in Murfreesboro, Tennessee on May 31 in protest of police brutality and specifically the murder of George Floyd. Organized by Murfreesboro Resist co-founder Mike McDougal, the demonstration began at Murfreesboro Square and walked through the city to the police station. From there, protesters marched to Middle Tennessee State University to protest ‘Forrest Hall,’ a hall on the campus named after confederate and early Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest. During the peaceful march, protesters were assaulted with tear gas by police before they crossed onto MTSU’s campus. The night ended with two arrests, however, both were released the next day.
On June 4 over 10,000 people marched through downtown Nashville. The event was organized by Teens 4 Equality, a group of six young women ranging in age from 14 to 16. This was one of the biggest protests against white supremacy in the city’s history. Most of the protesters were teenagers and people in their 20s and 30s. However, many young children and older adults could also be found in diverse crowd gathered for the cause of ending systemic racism. Another event called the March for Justice on June 13 attracted 5000 people to downtown Nashville. The event was organized by Black Lives Matter Nashville in collaboration with other local organizations. The march ended at the State Capitol with speeches demanding police reform and the removal of the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust from the Capitol. The Historical Commission in Nashville later voted to have the bust removed.
A protest against a Confederate statue in Murfreesboro, Tennessee on June 20 called the Protest Against Oppression was organized by Communist Party USA member Michael Sangetti. It took place at Murfreesboro Public Square around a Confederate monument called the “Guardian of Peace.” The monument was erected in 1901 by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and Ladies Memorial Association. About 150 people gathered around the statue to demand its removal. Over 25 counter-protesters also converged across the street where some waved American and Confederate flags and shouted their approval of the monument. Heated exchanges broke out twice between protesters and counter-protesters and police officers got involved. The protest ended with no arrests.
Also on June 20 in Nashville, was a Vigil for Tony Dade: #BlackTransLivesMatter, organized by Southerners on New Ground Nashville. The group held the event due to the lack of attention given to the murder of Tony Dade, a trans man who was shot to death by police in Tallahassee, Florida on May 27. The group correctly noted that Black trans and gender-nonconforming people are often overlooked by the mainstream media and within our society in general. Over 2,000 people gathered and spoke out against homophobia, transphobia, and the genocide of Black people in America.
Teens 4 Equality came together again and organized The Red, Black, and Blue July 4th Protest in downtown Nashville. Over 5,000 people protested and marched against racism and police brutality. A memorial was held towards the end of the event for Black victims of police brutality and murder. Those especially remembered were George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Rayshard Brooks, and Nashvillians Jocques Clemmons and Daniel Hambrick, all of whom were killed by police. Moreover, the mothers of Clemmons and Hambrick joined the protest and touchingly spoke about their sons to the crowd of thousands before embracing each other.
The message is clear; people in Middle Tennessee are no longer willing to sit back and accept white supremacy, transphobia, homophobia, police brutality and other social ills that often go unchecked in the South and throughout the country. Indeed, many have grown so tired of these issues that they now readily organize and band together to voice their opinions through protests and marches. Middle Tennesseans will continue to fight until there is an end to systemic police brutality, trans and homophobia, and white supremacy.