Protesters are targeting state for removal of bust (VIDEO)


Nashville, Tennessee – Activists condemning white supremacy are targeting a bust that sits in the Tennessee statehouse. On Monday, 75 people from Moral Movement Tennessee descended on the building, in opposition to the commemorative statue of a confederate general, and KKK leader.

While there is no Confederate flag outside the building, the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, born in Tennessee, is reportedly displayed between the state House and Senate chambers.  According to a report by the Tennessean, Forrest was a Confederate general and early leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

The four foot tall copper bust lists only Forrest’s service in the Confederate army. It doesn’t list his election as the first “Grand Wizard”of the KKK.  Forrest eventually renounced the KKK, according to The Commercial Appeal, and even advocated for “social and political advancement for blacks.”

The Forrest bust has been in the statehouse for years, although when it was installed remains unclear. What is clear is that top Democrats and Republicans in the state, including Gov. Bill Haslam (R) and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R), have advocated for the bust’s removal.

In Tennessee, however, the state legislature passed the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act, in February 2016. It put in place a new process for renaming or removing controversial memorials or monuments, making it more difficult to remove statues, such as the bust of Forrest, from public property.

The protest on Monday began with songs and prayers in front of the bust.

They asked members of the General Assembly, as well as the governor himself, to speak about the bust. Haslam did issue a statement, saying Forrest should not be honored at the Capitol.

“My position on this issue has not changed – I do not believe Nathan Bedford Forrest should be one of the individuals we honor at the Capitol,” Haslam said. “The General Assembly has established a process for addressing these matters and I strongly encourage the Capitol Commission and the Historical Commission to act.”

The bust sits only feet away from a “monument honoring the 14th and 15th amendments, which recognize black residents as citizens and gives them the right to vote, and a bust of Sampson W. Keeble, the first black state lawmaker in Tennessee,” according to the Tennessean.

Notably, the Tennessee demonstration was allowed to proceed peacefully, unlike the legal demonstration that took place over the weekend in Charlottesville, Va.

While that group, who have been described as “white nationalists,” had authorization to protest the planned removal of a Robert E. Lee statue, the situation grew violent when counter-protesters clashed with them.

A 20-year-old Ohio man later drove his car into a crowd of counter protesters, causing one death and numerous injuries.

The violence renewed attention on what detractors call “symbols of the Confederacy.” As Moral Movement Tennessee sets it sights on the Forrest bust, they remain hopeful of its removal.

As the Tennessean points out, in 2013 Memphis successfully renamed the Nathan Bedford Forrest Park, along with two other parks that were named for people “associated with the Confederacy.”

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