Group renews effort to remove Forrest bust from TN Capitol - WSMV Channel 4

Group renews effort to remove Forrest bust from TN Capitol

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The bust of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest is currently on display at the Tennessee State Capitol. (WSMV) The bust of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest is currently on display at the Tennessee State Capitol. (WSMV)
Dozens of protesters were at the Tennessee State Capitol on Monday to ask for the removal of the bust of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest. (WSMV) Dozens of protesters were at the Tennessee State Capitol on Monday to ask for the removal of the bust of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest. (WSMV)
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Dozens of protesters gathered at the Tennessee State Capitol on Monday demanding the removal of the bust of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

The organizing group, Moral Movement Tennessee, is a collection of clergy, social and civil rights activists. They put the Capitol demonstration together following the riots and protests in Charlottesville, VA, over the weekend when white nationalist protesters and counter protesters clashed over plans to remove the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The group of about 60 people demonstrated under the theme, “Moral Monday: Tear Down White Supremacy.”

"We're here today to say tear it down, tear it down," said activist Justin Jones before having demonstrators cover the Forrest bust with a jacket.

The Forrest bust sits outside the state House and Senate chambers in the Tennessee Capitol rotunda.

"We are here to send a message to our white brothers and sisters that white supremacy hurts you too," Jones shouted. "White supremacy is the myth that this statue is enough. Because at the same time they give you this statue, they deny you living wages, deny you access to healthcare."

The group chanted and sang spirituals as they marched to Gov. Bill Haslam's office. One man drove from Pulaski to attend the demonstration.

A father, David Zach, checked his two daughters out of elementary school so that they could witness the event.

"We're hesitant to stand up because people want to say that this represents violence? That's bologna. This is safety,"  Zach said.

Democratic lawmakers from Nashville, including Rep. Brenda Gilmore, Rep. Harold Love, and Sen. Jeff Yarbro, as well as Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, met the protesters at the Capitol.

"I think what we saw this weekend is what happens when we don't deal with our past," Sen. Yarbro said. "The part of history that we choose to celebrate that we choose to valorize, means something."

The Forrest bust has been a topic of contention for years in the state legislature. As recently as the last legislative session, lawmakers fought over its removal. Ultimately, a law was passed making it harder to have any monument or memorial removed.

More state troopers were at the state Capitol than normal on Monday. At least eight troopers were stationed at the Capitol rotunda during the protest. One trooper recorded the group using a video camera. The group marched to the Haslam's office demanding to speak with him. State troopers would not let the demonstrators in the office. Lawmakers had to ask to come in instead.

After nearly an hour, Rep. Love came out to announce that Haslam wants the memorial removed and that he would be releasing a statement soon.

"This helps," Rep. Love said. "This groundswell starts today, and as I told the people out here, we need them to contact our colleagues across the state and tell them how much they want that bust removed. We're not talking about destroying it. We are just saying move it to a better place like the Tennessee state museum or the archives."

Haslam released a statement about Forrest's bust at the Capitol on Monday afternoon.

“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. The General Assembly has established a process for addressing these matters and I strongly encourage the Capitol Commission and the Historical Commission to act.”  

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