NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Twenty-one activists were cited or arrested Monday night during a peaceful protest outside of the Tennessee State Capitol.
Demonstrators said they are trying to get face time with Governor Bill Lee to talk about defunding the police, demilitarizing the police, firing Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson, and removing the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust from inside the Capitol.
"We're asking to bring the country together, we want to have a conversation, an open dialogue. No cameras around. Just have an open dialogue to see what we can change, what we can do better," said Dymin Cannon, one of the leaders among the group of demonstrators.
Monday night, the Tennessee Highway Patrol warned the activists that they needed to clear from the plaza outside the Capitol. The THP claimed the steps outside the Capitol needed to be power washed due to graffiti from separate protests. Troopers said arrests would happen after 11p.m. if people did not go elsewhere.
A group of people remained seated on the lawn outside of the Capitol, with their arms interlocked. After 11p.m., troopers began removing the activists one by one. Each person was picked up and carried away by troopers.
According to a statement from the THP, troopers detained 21 people. Nineteen were cited and two were arrested for public intoxication, said THP.
As demonstrators were being carried away, supporters were chanting the names Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Their deaths at the hands of police have sparked a massive movement across the country to end police brutality and ensure equal treatment of people of color.
Organizer Dymin Cannon said the group of demonstrators is working with an attorney to make sure those cited and arrested are safe and released from police custody as soon as possible.
Cannon said a lot of work has been done to make sure the days-long protest is safe and also helpful to the community.
"We're one of the only protests where we come out and we feed the homeless. We're one of the only protests where we come out and give them masks, sanitation and cleaning supplies," Cannon said. "One of the only protests where we go by and clean up the plaza to make sure it's safe and clean for everybody to enjoy and use."
Cannon said the effort is being funded by community donations.
"Everyday people who come by and see what we're doing," Cannon said. "They see us feeding the people and they want to help. They can't be out here themselves, but they know if they can't bring their bodies, they can bring their monetary funds."
People who are able to demonstrate are coming from near and far.
Eric Alexander, of Memphis, told NewsChannel 5 it's important to set an example for his children. He saw the arrests as they happened Monday night.
"I've got two sons that I'm trying to do right by, trying to raise them," Alexander said. "I'm just a regular citizen. They come here with riot shields and stuff, what am I going to do about it? I was holding my sign. I'm just trying to speak my truth."
Organizers said they will remain on the sidewalk just outside Capitol grounds until Governor Lee will meet with one of them to talk about change.
"We will be back here tomorrow, and the next day and the day after that until he decides to meet with us and have a conversation," said Cannon.