Gov. Lee to meet with Tenn. Black Caucus as they voice frustrations over handling of protesters

Posted at 8:23 PM, Aug 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-26 21:57:44-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators said they plan to meet with Governor Lee to discuss ongoing race relations in the state.

Caucus members voiced their frustrations over recent actions by state leadership during a press conference Wednesday.

Caucus members said they are upset about how Governor Bill Lee treated the "People's Plaza" protesters in recent months by refusing to meet with them about their concerns regarding police brutality and the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust in the State Capitol.

Earlier this month, the Black caucus sent a letter to the governor, requesting they be used as a mediator between the governor's office and the protesters. However, Representative and Caucus Chair G.A. Hardaway said the letter went unanswered.

"Those young people merely wanted to be heard and for some reason, the legislation turned a deaf ear," said Chairman Hardaway.

He said had the governor taken them up on their offer, the arrests and incidents that arose during the 62-day protest would not have happened.

As a result of the protests, Legislators passed a bill making camping on state grounds a felony. Representatives called it a criminal justice reform bill made to protect the state in light of the autonomous zones being created. But opponents said it was a direct effort to stifle protesters.

"All of our legislators and the governor need to rethink what they're doing for the best interest of the people...there's a continued effort to put property ahead of the concerns of people, the lives of people," said Rep. Yusuf Hakeem

Members also expressed their disappointment in what they called a "disturbing" social media post allegedly made by Lt. Governor Randy McNally, which expressed violence against those who support the Black Lives Matter movement.

Chairman Hardaway said the caucus will not only take their concerns about the post to the public and both chambers, but they will also get law enforcement involved.

The meeting between the governor and caucus members is expected to happen within the next week.