Protesters staying in Legislative Plaza say 'We don’t plan to leave' despite the end of session

Posted at 5:29 PM, Jun 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-19 23:38:18-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — The legislative session wrapped up early Friday morning, but protesters say there is still more work that needs to be done when it comes to racial equality and justice.

A group of several demonstrators have been camped out at Legislative Plaza for a week, and they say they're not leaving.

"There are people that have not left at all, we’ve been sleeping on the ground. And we have two demands before we leave here; either we need to speak to the Governor or he needs to remove the confederate monument," said organizer, Jay Terry.

For a week, they have stood across the street from the State Capitol. Tennessee Highway Patrol officials say the demonstrators weren't allowed inside because of recent vandalism, but GOP officials said it was due to COVID-19 concerns.

Terry was even arrested by Troopers when protesters marched over to the Capitol last Monday demanding to go inside. Terry says even though the regular legislative session wrapped up, she believes progress was made.

Metro Nashville police banned the use of chokeholds. Officers are now being obligated to intervene if they observe another officer engaging in excessive force or misconduct. And Police Chief Steve Anderson is resigning. The group sees each of those as progress and a step in the right direction.

But she says more work needs to be done.

"We don’t plan to leave; we took a voter earlier today because we know the lawmakers are leaving for the weekend, and we asked the members of our group if they wanted to leave and come back," said Terry, "We unanimously decided as a group that we did not want to leave. We are not going to leave until our demands are met; and we are perfectly capable and willing to outlast those legislators as well as the Tennessee Highway Patrol."

Governor Bill Lee said yesterday he is willing to talk with those fighting for solutions.

"I want to meet with anyone who’s having I believe to be productive dialogue going forward," said Lee, " As I said before, defunding the police or embracing lawlessness is not productive. My conversations and my input has been from folks who want to together to find solutions going forward."

When it comes to bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, Lee said he believes there needs to be context around the discussion of removing it.

He will be filling vacancies on the Capitol Commission, the group of lawmakers who will decide what to do with the bust.