Protests stemming from the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis May 25 continued in Middle Tennessee for the sixth night in a row.
In Nashville, thousands gathered at Bicentennial Mall for a rally organized by teenagers with the Black Lives Matter movement. The diverse group moved through downtown streets chanting and accepting bottles of water from bystanders.
“I’m inspired by the diversity of the crowd I’m seeing,” said Robert Luke. He held two signs. One read: “Take your knee off my neck America.” The other listed the names of numerous individuals killed in police shootings.
“If it was all black and brown people, the results would be quite different,” continued Luke as waves of diverse crowds marched past him to the capitol.
Most marchers wore masks and continued marching despite a light shower. They chanted the names of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, whose deaths sparked the recent nation-wide protests.
“I don’t see no riot here, why are you in riot gear?” chanted marchers as they passed riot police on Broadway. Protestors glared and jeered at police but otherwise continued marching to the capitol. One protestor stopped to embrace a Metro Nashville police officer.
The march concluded back at Bicentennial Mall where crowds of protesters stood quietly listening to black speakers talk of their experiences.
“We had a hard week, but we’re still coming together,” shouted one black woman over hundreds of people.
In Franklin, an affluent suburb south of Franklin and a Republican stronghold, about 200 people gathered on the town square at the base of a statue of a Confederate soldier.
The crowd was predominantly white but included all ages, while SUVs circled the square honking horns in support.
A lone counter-protester sat on a bench outside the Mellow Mushroom, wearing a shirt printed like the American flag and drawing little attention.
Daniel Dugger, a Franklin resident, said he’s attended every protest, rally or vigil in the area that’s been held in the last week. He held a sign advocating for the dissolution of qualified immunity, a legal doctrine designed to protect law enforcement from frivolous lawsuits. The policy does not extend to those who knowingly violate the law.
“We don’t see this in any other aspect of life,” Dugger said, taking a draw from a miniature Macanudo cigar. “If a doctor messes up, you can sue them and they won’t be able to get malpractice insurance.”
The rallies came the same day Nashville police charged two well-known activists with felony aggravated rioting for standing on a police car during Saturday’s peaceful afternoon protest.
Jeneisha Harris and Justin Bautista-Jones, the latter of whom is credited with persuading Tennessee National Guardsman to lay their riot shields down during a Monday vigil at the Tennessee State Capitol, were later absolved when police recalled the warrants two hours after issuing them.