Republican lawmakers in Tennessee resisted a push from protesters and their Democratic colleagues to eliminate a holiday for Confederate general and KKK Founder Nathan Bedford Forrest and remove a bust of him from the State Capitol, which one black lawmaker compared to a bust of Hitler.
Protests against racism have erupted around the country in response to the death of George Floyd, leading to the removal, or planned removal, of statues and other memorials commemorating Confederate figures in several states.
Protesters gathered in front of the Tennessee State Capitol on Wednesday calling for the removal of a bust of Forrest in the Capitol after a state House committee voted down a measure that would’ve done just that.
The Naming, Designating & Private Acts committee rejected a resolution, introduced in January, to remove the statue on Tuesday, with every Democrat on the committee voting to remove it and all but one Republican voting for it to remain.
Republican Governor Bill Lee, who had previously spoken out against removing the statue, said on Wednesday, “something should be done there” and that there is “a need for greater dialogue,” but stopped short of calling for its removal.
Republican lawmakers also voted Wednesday to preserve Nathan Bedford Forrest Day while relieving Lee of the burden of making a public proclamation, which he has been criticized for in the past.
State Rep. Antonio Parkinson, a Democrat, tweeted on Tuesday that Forrest was “one of the most vile, sadistic men to ever be born on American soil,” noting that he, “massacred thousands of people. In one case, mostly women and children.” “What if everyday you walked into the house or Senate chambers and you saw a bust of Hitler before you entered,” he concluded. “That sickness in the pit of your stomach that you’re feeling right now… that’s what we feel everytime we (African Americans) enter the capitol of Tennessee.”
There has been a large and growing movement for the U.S. to re-examine the preponderance of confederate monuments. Critics have noted that the vast majority of the monuments were built not in the aftermath of the Civil War, but during the 1920s and 1960s, times of heightened racial tensions and KKK activity. At least 138 monuments have been removed since 2015.
1747. There were 1747 Confederate symbols and 780 Confederate monuments on public property in the U.S. as of February 2019, according to a study from the Southern Poverty Law Center. The study also found that over 60 of the monuments are located outside the states that seceded from the Union and that 103 public K-12 schools are named after prominent Confederates.