There’s no creature so deserving of protection in the liberal pantheon as the “peaceful” protester. Whether it’s the “anti-fascists” who come out to oppose “racists” wherever they gather (read: antifa groups physically opposing any group of people whose views might veer slightly to the right of Jeb Bush’s) or the brave people who courageously drive off conservative luminaries who dared to think they deserved to have an uninterrupted meal at a restaurant, these valiant activists peacefully make sure you go away and acquiesce to their wishes.
Or else they get not-so-peaceful, but shh.
In that vein, I present to you a demonstration at the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville this past week in which two protesters ended up getting arrested. The protest had to do with an attempt to remove a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Confederate cavalry general who went on to become the first grand wizard of the KKK.
While I’m generally for the contextualization or relocation of Confederate statues as opposed to their outright removal, when it comes to the first grand wizard of the Klan, I think that’s one we can maybe let go. I also think that’s a decision the various groups involved here could have come to without, say, violence being involved. But it’s 2019, and what kind of fun would that be?
Here’s The Associated Press’ report on the protest and the arrests; I want you to pay close attention to the order in which facts are presented.
“Tennessee law enforcement officials have arrested two protesters at the state Capitol amid a protest calling for the removal of a bust of Confederate cavalry general and early Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest,” the AP reported.
“The arrests on Thursday marked the latest escalating demonstrations at the Tennessee Legislature this year.
“State troopers detained Jeneisha Harris and Justin Jones, two activists who have led sit-ins and other protests at the Capitol.”
I don’t think I even need to ask what kind of imagery “sit-ins” evokes. We think of brave students from historically black colleges and universities sitting at segregated lunch counters across Dixie, facing almost certain arrest by a cruel law enforcement apparatus expressly aimed at repressing those sorts of displays. It’s not long before our minds leap to Selma and fire hoses, Bull Connor, lynchings, the Birmingham church bombing, massive resistance and other nauseating horrors.
Next paragraph: “Prior to the arrest, an object was thrown into an elevator House Speaker Glen Casada was in. Harris was arrested after ducking underneath a rope blocking off the public from getting close to the bust.”
OK. That doesn’t quite sound all that, um, sit-in-ish.
To sate your curiosity, this is what it looked like from the position of Casada, a Republican:
Let me make something clear. This type of behavior from “peaceful protestors” won’t be tolerated. I will not stand for radicals physically & verbally assaulting my members. This behavior has no place or voice here. These folks have been arrested and charged with assault. #TNleg pic.twitter.com/ijQR8IzEiY
— Speaker Glen Casada (@GlenCasada) February 28, 2019
“Let me make something clear. This type of behavior from ‘peaceful protestors’ won’t be tolerated,” Casada wrote on Twitter. “I will not stand for radicals physically & verbally assaulting my members. This behavior has no place or voice here. These folks have been arrested and charged with assault.”
“We Shall Overcome” this ain’t.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol gave its version of events to The Tennessee Star.
“The group, specifically Justin Jones, attempted to push his way passed uniformed State Troopers and enter the elevator. When he was denied entry, he began yelling at Speaker Casada, calling him a racist,” the police statement read. “Mr. Jones was then witnessed throwing a Frothy Monkey cup, with an unknown liquid believed to be coffee, at Speaker Casada, also hitting State Representative Debra Moody in the process.”
Anyway, at least one Democrat wants you to know who the real villain here is: Casada.
“I never condone the inappropriate or illegal actions of someone meaning to harm another person. But what is even more shocking is the deafening silence exhibited by Cameron Sexton and others not denouncing the illegal actions of Speaker Casada when he removed law-abiding Tennessee citizens coming to peacefully and lawfully express their First Amendment rights earlier in the week,” Democrat Rep. Bo Mitchell said.
According to a separate AP report, Mitchell was referring to Casada’s decision to have protesters removed from an education committee hearing being helmed by a controversial state representative accused of inappropriate behavior with young women on a basketball team he coached three decades ago. GOP Caucus Chairman Cameron Sexton, meanwhile, didn’t speak out against the protesters’ removal.
Without commenting on the merits of that outrage, Mitchell bringing it up here is the worst kind of deflection. We often hear the term “whataboutism” thrown around by liberals when it comes to Trump defenders, usually incorrectly. This is actual whataboutism: “Yeah, sure, I mean they may have committed a crime and tried to charge the elevator the speaker was in and then threw something at him, but did you hear about the thing that the speaker did earlier in the week about something totally different? That’s the real problem here, folks.”
To be fair, Mitchell was the only Democrat I could find willing to give any sort of rhetorical cover to those who were arrested, but the fact I could even find one speaks volumes.
Oh, and speaking of more unsubtle language choices from the folks at the AP, they noted that the “African-American activists were arrested Thursday, the final day of Black History Month.” Well, good thing they didn’t wait until Friday, otherwise they wouldn’t have had an excuse!
By the way, Casada has said that he wants either additional context for the bust or for it to be moved to a museum, and other Republican leaders — including Gov. Bill Lee — have voiced support for similar solutions. In other words, this statue’s days are probably numbered and protesters would likely have been better off bargaining with state officials and making sure it either got shifted off to a museum or melted down into scrap metal. This was (and probably still remains) a very achievable goal. Instead, they managed to make a group of protesters demanding a statue of the of the Klan’s first grand wizard be removed from the state Capitol look bad.
At least most of them won’t have court dates, however. Jones is now looking at a count of disorderly conduct and a two counts of simple assault, and Harris is charged with a count of disorderly conduct.
“Denounce white supremacy & the policy violence that occurs everyday in the” Tennessee Legislature, Jones tweeted after his release from jail. “But white men in power act w/out consequence.”
Actually, no, I think that if Casada threw something into an elevator at you, he’d also be marking a court date on his calendar. That’s what happens when you allegedly corner and attack somebody.
If anything, they should probably be happy this happened to Republicans. As we’ve seen, you can chase Republicans out of restaurants, corner them in elevators, harass them in bookstores, whatever — and suddenly you’re a hero. Just try that with a Democrat and see what happens.
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