Activist groups ‘storm’ State Capitol’s Ida B. Wells Plaza, voice demands

Protesters rallying for social justice at the Ida B. Wells Plaza just outside the Tennessee Capitol in Nashville on Tuesday. Photo by Cameron “C-Grimey” Williams.

Community activists from across Tennessee gathered Tuesday afternoon at the State Capitol’s Ida B. Wells Plaza in Nashville,

seeking an audience with lawmakers set to

convene the 112th General Assembly.

“We’re going down there and we gonna do it how we do,” said Hip Hop for Humanity Cha representative Cameron “C-Grimey” Williams. “We’re gonna hear some speeches from some brilliant Black minds from across the state and we got a few performers who put that soul into it. Then we’re gonna make our demands heard.”

Williams, one of the organizers of the protest rally, said he and other local activists targeted their demands in particular to members of the Tennessee Black Caucus, including Rep. Yusuf Hakeem from Chattanooga.

“We laid out three demands,” Williams explained. “Number one is Medicare for all, which helps everybody. Demand number two piggybacks off of Medicare for all, and that’s full funding of our unemployment benefits, starting right now. And number three is the full-fledged enaction of the Breonna Taylor Act, not only no-knock warrants but shooting recklessly and the duty to intervene always.”

Members of the Black Coffee Justice Coalition, a nonprofit based out of Knoxville, chanted and waved Black Lives Matter signs and flags as their leader and rally co-organizer Constance Every took the mic.

“Our state legislature has been quite irresponsible,” Every shouted from the steps of the Capitol. “See, today is inaugaration day, but we came to crash the party.”

The military veteran continued, “I am mad as hell, and I should be mad. Step it up, Black Caucus. You must do more. You have been naive and silent while we have been under attack in our hometowns and our home communities.”

University of Tennessee graduate student McKenzie Archer, who is white, directed comments to members of her own race.

“Dear white people, BLM (Black Lives Matter) is not just an organization,” she said. “It is actual lives, lived realities of Black men and women in this country. And we must accept that our skin color is the shield from that institutionalized oppression.”

Also speaking were Ryan Andrew, and

the Rev. Calvin Taylor Skinner of Knoxville’s One Knox Legacy Coalition.

Organizers labeled Tuesday’s rally as an opportunity to “storm” Nashville’s Capitol. “Join us for a day of disruption, education and celebration. Bring the signs. Bring the noise,” online flyers read.

However, Williams was quick to point out that Tuesday’s peaceful protest at the Nashville Capitol was in no way connected with, or in reaction to, the rioters who on Jan. 6 “stormed” and vandalized the historical U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. as lawmakers attempted to count the electoral college votes. “We don’t counter protest,” Williams explained. “We’ve been planning this since early October. The problems that exist in each city, each Black community, are the same. We are here as a unified front letting our representatives know that we are tired of being ignored. We are tired of being left with the scraps and still feeling the effects of oppression that our ancestors have felt since the beginning of America.”