Celebrities join the call to remove Nathan Bedford Forrest bust from TN State Capitol

Celebrities join the call to remove Nathan Bedford Forrest bust from TN State Capitol
(Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee’s Democratic Caucus is calling for reform after a turbulent week at the state capitol resulting in a vote to not remove the controversial bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

This comes as two high-profile celebrities called for the removal of the Forrest bust from the Tennessee capitol building.

State Democratic leaders say they’re hopeful that the energy and momentum from protests in Memphis and Nashville will lead to substantial change, but they say they’ll need help from Republicans in Tennessee to make that change happen.

“We are in the winds of change,” Representative Antonio Parkinson said.

Democratic lawmakers are keeping the pressure on for change.

This comes after another attempt failed to remove the bust of Confederate General and the 1st Grand Wizard of the KKK Nathan Bedford Forrest from the state Capitol building in a committee vote earlier this week.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee agrees that action needs to be taken.

“I’ve said before something should be done there,” Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said. “It’s a part of the need for greater dialogue. There are no easy answers, there are no quick solutions. I’ve said at the very least we’ve got to provide context.”

Now big name celebrities are getting in on the call for change.

Academy Award winning actress Reese Witherspoon, a Nashville resident, tweeted this late Thursday night:

“Is this even a conversation? @GovBillLee ? A statue that honors a KKK founder ? We need to get rid of this disgusting symbol of racism.”

And superstar singer Taylor Swift weighed in Friday afternoon on Instagram posting:

"As a Tennessean, it makes me sick that there are monuments standing in our state that celebrate racist historical figures who did evil things."

Members of the Tennessee Democratic Caucus agree.

“Quite frankly we’ve been dialoguing for the last 50 years and what change has taken place? It’s time for action,” Representative Yusuf Hakeem said.

The Democratic Caucus is also looking across the aisle for help with reforming police policies across the state.

State Democratic leaders have introduced a package of legislation they’ve named the George Floyd Act.

The act includes the “8 Can’t Wait” reduction in use of force policies, such as banning choke holds and firing into moving vehicles.

“I want to hope for the best with my colleagues that they will do what is right,” Rep. Parkinson said.

“We have hope for change,” Representative John Ray Clemmons said.

We reached out to Governor Bill Lee’s Office and the Tennessee Republican Caucus for a comment on the George Floyd Act and removing the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust.

Adam Kleinheider, Senate Communications Director, said in a written response:

“The Senate recently passed a resolution condemning the death of George Floyd. While the Senate is in the final stages of a limited emergency session focused on time sensitive, budget-related and items concerned with coronavirus, the legislature begins a new session in January when a more expansive set of bills will be taken up.”

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