A group using the hashtag #TakeEmDown901 is organizing to push for the removal of Confederate statues in Memphis, part of a trend across the South.
More than 250 people attended a rally Tuesday evening at Bruce Elementary School on Bellevue Boulevard to learn more about the group’s efforts.
“These statues were built as tools of oppression during the Civil Rights movement and reconstruction,” said organizer Tami Sawyer, according to WMC Action News 5. Sawyer said the statues must go to make Memphis more attractive to millennials.
One activist at the meeting said, “If you don’t take down these statues, then we will.”
However, the Sons of Confederate Veterans is protesting the efforts. The group released a statement saying:
Those who tear down historic monuments are no better than Nazis or ISIS. They are historical terrorists. The TearDownMemphis or TakeEmDown group bears the same characteristics.
Our historical monuments, especially including the two largest Confederate monuments, are a tribute to those honored city residents of our nation’s past. They certainly do not signify white supremacy or anything of the sort. Both Jefferson Davis and N. B. Forrest are veterans of the United States military and of the Confederate States.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans vehemently opposes the removal or destruction of any memorial, monument or grave site and will stand against any such actions, including to the extent of taking legal action.
Sawyer is leading a boycott of Fourth Bluff Park until the Jefferson Davis statue is removed. Her group also wants the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest removed from the Health Sciences Park.
A change.org petition to remove the statues has more than 1,300 signatures, and Democratic congressman Steve Cohen is supporting the cause.
“Monuments to evil have no place in our city,” wrote one petition signer. “I don’t want symbols of hate anywhere in my city,” wrote another.
Efforts to remove the statues are also being promoted by MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, which describes itself as “a nonprofit reporting project on economic justice in Memphis.”
The Nathan Bedford Forrest statue was vandalized in 2015 and 2016 when “Black Lives Matter” was spray painted on the base of the statue. The Tennessee Historical Commission in 2016 denied a request by the Memphis City Council to relocate the statue.