Protesters respond to police reform executive order

Community Unrest

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Despite at least 55 arrests over the weekend, protests persist at the Tennessee State Capitol.

Just before the holiday weekend kicked off, Governor Bill Lee called for police reform throughout the state.

It’s now been 24 days since protesters pledged to camp outside the Capitol. They say they’ll continue to camp out 24 hours a day until their demands are met.  

“We are reenergizing and restructuring to keep pushing to add some more length and time to the days,” said activist Prophetess Venita Lewis.

Late last week, Governor Lee called for all police departments across Tennessee to review their use of force protocols. The executive order also calls for additional training for officers.

“The curriculum will also be updated to include no fewer than 16 hours of instructional time dedicated to de-escalation techniques, interventions, and appropriate interactions with public assembly, like protests,” said Governor Lee.

Some say they don’t think this is enough.

“If he wants non-aggressive practices and he wants people to be looking at their systems, why isn’t he doing it?” said protester Niti Sharan.  

This group is calling for police to be defunded, and to instead use the money in other ways.  

“And put that into communities, put that into education, put that into mental health situations, put that into drug and rehab,” said Sharan.

Protesters say they’re prepared to stake out for days, weeks, months, or even years if that’s what it takes. They’ve also received a massive amount of food donations to keep them going.

“Protesters stay out here, it’s hot,” said Minister Kenneth Blaylock, “So we have people who donate a lot of Gatorade, energy drinks. Oh, they love energy.”

Despite the governor’s call for police review, protesters say their same two demands remain. They want the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust removed and for the governor to come out and speak with them personally.

“Some of these old heads sitting on some of these committees to implement change,” said Lewis, “That’s not good enough. Come out and talk to the people.”

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of community unrest across Middle Tennessee:

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