NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – In the moments before a few shouting protesters were removed from the Tennessee House gallery Tuesday morning, most Democrat lawmakers said the group should be heard.
“These are people who care deeply about their community and everyone in their community and I think that having conversations with folks is critical,” said Knoxville representative Gloria Johnson who said she was talking with the protesters Monday.
The protesters have asked to meet with Republican leaders such as House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Governor Bill Lee about a variety of issues relating to race, such as police brutality and the removal of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s bust from the state capitol building.
“I think that would relieve a lot of tension,” said Nashville Democrat Rep. Harold Love. “I think it will help the process of reconciliation go a lot smoother. A simple conversation always does a great deal of good.”
Before the protesters were removed from the House gallery balcony, Speaker Sexton issued warnings where he can be heard saying “Please refrain from shouting or speaking from the balcony.”
There is no indication, as of early Tuesday afternoon, that the speaker or the governor were planning to meet with the protesters.
“What it would do would show them that we are willing to listen to their concerns and hear their cries,” said Memphis Rep. London Lamar.
She’s also been out meeting with the protesters who have been around the capitol since late last week.
Twenty-one of them received citations earlier Tuesday for not moving from capitol hill property.
In the midst of this, one rural Tennessee Democrat issued a word of caution.
“I certainly support people’s right to assemble because its provided by the First Amendment, but it must be done peaceably,” said Rep. John Mark Windle of Jackson County.
Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of community unrest across Middle Tennessee: