NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Metro Police blocked off a section of lower Broadway temporarily Monday evening after a group of demonstrators took to the streets ahead of Election Day on Tuesday.
Many of those demonstrating were holding signs in support of Black Lives Matter. One of the demonstrators was carrying a flag that was all Black in color. All of the demonstrators were wearing masks.
The small group took to the streets to make their voices heard ahead of what some are saying will be a particularly divisive Election Day. Unrest is anticipated across the country depending on the outcome of a hotly-contested presidential race between incumbent President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
More than 93 million votes have already been cast, through early voting or mail-in ballots, which could lead to delays in tabulation. Trump has spent months claiming without evidence that the votes would be ripe for fraud and refusing to guarantee that he would honor the election result.
Black voters will be decisive in the outcome. Democrat Joe Biden is relying on strong turnout among Black voters in cities such as Detroit, Philadelphia and Milwaukee to tip critical swing states in his direction. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, is focusing on appeals to his core base of white voters.
“Another four years of Trump would completely set us back and the advancements that we’ve made towards equal rights, human rights and civil rights,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, a longtime civil rights leader. “It would take us 20 or 30 years, a generation, to get back what he would cement.”
The election-year reckoning is the culmination of centuries of inequity and racism that predate Trump’s political career. But Trump has pulled at the nation’s racial divide throughout his presidency, blaming “both sides” for violence between white supremacists and anti-racism protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, and telling four Democratic congresswomen of color to go back to the “broken and crime infested” countries they came from, despite the women being American citizens.
“I fear for our communities if he retains the seat of the presidency for four more years. I also have a deep worry that his continued occupation of that seat would result in those who intend us harm who will feel that they have carte blanche to do so,” said Stacey Abrams, a voting rights activist and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate.
Trump points to criminal justice reform, opportunity zones and funding for historically Black colleges and universities as examples of what he’s done for Black Americans, but many critics argue his claims are exaggerated or undermined by his comments.
After a summer of nationwide unrest led to millions marching in the streets, Trump billed himself as a leader who will restore “law and order” — an attempt to appeal to white grievances and allay white suburban fears. Trump’s presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner said the president wants to help Black Americans, but they have to “want to be successful” for his policies to work.
“What we see is when racism goes unchecked and becomes institutionalized publicly and becomes a part of our administration,” said Jessica Byrd, who leads the Movement for Black Lives’ Electoral Justice Project and The Frontline, a multiracial coalition effort to galvanize voters. “We’ve seen firsthand the way that a vocal minority can become an extremist power building faction.”
Biden has his own vulnerabilities on race, including the poor treatment of Anita Hill at Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court confirmation hearing and a 1994 crime bill that has been blamed for incarcerating a generation of Black men.
But Biden has put Black voters at the center of his 2020 campaign and, unlike Trump, has acknowledged systemic racism and pledged to address it.
“Donald Trump fails to condemn white supremacy, doesn’t believe that systemic racism is a problem and won’t say that Black lives matter,” Biden said. “We know Black lives matter.”
But regardless of the election’s outcome, the fractures of racism and inequity have been made clear.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.