Memphis police block Forrest cover-up, arrest eight protesters

Police twice blocked protester efforts to cover a Memphis monument to Nathan Bedford Forrest on Saturday, then arrested several participants and dispersed the angry crowd, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Chanting such slogans as “Protect the people, not the statue” and “Cops and the Klan go hand-in-hand,” protesters surrounded squad cars, some pounding fists on the vehicles, before officers cleared paths through them. Some protesters then began marching toward the Criminal Justice Center Downtown.

At least eight people were arrested in the protest at the statue in Health Sciences Park in the Medical District around 4 p.m. The charges included disorderly conduct, inciting a riot and jaywalking, but most, if not all, had been released by 5:40 p.m., according to protest leaders.

Protesters first tried to drape a bed sheet over the 21-foot-6-inch-tall statue, but officers forced them off. The arrests came after a second attempt, when several people tried to wrap a banner around the equestrian monument and disobeyed commands to get down.

“They pulled us off physically,” said Bill Stegall, one of the first protesters attempting to cover the statue.

…”We weren’t, obviously, damaging the statue,” Stegall said. “They (police) chose confrontation. It was completely unnecessary.”

But MPD deputy chief Terry Landrum said officers were motivated by safety concerns and maintaining decorum at graves. Forrest and his wife are buried beneath the statue.

“We don’t want them falling off there — it’s a liability for the city,” Landrum said. “Plus, he (Forrest) is buried there, so you can’t climb on a grave.”

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