As demonstrators gathered at the steps of the Capitol building in Nashville on Monday evening to protest against police brutality and racism following the death of George Floyd, the Tennessee National Guard laid down their riot shields in a show of solidarity. In a video that captured the moment, dozens of members of the National Guard, who were called in following protests that turned violent over the weekend, were seen setting their shields on the ground as the crowd cheered.
During a vigil at the Tennessee Capitol building Monday night, a protester asked the Tennessee National Guard to lay down their riot shields. They did. https://t.co/8b8RAjLM4u pic.twitter.com/g7Sl4m1jLb— Tennessean (@Tennessean) June 2, 2020
According to WKRN, the moment came after people walked in groups of two up to the state capitol, where, once at the top, they asked the Tennessee National Guard to drop their shields. As members of the National Guard began to lay down their shields one by one, the crowd cheered, with someone saying through a megaphone that "we want to thank our National Guard for being on the right side of history." Speaking of the moment, activist and Reverend Justin Jones said that "it was a movement of faith for them to put down their swords and shields, because we came up here singing and we came up here prayerful. We are here to bring peace and change."
Monday's gathering marked a peaceful protest for the city. Occurring as the Tennessee General Assembly reconvened at the Capitol after suspending this year's session in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Tennessean, hundreds gathered at Legislative Plaza across from the Capitol to mourn those lost to police brutality. The protesters sang hymnals, chanted, and called for action against unjust policing.
Just two days earlier, peaceful protests in the city had turned violent. Following the scheduled "I Will Breathe Rally," which was attended by Nashville Mayor John Cooper, some protesters marched through downtown, the demonstration turning violent at around 5 p.m. as some began bashing in windows of police cruisers. As the night wore on some demonstrators bashed in windows at the historic courthouse, where several fires were set, and knocked down the statue of Edward Carmack, a controversial lawmaker with racist views who was shot and killed in 1908, Cooper announced that he had signed Executive Order No. 9, declaring a state of civil emergency. Officers used tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowd, and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee later announced that he had mobilized the National Guard at Lee’s request. More than two dozen protesters were arrested as a result, and a curfew has remained in place for the city since.