Lee University professors and members of the Bradley County Chapter of the NAACP joined students and Black Lives Matter protesters in support of the removal and relocation of Cleveland’s …
Lee University professors and members of the Bradley County Chapter of the NAACP joined students and Black Lives Matter protesters in support of the removal and relocation of Cleveland’s Confederate monument Wednesday and Thursday nights.
The numbers of Black Lives Matter protesters have swelled in the last two days, and as many as 80 were present Thursday night. Approximately 20 pro-monument residents were present Thursday night, as well.
Since the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who died in Minneapolis police custody after an officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes, protests demanding reform in police training and reconstruction of law-enforcement models have taken place across the country.
Cleveland’s local Black Lives Matter movement has taken issue with the Confederate monument, established on Ocoee Street by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1910. It was dedicated in 1911.
The mostly young group has been met with opposition from local residents who support the monument in its current location. There have been accusations of Black Lives Matter protesters being hired, and former Bradley County Commissioner Dan Rawls on Wednesday evening told members of Bradley Constitutionalists that he had followed a few of them home and said they lived outside city and county limits.
While the protests have remained peaceful, one man threatened violence against Black Lives Matter protesters Thursday night. Driving by in a truck, he shouted from his window, "You people that are being paid will be the first killed. Wake up."
NAACP member Lawrence Armstrong, a Cleveland High School graduate, stood among the Black Lives Matter protesters Thursday night. He said he lived in Cleveland for the last 30 years and his family still lives in the city today.
Armstrong said he "echoes the statements about moving the monument,” and went on to say, "We are dependent on elected officials working with the United Daughters of the Confederacy on how to educate the community in a better way forward from the past."
He added that the national NAACP organization is opposed to all Confederate monuments and that he also wanted to "tip his hat" to Franco Crosby, who co-authored a guest commentary explaining the Black Lives Matter stance.
The Crosby commentary was published on the Opinion page in Wednesday's edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner. It was co-authored by Sara Keel. Both are graduates of Lee University.
Shara Humberd Troutner, a local educator and Cleveland native whose great-grandfather, S.E. Humberd, a Union soldier, was present at the monument's dedication in 1911, said she favors moving the monument, as well.
Hiawatha Brown, president of the local chapter of the NAACP and teacher at Bradley Central High School, protested Thursday night holding a sign that read, “Homeowner, taxpayer, Cleveland City resident. Move the Monument.”
She said she supported relocating the monument to the Confederate portion of Fort Hill Cemetery.
"If history serves me right, East Tennessee was pro-Union," Brown said.
In June 1861, Bradley County voted 1,382 to 507 in favor of remaining in the Union, according to information provided by the Museum Center at 5ive Points.
In his remarks Wednesday night to members of the Bradley Constitutionalists — in a gathering held in the Bradley County Courthouse — Rawls, who has also appeared at some of the night-time protests at the base of the statue, described those protesting against the statue as "communists." No Black Lives Matter protesters in Cleveland have identified themselves with a political party.
Although Rawls said he does not advocate violence, he offered, "We're not going out to see trouble, but we're also not going to allow trouble to come into our midst."
Rawls' comments were published in Thursday's edition of the Banner.
In Sunday's edition, the Banner will reprint in full the 1911 coverage of the Confederate statue dedication, as first reported in the "Journal and Banner," which was an earlier generation of the present-day Cleveland Daily Banner.
(Freelance photographer and Cleveland resident Tammy Rockwell contributed to this report.)
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