This is a developing story and will be updated as we get more information. Last updated January 14 at 11:15 a.m.
State and local law enforcement agencies say they’re getting ready for planned demonstrations at the Tennessee State Capitol this weekend and on Inauguration Day, but they won’t give further details.
WPLN News reached out to the Metro Nashville Police Department, the Metro Office of Emergency Management and Tennessee Highway Patrol asking what measures each agency will be taking to ensure safety at the scheduled gatherings — one this Sunday billed as a “Tennessee Freedom Event” and a pro-Trump rally on Inauguration Day.
The agencies say they’re monitoring information from local, state and federal sources, and police Chief John Drake said in a letter earlier this week that the Metro police department will be taking a “heightened security posture” following last week’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
However, all the departments named above declined to say whether there would be more people working or on-call during the events. Spokespeople for THP and the police department did not answer questions regarding the use of mounted units, tactical gear or barricades during the demonstrations. Law enforcement implemented many of these tools during protests against racial injustice over the summer.
For its part the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office says it will be increasing its security footprint at the Metro Courthouse. A spokesperson says the department will have more people on-site during demonstrations. It says it’s collaborating on plans with MNPD.
When it comes to mask enforcement, the police department says it will have to defer to THP since the demonstrations are planned at Legislative Plaza, where the state has jurisdiction. THP did not say whether it will enforce the city’s mask mandate, and it’s unclear whether it would have the authority to do so since Tennessee does not require face coverings.
Rooting out extremism from within
Meanwhile, the head of Nashville’s Community Oversight Board is asking Drake what Metro Police are doing to identify and root out far-right extremism within its ranks.
In a letter sent to the chief yesterday, board chair Andres Martinez pointed out that police officers from other parts of the country have been disciplined for taking part in the violent riots at the U.S. Capitol last week.
A Letter to Chief Drake from COB Chair Andrés Martinez pic.twitter.com/Q01IarmM6H
— Metro Nashville Community Oversight (@MNCONashville) January 12, 2021
Martinez asked Drake to confirm that no one from Metro police is known to have been involved — and whether the department is trying to find out if they were.
Martinez says it would be difficult for community members to trust officers who apply double standards based on race or believe in conspiracy theories.
“It’s just a real concern that our community members have, and especially our minority community members, that the people who are entrusted to protect them may harbor these radical views and may be voting for people that, you know, are just overtly racist,” Martinez said.
Drake has responded to Martinez’s letter, saying MNPD and the Nashville office of the FBI have no knowledge of any Metro police employee related to or participating in “unlawful activities” during last week’s insurrection. “Obviously, we would take any allegation to the contrary very seriously,” he says.
Drake’s response did not address Martinez’s question regarding what the consequences would be if officers were involved in last week’s insurrection. It also did not answer whether the department tries to weed out recruits who support extremism.
WPLN’s Samantha Max contributed to this report.