About 2,000 people marched peacefully in downtown Nashville on Saturday during a day of nationwide protests in response to racism and police brutality.
This latest event was organized by the Somali Students’ Association at Middle Tennessee State University. Its members include many from the region’s Muslim community, who say they want to show solidarity with African Americans.
Demonstrators often came close to lines of police officers in riot gear, but there were no conflicts.
Police said one drone operator was charged for flying too low over crowds on Lower Broadway. There was otherwise no property damage.
The protesters traveled about 2 miles between 2 and 4 p.m., crossing the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge and chanting in front of the police department’s Central Precinct, in the middle of the street on Lower Broadway and outside of the Metro Courthouse.
The marchers even received waves and supportive fist pumps from restaurant patrons on downtown rooftops, as the organizers gave short speeches.
“We’re [Somalis] able to use our voice and we’re able to use our energy,” says Mohamed Gure, an organizer of the protest. “It means that … we stand in solidarity — shoulder to shoulder — with our African American communities.”
Gure says he wants local immigrants to stand with black residents. That stance was echoed by Rondriquez White, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter Nashville.
“When we fight for black lives, we’re not just fighting for our lives,” says White. “Realize that if you uplift black people in America, particularly black people in the South, then you are uplifting every life in this nation.”
White says a unified message is needed to achieve racial justice.
He says immigrants are often faced with disparities that are brought on by the same biases that harm black communities.
That alone, White says, should be enough, for a unified response.
“We have been dealing with racism and police brutality for a long time,” says John Smith, a black Nashvillian, who also helped organize the rally. “It means a lot that the Nashville immigrant community stood with us today to say that’s enough. It was a glorious day of unity.”
Protesters amplified that message in their chants throughout the afternoon.
Saturday’s weather was enough to send some protesters home early — five were overcome by heat that reached 94 degrees — but organizers say there is still much more work to come.
They say the ultimate goal is to end racism, along with the disparities in policing practices.
This is especially important for protesters like Dayquond Taylor, who says he’s had his fair share of racially motivated encounters with police.
“It’s sad that we have to go through this,” says Taylor. “I don’t want this for my son or the next generation.”
Scroll on for WPLN News photos by Rachel Iacovone and earlier live updates and videos from the event.
Live updates were reported by WPLN News journalists Damon Mitchell and Rachel Iacovone.
Update at 4:45 p.m.
Nashville’s march concluded shortly after 4 p.m. Saturday after spirited but peaceful demonstrations across downtown.
The Nashville Fire Department says four people were treated, and one person taken to the hospital, for heat-related illnesses.
Update at 4:02 p.m.
The demonstration appears to be winding down.
Earlier, marchers departed from Central Precinct and traveled through the Lower Broadway tourism district. Some of their chants and actions — like taking a knee in the street — drew participation from bystanders at downtown bars.
They also traveled to the Metro Courthouse, damaged last week, where more speeches were given and a moment of silence was held. Journalists on scene reported the building had a fence perimeter and was guarded by local police wearing riot gear.
At about 3:50 p.m., organizers on the bullhorn said the event had ended and the group began its move back to the pedestrian bridge and the public parking lot where the event began, next to Nissan Stadium.
Update at 3:05 p.m.
The march has moved to Central Precinct on Korean Veterans Boulevard, where demonstrators clashed with police one week ago.
This time, various barricades surround the building and officers are in protective gear. There are no patrol cars parked on the street out front.
Chants have continued, and demonstrators have also taken a knee in the street. They’re calling to officers with a question: “Why are you in riot gear? I don’t see no riot here.”
Marchers have been steadily chanting, and also sang happy birthday to Breonna Taylor, who would have turned 27 today. She was fatally shot by police in Louisville, Ky., on March 13.
The crowd begins marching down 3rd Ave, singing happy birthday for Breonna Taylor, the aspiring nurse who would’ve turned 27 this week but was killed by Louisville police as she slept in her own home in March. pic.twitter.com/5N41SrlQ4h
— Rachel Iacovone (@racheliacovone) June 6, 2020
Update at 2:35 p.m.
A few hundred people are marching today in downtown Nashville after crossing the pedestrian bridge over the Cumberland River.
Hundreds are marching down the Seigenthaler Pedestrain Bridge to begin Nashville’s March for Justice pic.twitter.com/HDRaL3iMCp
— Rachel Iacovone (@racheliacovone) June 6, 2020
The event began with chants and remarks on 3rd Avenue North, where the bridge connects into downtown.
A prayer was led in Arabic, and a speech was given by organizer Mohamed Gure.
Shaye Conner, 25, stands with a collage of photos and newspaper articles. pic.twitter.com/V7u9AsypcS
— Damon Mitchell (@damonmtll_) June 6, 2020
Organizers of the latest Nashville event, a vigil and “March for Justice,” includes the Somali Students’ Association at Middle Tennessee State University. The group tells WPLN News the purpose is to stand in solidarity against injustices locally and on a national level.
“This [police brutality] is not something that started today,” says Mohamed Gure, an organizer. “We want to use our voices and energy to stand shoulder to shoulder with the African American community.”
A prior march on Thursday, organized by teens, was estimated at more than 10,000 people. Gure says he hopes there will be even more protesters today, with a large presence from Middle Tennessee’s Somali and Muslim communities.
In a statement, organizers said in order to achieve justice, the “mission can only be realized by recognizing privilege and leveraging power to create equitable spaces.”
The rally will begin at the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge at 2 p.m. before traveling into downtown. It will include a moment of silence — which is expected to take place at the Metro Courthouse — and a march through Broadway and other downtown areas.