Tennessee’s Black legislators are calling out the top Republican in the state Senate for sharing a post that threatened violence against Black Lives Matter activists, and they want an investigation into where it came from.
The post re-shared by Senate Speaker Randy McNally earlier this week targeted supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement and “antifa.”
The post was later taken down, but Black Caucus Chairman G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, told reporters it has already created some pain.
“He’s got try to unring that bell. He’s done damage,” Hardaway said Wednesday. “That communication has motivated, inspired these nuts out here. … The lieutenant governor needs to talk them down.”
The post said, “Warning to BLM & antifa. Once you’ve managed to defend and eliminate the police, there’s nobody protecting you from us. Remember that.” It was accompanied by a picture of a heavily armed man.
Sen. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, said she reached out to McNally yesterday via a text message. She said she told him “how painful that was to Black legislators and Black citizens of Tennessee.”
She and Hardaway said McNally has not reached out to the Black Caucus or apologized.
In a statement to WPLN News, a spokesman for McNally says the speaker views the Black Lives Matter movement and antifa as “anti-police,” but that he “would never threaten violence against anyone.”
“On Saturday, a meme was shared on his personal page in a private post that pointed out the logical fallacy at the heart of the ‘Defund the Police’ movement. When it was pointed out the meme could be interpreted as an implicit threat, it was taken down,” the statement said.
The Black Caucus said they want external assistance to investigate the post’s origins and the comments accompanying it that express support for white supremacy.
Black Caucus to meet with Gov. Bill Lee
In the press conference, Black legislators also expressed their disappointment and anger towards Gov. Bill Lee for taking almost a month to meet with them to discuss systemic racism and race relations in the state. They said that on Aug. 2, the group sent Lee a letter requesting a meeting, but that it was not until this week that the governor’s office reached out to set a meeting date.
Rep. Vincent Dixie, D-Nashville, said Lee’s reluctance to meet — especially after passing a law that targets peaceful protesters related to the Black Lives Matter movement — reflects “his lack of leadership … that he does not appreciate the Black people, his Black constituents.”
“What have Black people done to the world that we deserve such harmful treatment and vigilance against us when all we want is equality and fairness in this world?” Dixie asked. “What have Black people done to deserve this treatment from others in this world?”
But Lee’s office pushed back on Dixie’s comments.
Gillum Ferguson, the governor’s spokesman, told WPLN News that Lee has bee proactive in meeting with the Black community in the state, “whether that be faith leaders, business leaders, small business owners to hear their perspectives and have constructive conversations with them about improving things such as access to capital, racial reconciliation, police reform.”