In response to rising gun violence, community organizers in Nashville wanted April 24 to be 24 hours of peace. A police shooting just before midnight shattered that plan.
“What we saw last night was that the city’s obsession with policing and caging us do not make for peaceful streets, do not make for a peaceful city,” said Erica Perry with Black Nashville Assembly.
Perry says she and other event organizers were gathered last night in preparation for the rally. They saw police cars racing down Clarksville Pike towards Bordeaux, where a police officer shot and killed a man after a traffic stop.
“We knew something was wrong,” she said. “It was devastating for us that within the first hour of April 24 … the first act of violence was by the police, by the state.”
Dozens of people gathered on Jefferson Street and marched in the rain to City Hall, chanting, “Who keeps us safe? We keep us safe.”
Clemmie Greenlee was among them.
Greenlee says her son was killed in a shooting in 2003 and she has been speaking out against gun violence — including police shootings — ever since. She believes change can only come if the community organizes and votes for new local elected officials.
“Our councilmen that’s in our district ought to be ashamed of themselves,” Greenlee said, gesturing around her. “Where one of them at? They can’t come out in the rain, like we can, because you don’t give a damn about your community and your constituents that voted you in. So, if we get together to vote them out, and put somebody like us in them chairs that we know will make change, that’s how we’ll get our peace.”
Community organizer Jamel Campbell-Gooch says he hopes the rally sets the tone for the coming months, when gun violence statistically rises across the city. He compares it to a contagious disease.
“This right here was an attempt to cool it off, to give us enough time to talk about how we change our group norms, how we change our behavior and our orientation towards violence so that we can hopefully start curing ourselves, curing our communities, and curing everyone of violence — because we are all infected with it.”
As the rally ended, protesters raised their hands to pledge to work on a community level to disrupt violence and strive for peace. And that peace, they say, does not include the police.