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Group demonstrates against Confederate monuments as Memphis police look on

Daniel ConnollyMemphis Commercial Appeal

About 25 demonstrators came to the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue in the Medical District Monday to call for removal of it and other Confederate symbols.

The number of police officers in the park was almost as large as the number of protesters -- at one point about 17 officers were clearly visible standing at different points within the park. And many Memphis police cars and University of Tennessee Health Science Center police cars were parked nearby.

Several days earlier, demonstrators had climbed onto the statue and police made arrests. And before that, a demonstrator had scaled the statue and placed a Ku Klux Klan-style cap on its head.

A police official referred questions to a department spokeswoman who couldn't immediately be reached. The small demonstration was the latest step in a longstanding battle over the monuments, which accelerated over recent white supremacist-related violence in Charlottesville.

Opponents argue the statues of Confederate heroes like Forrest are white supremacist symbols and should be removed: at Monday's demonstration, Rhonnie Brewer, executive director of the civil rights organization Copper, asked people to imagine what it would be like to be a victim of a crime, then to see a statue of the criminal erected in your neighborhood. "How would that make you individually feel?"

Other groups involved in the demonstration included the Memphis chapter of the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, a group that supports organized labor.

No counter-demonstrators arrived and the demonstrators dispersed peacefully after about 30 minutes.

City officials including Mayor Jim Strickland have called for removal of Confederate monuments, but state rules makes that difficult - the Tennessee Historical Commission plays a key role. Protesters including Rev. Earle Fisher have called for the city to find a way to act immediately.

Also Monday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam urged members of the Tennessee Historical Commission to grant the city permission to remove the statue.

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