At least 100 people rallied against the Confederate veterans statute on the square and against the police on Saturday.
At least a dozen people held a counter-protest, complete with American flags, while two black men stood across the street and used a microphone to read from the Bible, calling for repentance of sins.
There was at least one instance of pushing and shoving at the “Protest Against Oppression,” and members of the two sides exchanged words. The police increased their presence as the situation became more heated.
Organizer Michael Sangetti said police did not arrest the counter-protesters involved in the shoving. He said the protesters felt intimated by police.
Sangetti said the statute is a symbol of intimidation for blacks as it was erected in the Jim Crow era. Rutherford County and Murfreesboro historically have taken too long on civil rights, he said. He said he has received death threats for just standing near the statue prior to the protest.
He is among a group working on a petition to ask the county to move the statute. His family fought for the Union, so he considers honoring the Confederates to be an insult, he said.
“No one is saying destroy it,” he said.
He said he would like to see a statute honoring Vice Mayor Madelyn Scales Harris’ family. He also would like to remove the Nathan Bedford Forrest plaque from the side of the courthouse, and he would like to install a plaque honoring blacks who have been lynched.
Counter-protester Andy Olsen of Murfreesboro said he did not grow up in the South but has no problem with memorials to Confederate soldiers. He said he does not understand why it is being made into a race issue, and said there is a hidden agenda to erase the nation’s history and values.
The Murfreesboro Post contacted City Councilman Eddie Smotherman, who is a member of the Rutherford County Historical Society. He said the monument was erected to remember local soldiers who fought in the Civil War, which is a major part of the city’s history.
“We need to learn from our good history and our bad history,” he said. “Without those reminders, I’m not sure it’s not detrimental to understand our history and make sure we don’t repeat the same mistakes.”