A government building was set on fire on Saturday after peaceful protests turned violent in Tennessee’s capital.
Dozens of protesters were arrested that evening in Nashville, where a building housing city hall and a courthouse burned, as reported by The Tennessean.
The fire was started after 8 p.m. CST as protesters gathered in front of the Nashville Metropolitan Courthouse following a peaceful march. Flames were spotted on the first floor of the building.
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) May 31, 2020
Nashville police, dressed in riot gear, later showed up on the scene and sprayed tear gas to disperse the crowd. Police also made use of fireworks and a smoke bomb, WKRN reports. Earlier that evening, demonstrators threw rocks at downtown building windows and the city hall.
Protesters also brought down a statue of Edward Carmack, a former Tennessee politician and newspaper publisher, that sat out front of the state capitol. Carmack wrote editorials denouncing the work of Ida B. Wells, a Black woman who made a name for herself documenting lynchings in Jim Crow America.
She is regarded as a pioneer of investigative journalism.
Protestors in Nashville have toppled the statue at the State Capitol of Edward Carmack, a politician and newspaperman who denounced Ida B. Wells when she dared to write about lynchings https://t.co/JHovQX2J5y
— Jennifer Peebles (@jpeebles) May 31, 2020
The Nashville Police Department reported that 30 businesses and buildings in the city’s downtown area were damaged and vandalized. Police vehicles were also destroyed, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Mayor John Cooper declared a state of civil emergency, which was followed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee‘s move to deploy National Guard after 9 p.m.
At the request of Mayor Cooper, I am authorizing the National Guard to mobilize in response to protests that have now taken a violent, unlawful turn in Nashville.
— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) May 31, 2020
Gov. Lee tweeted that he made the decision with Nashville Mayor John Cooper to call National Guard due to the “violent, unlawful turn” the protest made on Saturday evening.