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Construction Volunteer Harasses Black Gov't Official Over Confederate Tomb's Removal During Media Interview

Construction Volunteer Harasses Black Gov't Official Over Confederate Tomb's Removal During Media Interview

Construction crews and volunteers arrived at a park in Memphis, Tennessee to begin the process of removing a pedestals and footings that used to hold statues so they can exhume the remains of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife, Mary Ann.

General Forrest was a slave trader and a founding early leader of the Ku Klux Klan. He and his wife were interred at what is now called Health Sciences Park.

Previously, the park was known as Forrest Park in honor of the proponent of slavery and White supremacy. It featured a statue of the Confederate general until it was removed on December 20, 2017 as part of a grassroots effort to remove a monument to a KKK founder in a public access park.

The changes were done in coordination with the Forrest family—descendants of the General and his wife—and the Sons of Confederate Veterans. To access and move the remains, the pedestal on which the statue stood had to be dismantled.

WMC Action News 5 reporter Chris Luther posted a thread covering the work.

During a press event at the site, Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer was harassed by a Confederate flag-waving construction volunteer as she was giving her remarks before the media.

The man—later identified as Sons of Confederate Veterans volunteer George "K-Rack" Johnson—also threatened Sawyer in front of cameras.

Sawyer, who led the efforts under the group "Take 'Em Down 901 " to remove the statues of Forrest along with one of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, called Tuesday's pedestal-removal efforts a "full circle" moment.

She said:

"You cannot tell this story without telling the story of Take 'Em Down 901..."

"As with most change in this country and in this world, it can't be done without the power of the people and Take 'Em Down 901 is responsible for that."

As she was trying to comment on this moment and connect it to the Memphis Massacre in May 1866, the press conference was disrupted by the disgruntled volunteer, who even started singing at one point.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans spokesperson and Forrest descendant, Lee Millar, also officially condemned Johnson's behavior.

However none of the group's members on site took action to stop Johnson while it was happening.

General Forrest and his wife's remains will be reinterred in Columbia, Tennessee at the National Confederate Museum at Elm Springs.
The removal of the pedestal, which is made up of pieces of granite weighing five tons each, is a process that could take "two, three weeks," according to Millar—the fifth cousin of Forrest and the spokesperson for the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans is a non-profit organization comprised of male descendants of Confederate veterans. They dropped a pending lawsuit against the park after reaching a compromise with the city of Memphis.
They are funding the removal project.
The group initially fought against the city and Memphis Greenspace—a nonprofit that took control of the former public park—for their efforts to remove Confederate statues, citing it was a violation of state cemetery law and the Heritage Protection Law.

In 2020, both parties agreed to remove the graves of Forrest and his wife.

Instead of the statues being banned from Tennessee for good, the Sons of Confederate Veterans took possession of the remains as well as the two statues and other items on display at the park under the current agreement.

Millar told reporters the Forrest family approved the relocation of the remains where the General would be "respected, protected, and visited without any danger, which is not the case here."

Last year, activists painted the words "Black Lives Matter" on the pavement in bright yellow paint surrounding the pedestal of Forrest's monument.

People were appalled by Johnson's behavior and his fellow volunteers failure to stop it.

And people had plenty to say about what his flag was symbolizing.

Commissioner Sawyer was physically unharmed but plans to file charges.

The park will host an event celebrating Juneteenth—also known as Emancipation Day.

Hopefully Johnson and those who share his views will stay home or choose peaceful coexistence.