Tensions rise at Nathan Bedford Forrest burial site as pedestal is removed

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tensions were still high Wednesday morning on day two of the start of the removal of the remains of Confederate leader Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife from UT Health Sciences Park.

One man even tried to burn a Confederate flag in front of our cameras before police stopped him.

“This represents pain and suffering to people of color for hundreds of hundreds of years,” said Larry O’Kelly.

His reaction was in response to an encounter between Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer and several men wielding Confederate flags, who taunted Sawyer at the site the day before.

The removal of the pedestal that once supported the Forrest statue and his remains comes after years of lengthy legal battles and has been at the center of much debate.

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Lee Millar with the Sons of the Confederate Veterans said it could take weeks before the removal is complete. Therefore, he’s asking parties on both sides of the issue to just stay home.

“We don’t want anyone to come down. We don’t want anything stirred up. Just leave things alone and don’t come bother the construction workers or anybody else in the park,” he said.

Millar said security guards will be on the site at all times, additional fencing is now set up and cameras are in place to keep an eye out for any vandals.

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Surrounding what’s left of the statue is a Black Lives Matter mural that has the word “Black” covered in rubble — leading some to believe it was done with malicious intent.

However, Millar said that was not the case.

“This is where we were just putting the debris on the front sidewalk to get it picked up by the truck. It had nothing to do with any profanity. So, some people complained about it and I figured well let’s just move it over,” said Millar.

Karen Spencer with Black Lives Matter Memphis said she’s happy to see the remains being removed, but went on to say she wants this to remain a peaceful process.

“It’s over with. Let these people remove their folks. Take them back to Columbia or wherever they want to take them. Just leave Memphis, the beloved city, in peace,” she said.

Millar said once the remains are removed, they will be moved to a location in Columbia, Tennessee, along with the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue.

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