Opponents and supporters of Memphis’ Confederate statues plan to attend state meeting

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — When Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland travels to Athens, Tennessee on Friday to talk to the Tennessee Historical Commission about taking down Confederate statues, he won't be the only one.

Those on both sides of the issue are traveling east.

The Tennessee Historical Commission will now listen to the City of Memphis' plan to take down the statues — statues community activist Tami Sawyer calls oppressive.

"What the true history of Jefferson Davis and Nathan Bedford Forrest were," Sawyer said. "The oppression, the hatred."

Sawyer and members of Take Em Down 901 will be traveling six hours to Athens for the Commission meeting Friday.

They want more than the mayor's voice heard.

"We were not invited by the Mayor to join his entourage of 50 clergymen and businessmen to Athens so we will be going ourselves and making our own statement," she said.

"It would be a much stronger fight if Take Em Down 901 and Mayor Strickland's administration were able to work together to get these statues removed immediately. "

Lee Millar and the Sons of the Confederate Veterans are doing all they can to keep the statues standing.

"A lot of people have jumped on the bandwagon of tearing down statues and it's just an idiotic move, movement," Millar said.

They too will be traveling with a group to Athens, hoping to get commissioners' ears.

"I would address the Commission and say tearing down history is wrong," Millar said. "Flat out wrong. We should appreciate everybody's history. There is not place for tearing it down, covering it up or hiding it."

The Commission is not expected to take any action Friday. But it could decide to address the issue later this year or at its February meeting.

"The THC is empowered to preserve the history of the state and this is a part of our history. That's their duty to protect our history," says Millar.

"The historical reason for them standing is the reason they should no longer allowed to be in the middle of our city," says Sawyer.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland will be among those speaking at the meeting.

The Mayor will talk about his plans Wednesday morning on News Channel 3's Live at Nine.

WREG will be in Athens for the commission meeting Friday.