Confederate group protests parks’ sale in Memphis


Demonstrators with the Confederate 901 group, followed by police officers, paused on the bridge over the Mississippi River in Memphis on Friday. (Ian Ripple, WREG)

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — About a dozen Confederate protesters carried flags Friday across the Big River Crossing connecting downtown Memphis to Arkansas as counter-protesters shouted for them to go home.

They say they are upset that the City of Memphis sold two parks containing statues of Confederate president Jefferson Davis and Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest to a nonprofit group that removed them last December.

"The sale of the parks was a sham sale," protester William Weddendorf of Bartlett said. "To sell a piece of property worth millions of dollars to, it's a city-affiliated organization, for $1,000 is a travesty."

Police met the protesters as they came off the bridge to make sure they knew what was, and wasn't, allowed.

But a handful of counter-protesters were ready to show Confederate 901 members what they thought. Police tried to keep things calm.

"When we let people like this come out and speak and fly their symbols or whatever unchallenged, then it makes it look like nobody cares and nobody is challenging what they're saying," said Beth Foster of Nashville.

The protest then moved to the park where Nathan Bedford Forrest's statue once stood and his grave remains. The group displayed their flags and flowers all under the watchful eye of police.

Confederate 901 protesters say Saturday will be their big demonstration, and Friday's was just a run-through.

"Tomorrow will be a real big day," one man said.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland spoke about the protests earlier Friday, looking back on the January protests that turned into a few people demonstrating and riding the interstate loop with flags flying.

"I think all of us at city hall were concerned the last time they were in town, but I do have full faith the police department has a plan set forth to maintain public safety," Strickland said.

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