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Aug 31, 17

Unwelcoming the Fraternal Order of Police in Nashville

The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) held their annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee this week at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conference Center. The FOP tout themselves as a labor union that helps organize and protect law enforcement officers who serve our communities. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

In reality, FOP promotes an insidious agenda to shield police officers from community accountability, leading to the destruction of restraint by police who now wield their unfettered power against those they have sworn to protect. The FOP invited Betty Shelby, the officer who murdered unarmed Black man Terence Crutcher, as one of their speakers at this conference. Although Shelby was acquitted by a Tulsa jury of manslaughter, and jurors agreed “she should never be a patrol officer again,” Shelby is back on the job. Her seminar at the FOP conference was focused on the topic of how to successfully gain employment in a different police department after shooting an unarmed civilian. Incredibly, the FOP also invited living confederate monument, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, as a keynote speaker. Sessions used his FOP conference platform to outline his plan to further militarize police with surplus small arms, vehicles, and aircraft from the 1033 Defense Program. Together, the thrust of the conference demonstrates that FOP is an instrument which upholds white supremacy and institutes a class-based hierarchy through violent State oppression.

Although Nashville is considered one of the “friendliest” cities in America, this shiny veneer hides a darker truth. Nashville is growing at a frenetic pace, with property values increasing by an unprecedented 37 percent annually, making the city a hotbed for violent gentrification. Portions of the city inhabited historically by people of color have become occupied territories, with police disproportionately targeting minorities. The Gideon’s Army collective recently published a scathing report employing robust statistical analyses which reveal the deeply entrenched racial profiling present in Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (MNPD) activities. This report was presented to Metro City Council January 12, 2017.

Subsequently, on February 10th, 2017, MNPD officer Joshua Lippert executed a 31-year old Black man named Jocques Clemmons in the course of a routine traffic stop for running a stop sign. Jocques, a father and a much beloved member of his community, was attempting to avoid confrontation with MNPD and ran to avoid their oppression (an activity which has been found legitimate in the highest courts of our government), at which point Officer Lippert pursued him on foot and shot him in the back. He died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center from that gunshot wound shortly thereafter. In depth analyses immediately following Jocques’ murder revealed that Joshua Lippert had multiple disciplinary infractions consistent with a troubling pattern of excessive force. Concomitantly, Officer Lippert’s traffic stop records reveal 90% of the stops he made were Black drivers, a full 20-50% more than other officers in the same areas. Joshua Lippert was staunchly supported by the FOP, who found his actions to be “justified” and “reasonable.” No charges were filed against Joshua Lippert for the murder of Jocques Clemmons.

Thus, conscientious folks in Nashville organized to disrupt the FOP conference. Led by Showing Up for Racial Justice Nashville and their colleagues at Black Lives Matter Nashville, with support from Nashville Antifa, the coalition planned a rally on Broadway on Monday, August 28th, when FOP attendees would have their “night out on the town” in Nashville.  Our coalition marched down the main thoroughfare, Broadway Avenue and shut down the street. We displayed banners and signs indicating the FOP was not welcome in our communities. We also displayed a bust dedicated to Terence Crutcher, the victim of keynote speaker Betty Shelby.


The march circled through downtown and wound its way back to the capitol. Upon reaching the capitol, our group climbed to the top of the hill where a statue of Sam Davis (erected April 29th, 1909) is displayed on State grounds. Sam Davis was a confederate soldier who was executed by Union forces in 1863. Although confederate apologists will paint Davis as a benevolent martyr who would rather die than reveal his co-conspirators, records from the 1850s show that Davis and his family plantation held more than 50 human beings as slaves. We placed a sheet over the Davis statue to obscure the monument and replaced it with the bust dedicated to Terence Crutcher, which was chained to the base.


After the crowd dispersed, we dropped our “Nashville Antifa Unwelcomes the FOP” banner on an overpass in East Nashville to remind our community that we do not welcome the FOP today or any day. Our commitment to antifascist work must include vigorous resistance to and disruption of the criminal “justice” system and all of its cognate components. We must fight the oppression that is leveraged against our communities by police who disproportionately target poor communities and minorities, politicians who use law and order rhetoric, and government agencies that seek to further militarize and equip our local law enforcement agencies with the tools of oppression.

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