As members of the country’s largest cop union gather in Nashville for the Fraternal Order of Police’s (FOP) national conference, local chapters of Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) have organized various stunts intended to make visiting law enforcement officials feel “unwelcome.”
Upon their arrival earlier this week, FOP members were greeted with banners that were displayed throughout Tennessee’s capital city which likened conference attendees to white supremacists. Many relayed disparaging accusations about the labor organization, such as “Fraternal Order of Police Protects Killer Cops.”
“(The FOP) only exists to keep cops out of a system of accountability,” said Dixon Irene, an organizer with SURJ Nashville.
Protesters marched through downtown Nashville on Monday evening during a demonstration they called “Unwelcome the FOP.” While attempting to “rain on their parade and show the truth about what they do,” activists chanted anti-police slogans within eyesight and earshot of several restaurants and bars that were being patronized by FOP members.
As the Tennessean reported:
While addressing the group of roughly 100 protesters prior to the march, Irene criticized both the FOP specifically and the law enforcement profession in general.
She alleged that policing was “an institution that started as a response to black slaves escaping” and that police have historically “worked alongside the KKK and other hate groups” to “create a policy of fear and a society of hate.”
Around 15 Metro officers held traffic as the group marched both in the street and on sidewalks around downtown, chanting “No justice, no peace, no racist police” and “The FOP protects white supremacy,” among other phrases.
Unlike other recent demonstrations involving Antifa, their presence was small, and their behavior was peaceful. Anarchists with the movement carried a homemade bust of Terence Crutcher — an unarmed black man who was fatally shot by police last year. Protesters chanted “Hey hey, ho ho, Betty Shelby has got to go,” referring to the officer that was acquitted in the shooting death. According to the Associated Press, Shelby planned to attend this week’s conference to “speak to a group of about 3,500 officers about what to do if they’re charged in a shooting.”
At the State Capitol, demonstrators used a white sheet to cover a statue of a Confederate soldier while rebuking racist policies they claim the FOP promotes. The bust of Crutcher was erected nearby, along with a sign that read “Honor Black Lives.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions drew national attention to the cop conference earlier this week when he announced that the Trump administration would restore a controversial program that transfers surplus military equipment to police departments throughout the country. President Barack Obama had banned the practice after the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Missouri, claiming the use of militarized gear by local law enforcement creates the perception of “an occupying force.”
As CNN reported:
… Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed the policy change during a speech at the annual conference of the Fraternal Order of Police in Nashville, Tennessee, where he received multiple standing ovations and appeared touched by the warm welcome.
“We are fighting a multi-front battle: an increase in violent crime, a rise in vicious gangs, an opioid epidemic, threats from terrorism, combined with a culture in which family and discipline seem to be eroding further and a disturbing disrespect for the rule of law,” Sessions said, as he walked the audience of mostly law enforcement officials through a broad tour of his policy changes at the Justice Department over the past several months.
“For (AG Sessions) and this Administration to choose our Biennial Conference to announce this critical policy change — something that I personally spoke to the President about — demonstrates how much respect he and his Attorney General have for our members and all the men and women in law enforcement,” said Chuck Canterbury, FOP National President.
The FOP, which backed Mr. Trump’s presidential run last year, describes itself as “the largest and oldest law enforcement labor organization in the United States” representing more than 330,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, corrections officers and other members. The group holds its national conference every two years to set goals, draft agendas, conduct seminars and complete other administrative tasks.
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @Near_Chaos.