Lawmakers come to near blows over historical statues - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Lawmakers come to near blows over historical statues

(SOURCE: House of Representative) (SOURCE: House of Representative)
NASHVILLE, TN (WMC) -

Heated words were exchanged between two longtime Mid-South lawmakers on the Tennessee House floor.

Cameras were rolling and caught it all as Memphis' GA Hardaway and Collierville's Curry Todd almost came to blows on Capitol Hill.

When the issue of removing controversial statues such as the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue comes up, people get fired up and express their very strong opinions. But nowhere have there been larger fireworks than on the statehouse floor when lawmakers were debating a bill to make it even more difficult to remove those historical statues.

Now, many constituents of those elected lawmakers are saying it's not professional.

"Well, of course it's not professional. It takes me back to a bad era," Memphian Opal Allen said.

Allen said everyone tries to move on from that era, but there are still wounds that have not healed and recent actions are not helping.

"We still have those old wounds open," Allen said.

In the video on the statehouse floor, you can see Memphis-area Representative Joe Towns speaking while, in the background, you see Representative Hardaway approach Representative Todd. 

Todd was trying to end debate on the bill to keep cities and counties from having the authority to remove historical statues, but Hardaway apparently wanted the debate to continue.

"It's a lot of hidden agenda behind that and it's not only a statue. It's just the thought behind it: racism and slavery and everything that it represents. So, yeah, I definitely understand," Allen said.

Rod Gilpatrick said he was disappointed to see elected leaders acting unprofessional on the house floor, but he understands why people get so passionate on this issue.

"Well, that's our history. I know some of it's bad, but, you know, it's history. Just by removing the statue don't take away the past," Gilpatrick said.

But he thinks removing it or not should be decided on a local level, not at the statehouse.

We were unable to reach Rep. Hardaway for a comment, and a spokeswoman for Rep. Todd said he has no statement because nothing happened to warrant giving a statement.

The House passed the bill and, with the State Senate expected to pass its version Tuesday, Allen said she hopes they move on and bring this passion to other issues.

"Get passionate about something that's socially relevant and will help people," Allen said.

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