Confederate supporters to drive around Memphis to protest statue removals

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Organizers of a pro-Confederate rally are now changing their protest plans.

Confederate 901 planned a protest in Memphis for Saturday, January 6. At first, the protest was supposed to be a rally at the two parks where Confederate monuments used to stand.

Now, organizers said they plan to drive around Memphis voicing their opinions about how the Confederate monuments were taken down.

"We're coming together for more of a unity event," Confederate 901 organizer Billy Sessions said.

Confederate 901, Carolina Defenders, Freedom Crew, and Highway Men will drive around the city to show support for an investigation into how the Confederate monuments were taken down.

"Fully investigate--by the Tennessee government--how this was done. Fully investigate not sweep it under the rug," Sessions said describing his group's goals for the driving protest.

City of Memphis leaders said none of the groups have received a permit to protest. However, Confederate 901 has a pending permit application--permit office workers confirmed the group started an application but has not completed it.

Sessions said even if the city doesn't approve Confederate 901's permit application, the group will continue with its planned peaceful protest.

"We need to send a message to the country that different groups of people can come together for a common cause," Sessions said.

At least one local activist in Memphis is stepping up to help make sure the event remains peaceful. Activist Frank Gotti said there is no room for hate or racism in Memphis.

"It could be a tragic situation," Gotti said.

Gotti is known to many for his participation in the protest that shut down the I-40 bridge, but now he is participating in the planning of a different type of protest.

"I'm trying to be a leader like people expect for me to be," Gotti said.

Gotti has reached out to the organizers of Confederate 901. Though Gotti may not share their same opinions, he does have a similar goal.

"I just want to make sure everything goes smoothly. They go home safe; we go home safe," Gotti said.

Confederate 901 organizers confirm they have talked on the phone several times with Gotti and plan on meeting with him and other activists prior to the drive through protest.

Memphis Police Department said it is aware of the planned rally. MPD said it will be prepared to keep the peace.

However, Gotti said it takes more than police officers to ensure public safety, it takes regular people stepping up to the plate.

"Once people learn to look at things from both sides, I think the world will be a better place, our biggest problem is communication," Gotti said.

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