For months, the Nashville chapter of Black Lives Matter had been meeting at the North Branch Library in Nashville, Tennessee at the exclusion of white people. Library officials had assumed during that time that their meetings had been made open to the public, until one library customer alerted officials of a meeting advertisement indicating that white people were not invited. Library officials then notified the Black Lives Matter group of the public library’s policy about meetings, namely that they are to be open to the public and the news media, and the group may not exclude anyone.
This news outraged the Black Lives Matter activists, and they decided to relocate to a Methodist church nearby where they reiterated that only “black or non-black people of color” were allowed to participate. They attributed the public library’s policy to “white supremacy in our local government.” Here’s their Facebook post alerting activists of the location change:
The group’s organizer Joshua Crutchfield told USA Today that he and the other activists shouldn’t have been surprised by the library’s “white supremacist” policy:
“We were surprised about it, but we shouldn’t have been. We kind of know the history about how this goes in this country. … It’s definitely something we want to make public to tell people what’s going on in the city.”
Library officials asserted that they didn’t have the Black Lives Matter meeting canceled. They had no problem with them holding meetings there. But they just wanted to make sure that since it is a public library – that is, taxpayer-funded – no group of people could be excluded from meetings based on race. USA Today reported:
“The library didn’t cancel anyone’s meeting,” said library spokeswoman Emily Waltenbaugh, referring to a Black Lives Matter meeting Saturday that has been moved to a church. “We’re taxpayer funded. We have to be open to anyone any time.”
While Black Lives Matter have the freedom to do as they please and exclude whomever they desire, it remains to be seen whether these types of actions will help to ease racial tensions, or make them worse.