A pro-Confederacy group, still smarting from the 2017 removal of Memphis’ Confederate monuments, lashed out Thursday against the black woman they hold responsible: Memphis mayoral candidate Tami Sawyer.
“Call to action!!!” read a Confederate 901 Facebook post made Thursday morning. “Troll the shit out of this political prostitution whores campaign page!! Tammy (sic) Sawyer is the one whom (sic) led campaign to illegally remove NBF statue in Memphis. Give her hell!!!!”
The post linked to Sawyer’s mayoral campaign page and not long after, people did as instructed. “This racist political whore needs to be ran out of Memphis,” wrote one person. Wrote another: “You will get what is coming!!”
In the summer of 2017, Sawyer launched the successful #TakeEmDown901 campaign that ended with the December 2017 removal of three Confederate monuments in city parks, including an equestrian statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
The dismantling of the statues was made possible by a vote by the Memphis City Council to transfer ownership of the parks to the nonprofit organization Memphis Greenspace. The move was also endorsed by Mayor Jim Strickland, who is running for re-election.
Sawyer, 36, would be the city’s first black woman mayor. It does not appear that the campaign of the mayor, who is white, is being targeted by Confederate 901, although he lobbied for the statues’ removal.
In an email to supporters, Sawyer said racist, misogynistic threats such as these weren’t new, but that instead of ignoring them as she’s done in the past, she was calling them out.
“Attacks like these are, unfortunately, familiar to me. I’ve learned that I have to take my physical safety seriously and, most often, I’ve learned just to ignore the hate I receive daily for naming the inequity in our city and country and daring to do something about it.
“Today, I’m not ignoring it. I’m sharing it. We’re building a movement that stands for equity, opportunity, love, and inclusion. It’s going to take all of us to defeat the powerful forces that stand against us — whether they be internet commenters or the entrenched powers of our city.
“Know this: If what I’ve done as a community activist, a county commissioner and a purveyor of justice for all people were not a formidable foundation to run for mayor, we wouldn’t have this kind of opposition.”
Sawyer’s campaign said she plans to file a police report with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department.
This story is brought to you by MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit reporting project on economic justice in Memphis. Support independent journalism by making a tax-deductible donation today. MLK50 is also supported by the Surdna Foundation and Community Change.