Longtime Democratic Tennessee state lawmaker Rep. John DeBerry Jr. says people refusing to acknowledge the violent riots going on in America right now are fooling themselves, and warned his colleagues in a powerful floor speech this month that such behavior must be condemned and stopped.
His message is unusual coming from a Democratic officeholder in 2020, but DeBerry has never been afraid to take positions countering the party’s platform. In fact, after 26 years in office, the Democratic Party recently booted the preacher out over his support of some conservative views.
In his address, DeBerry recounted riding “on the back of the bus” and attending a segregated school during the Jim Crow era and noted that he was present for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final speech in Memphis before the Civil Rights leader was assassinated.
He reminded the Tennessee House that Dr. King’s method of protest was peaceful, and that after King was murdered and some people began rioting, angry and heartbroken civil rights protesters returned to peaceful demonstrations during a time that was much different than what protesters are living in today.
DeBerry recalled, “When the riots started and folks started burning stuff down, that’s when my father took my arm and we left. We left because that was not what we were there for. That was not what Dr. King was there for. That was not what others who are famous in the civil rights days were there for.”
Rep. DeBerry then pointed to Dr. King delivering his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C, saying, “That man stood there and said that he wanted his children judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. And all we do in America right now is talk about color. Every issue. Every issue is about race, it’s about color, instead of sitting down at the table like men and women of common sense.”
“You tell me that somebody got the right to tear down property that Tennessee taxpayers paid for?” he asked. “That American taxpayers paid for? Somebody has the right to destroy it? Deface it? And tear it down? What kind of people have we become?
“Peaceful protest ends peacefully,” he added. “Anarchy ends in chaos. And what we see happening right now—any of us with any common sense whatsoever—know that what we see is not peaceful.”
He asked, “What has happened to us?” and warned, “If we don’t get this right, right now, I’ve got grandchildren—I don’t want to see the country 5,10, 15, 20 years from now. If we don’t start acting like we got some guts…right now.”
The Christian Chronicle reported earlier this month that the Tennessee Democratic Party voted in the spring to remove DeBerry from the party’s primary ballot over his “conservative positions on issues such as abortion, gay rights and school choice.” The decision was handed down after it was too late for the 13-time incumbent to run as a Republican or Independent.
But the Republican-led legislature voted to amend state elections rules so that DeBerry could run as an Independent in November. He is facing a Democrat, and no Republicans are in the race.
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