The Nashville Public Library system, currently touting its celebration of Black History Month on its website, has banned the local Black Lives Matter group from holding meetings in the city's libraries after informing the group that meetings could not explicitly bar white people from attending.
According to The Tennessean, Black Lives Matter has been meeting at the North Branch Library in Nashville for the past several months. Organizer Josh Crutchfield says there's only one rule for these meetings: "Only black people as well as non-black people of color are allowed to attend the gatherings. That means white people are excluded from attending."
After a complaint by a patron who saw an advertisement for the meetings, the group was told they could not hold sessions at the library, the oldest branch in the city, any longer, unless they were made open to the general public.
Library spokeswoman Waltenbaugh told The Tennessean that the library didn't cancel the meeting, and that it has be "open to anyone anytime." She continued saying that the meetings were cancelled and moved by BLM Nashville, not the Nashville Public Library system, after being informed of the open-door policy.
"We don’t scour the community for advertising for events (to make sure they adhere to policy)," Waltenbough told Nashville Scene. "But we pride ourselves on being a meeting place—a place for all Nashvillians."
In a statement, BLM Nashville said this policy didn't track and explained their reasoning for instituting it:
Although meeting rooms are available to local organizations for use of a “cultural” nature, we were informed that “due to the library policy of open meetings for meeting room use,” all future meetings held at the library would be cancelled.”
The Nashville Chapter of BLM has this policy in place to center (sic) the voices and experiences of people of color that have historically been excluded or segregated within supposedly public spaces. Black and/or people of color only spaces are often questioned and viewed with suspicion, though there is seldom any interrogation of white-only board rooms and staffs.
In a Facebook post, the group cited "white supremacy in our local government" as the cause for the location of their planned meeting being changed to a nearby Methodist church.
Sean Braisted, a spokesperson for Nashville mayor Megan Barry, told The Tennessean the library had acted properly in enforcing its policy, saying the decision had nothing "to do with the politics (of Black Lives Matter)."
Nashville Public Library released a statement, saying:
Nashville Public Library’s policy is to be as open and as accessible as possible, as a tax payer-funded organization. This means that meetings and events in our facilities are open to the general public and to news media, as outlined in our policy (copied below).
Meanwhile, NPL is known for its legendary Civil Rights Room, and for our participation in civil rights programs and discussions.
A request for comment was sent to Sean Braisted. We'll update if it is returned.
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