The Tennessee Department of Transportation refused a request to cover up a statue surrounded by Confederate flags. that many see as offensive.
Nashville, Tenessee's Metro Council approved a resolution earlier this month to “take the necessary action” to hide the controversial Nathan Bedford Forrest statue, which is next to a major interstate highway, behind trees and vegetation, TheBlaze reports. However, they need TDOT’s approval before they can add anything at the site.
TDOT commissioner Jon Schroer declined the request Monday via email, according to the Tennessean.
“TDOT does not plant foliage on its right-of-way with the sole intention of blocking items on private property based on what might be offensive to some and not to others,” Schroer’s email read. “Therefore, the request of Metro Nashville’s Council to have TDOT plant vegetation on I-65 near the Harding Place Exit is respectfully denied.”
The statue is 25 feet high, made of fiberglass, and depicts Nathan Bedford Forrest, a lieutenant general for the Confederate Army in the Civil War. A ring of Confederate flags surround Forrest.
The late sculptor and attorney Jack Kershaw, who fought to free Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassin in the late 1960s, designed the often-vandalized statue, which was erected in 1998 on private land owned by businessman Bill Dorris.
"I understand where the state's coming from because any time anybody saw something and their eye sight got offended, they would want the state to come play with it — whether it be a billboard or cell tower or whatever it was, they would want something planted there in front of it," Dorris told the Tennessean. "There's not enough money to plant enough trees for all that."
Dorris was prepared to transfer the Confederate flags onto 100-foot flag poles if the request had passed.
Confederate symbols have been hotly debated across the country over the last month, after the gunman who shot nine people at a black South Carolina church affiliated himself with Confederate flags and white supremacy.