An organized protest in Legislative Plaza asked for the legislature to create a better culture for women along with asking for Franklin Rep. Jeremy Durham to resign.
Whitney Washington scribbled the name Durham in black ink on a bright blue piece of tape, cut the tape into strips and placed them over the mouths of 10 protesters in Legislative Plaza.
The small group gathered Wednesday morning in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month while also asking Republican Rep. Jeremy Durham to step down from his elected position in the 65th House District. The Attorney General has been conducting an investigation into allegations inappropriate behavior by Durham.
Recently the Franklin Republican filed his papers to run again for re-election. Previously this year, he stepped down as majority whip and left the GOP caucus following reports by The Tennessean that Durham had sent them inappropriate text messages. Durham says he does not recall sending them.
Holding each other by the hand, the protesters stood linked in front Speaker Beth Harwell’s office, not uttering a word. Signs stuck to their chests, with statistics of sexual assault along with the phrases “sexual harassment is not a family value” and “sexual harassment is violence.”
“We are frustrated with what’s going,” co-organizer Washington said. “We want Jeremy to be held accountable with what’s going on. Women haven’t been listened to.”
As a part of their hour long protest, the protesters visited Durham’s office, leaving behind several pieces of white paper on the floor and the desk with the message for him to resign. Durham’s office staff was left to clean up the mess.
Photo provided by Durham legislative office
From there, they delivered letters to members of the investigative team, asking them to hold Durham accountable.
“It’s reinforcing rape culture,” Nashvillian Cass Clarke, 26, said. “It’s telling women they need to change instead of Jeremy Durham.”
While none of the protesters reside in Durham’s district, they believe he still represented them as an elected official on the House floor.
“What kind of example is this setting?” Nashvillian SueAnn Shiah, 23, said. “It’s not appropriate in any work setting to deal with harassment, particularly from a place of leadership. It says that he can do it and get away with it.”
While at the legislature, the group never spoke directly with Durham, though they watched him on the plaza televisions as he addressed a bill on the House floor. In response, Durham said he felt what the group did wasn’t reasonable because no accusation had been filed.
“Although I fully support freedom of speech, I’m disappointed that these young liberals would turn a serious matter into political grandstanding and minimize the weight of this important issue for those who have truly been harassed in the workplace,” Durham said. “I realize we live in a politically correct society, but making a false accusation when there was never even a complaint filed is extremely unfair.”