Tennessee State Representative John Deberry, a Democrat from Memphis, tore into rioters and demonstrators in Portland, Seattle, and elsewhere in the U.S. in a blistering speech to the Tennessee House earlier this month.
Deberry spoke as lawmakers debated a law on August 12 to increase penalties for demonstrators suspected of certain violent offenses against police officers, including throwing bodily excrement at officers. Deberry, who is African American, repeatedly referenced his family’s participation in the civil rights activism of the mid-twentieth century to draw a contrast between that movement and current demonstrations.
“People who are looking at what’s happening in Washington, in Detroit, in Portland and Seattle–they’re getting emboldened because we act like a bunch of punks, too frightened to stand up and protect our own stuff,” Deberry said. “You’re telling me that someone got the right to tear down property that Tennessee taxpayers paid for? That American taxpayers paid for? And somebody has the right to destroy it, deface it, and tear it down? What kind of people have we become that we can’t protect our own stuff?!”