Police Arrest Man in Arson of Historic Nashville Courthouse

June 2, 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A man who set fire to a historic courthouse in Tennessee during weekend protests has been arrested, police said.

Wesley Somers, 25, is charged with felony arson, vandalism and disorderly conduct. He is accused of setting fire Saturday night to Nashville’s Historic Courthouse, Metro Nashville Police said.

Somers was among 29 people arrested after protesters in Tennessee’s capital set fires inside and outside the courthouse and toppled a statue of a former state lawmaker and newspaper publisher who espoused racist views. Protesters damaged 30 businesses and buildings including the courthouse and the historic Ryman Auditorium, known as the mother church of country music, which reported window damage, police said.

Thousands had rallied near the state Capitol starting Saturday afternoon to protest police brutality and racism. The demonstration turned violent after darkness fell.

Others who were arrested face charges that include assaulting police officers, disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing, police said.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Somers has an attorney.

The demonstrations spreading across America were also held around Tennessee over the weekend in response to the latest killings of black people by police. After peaceful protests turned violent each night, strict curfews were imposed in places and the National Guard was mobilized to support police.

Separate demonstrations were held in Murfreesboro, Chattanooga, and Memphis, where protesters made it onto Interstate 55, circumventing officers in riot gear. Protesters chanted “Black lives matter” and “George Floyd.”

It marked the fifth night in a row people had met in Memphis to protest the death of Floyd, who died last week after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck.

Sunday night was the most intense yet for Memphis, where the group walked from the interstate to Beale Street and were met by officers wearing helmets and holding protective shields in front of the FedExForum, the NBA basketball arena and concert venue.

The National Guard and sheriff’s deputies joined Memphis police in response, and tear gas was used to disperse a crowd near City Hall. Windows were broken at a handful of businesses, including a black-owned shoe store.

About the photo: A protester starts a fire at the Metro Courthouse in Nashville, Tenn., Saturday, May 30, 2020, after a demonstration over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis. (Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP)

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