Local activist and musician Cameron "C-Grimey" Williams is under investigation for allegedly burning Chattanooga Public Library books by conservative authors.
Williams, a local rapper and activist known for his role organizing protests against police brutality, was placed on paid administrative leave from his job as a library services coordinator this week after video surfaced of him apparently burning books by President Donald Trump and conservative commentator Ann Coulter, according to a spokesperson for the library.
In a video posted temporarily on Instagram on Tuesday, Williams appeared to burn copies of Coulter's "How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must)" and Trump's "Crippled America" in an outdoor fire, spraying each with lighter fluid. "FDT," a Trump protest song by YG and Nipsey Hussle, played in the background.
"Thursday our HR business partner and our executive director met with Cameron over Zoom, and he's been placed on paid administrative leave for the next five business days so that we can conduct an investigation," library spokesperson Christina Sacco told the Times Free Press on Friday.
According to Sacco, Williams had been recently trained on the library's "weeding" policy, which describes how and when to remove books from circulation.
"The items in question that were featured in the video were not flagged for removal. We have a very rigorous and thorough standard practice for collection management. And it's part of the American Library Association, so it's something all libraries follow," Sacco said, noting that books are flagged for removal based on their publication date, circulation date and physical conditon. "Cameron has been trained on this. He was trained back in October and then also attended a follow-up meeting Dec. 1 before he did get assigned to weed that collection. And so he is aware of our practices and trained on them."
Williams didn't directly answer when asked if he burned any library materials, but said he did not violate any library removal policies when weeding the collection.
"I have no idea why I'm on leave because my supervisor and city of Chattanooga HR have not told me the reason why. The only information that was given is because there was a complaint of me removing items from the library," Williams said Friday. "I've never removed items from the library, without permission, and without following proper protocol.
"Whatever I do on my personal time is my personal time, but [I] did not break any library or city rules at all," he added.
Sacco said that the library is investigating what, if any, materials were removed from the collection to turn the matter over to the city's human resources department, but said that any biased removal of materials would violate library policy.
"We were informed that there was an earlier video where there were more than the two books mentioned. So we don't ... know, at this time, how many were removed," Sacco said. "Written into our policy, we do state that personal feelings should not be a factor when deciding what we keep and what we don't. And that is reiterated both in the standard of practice and also in the training materials that we use. Library employees are stewards for all of the community.
"It's our job to ensure that all walks of life have access to information without judgment or prejudice," she added. "Whether these materials were actually destroyed in a fire or even if they were just removed, that does go against our policy. Because at the end of the day, we believe that censorship has no place in a library."
Williams said that the reporting of the incident was a targeted attack on him.
"I assume a racist person is watching my social media and sending information to Chattanooga HR, Chattanooga PD, or anybody they can that will listen to try to sabotage my well being," Williams said. "It's a perpetuation of white supremacy and racism and it's trying to hold back change, but we won't quit."
Willams currently faces multiple charges of disorderly conduct and blocking a highway from two separate July incidents during police brutality protests.