MEMPHIS, Tenn. (KXAN/NBC News) — A Memphis, Tennessee, early voting poll worker was fired last week after turning away voters who were wearing shirts reading “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe.”
The firing came after reports from witnesses at the Dave Wells Community Center, a county election commission spokesperson said, according to NBC News.
While laws in the state don’t permit voters to wear clothing in support of any candidate or political party, statements like “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe” are allowed. These phrases are in reference to the racial justice movement, which advocates for equity in policing for Black Americans.
It’s not known how many voters were turned away, the county election commission spokesperson said, but the fired poll worker reportedly said they believed the statements were related to the Democratic Party.
The phrase “Black Lives Matter” can reference either the racial justice movement overall, in addition to the official organization of the same name. Black Lives Matter was formed in 2013, following the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man who killed Trayvon Martin.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency, said that “Black Lives Matter” is not considered political or partisan and that federal employees are free to wear and display items in support of the movement.