VOL. 131 | NO. 162 | Monday, August 15, 2016
Coalition Calls For Graceland Protest
By Bill Dries
The Coalition of Concerned Citizens is calling for a “massive, nonviolent peaceful protest of direct action” Monday, Aug. 15, at Graceland in advance of the annual candlelight vigil marking the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death.
Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings and city Chief Legal Officer Bruce McMullen issued a written statement Sunday saying: "We will protect the rights of the protesters, visitors, patrons, property owners and residents. We will expect the conduct of all to be lawful."
The groups in the coalition are including economic issues among their causes as well as calls for police to change their use of force, tactics and training in encounters with African-American citizens.
The protest call Friday came after leaders of the group, some of whom were involved in the July 10 protest that closed the Hernando DeSoto Bridge for several hours, met for more than an hour Thursday with Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.
Catherine Lewis, Theryn C. Bond and Al Lewis of the coalition outlined in the press conference outside City Hall a call for better paying jobs and new city funding priorities that depart from Strickland’s emphasis on a more visible police presence.
“The mayor, in our opinion, seems resigned to the idea of being the captain of a sinking ship,” said Catherine Lewis. “If the mayor’s concerned about the poverty of an obscenely large percentage of the citizens of this city, there is no indication he has plans to change those numbers.”
“If the mayor or any other elected official think that doubling down on policing, using Blue CRUSH and other such tactics will solve the crime problem, they may want to think on a deeper level,” she added. “That surface thought is a clear indication that you do not understand the issue of poverty.”
Ursula Madden, director of communications for the administration, said the discussions reflected “frustration” that has been “building for years, probably decades.”
“We want to respond to our citizens but at the same time we want to have some actual solutions,” Madden said. “We feel like we put programs together that help the community but we are also wiling to hear what other people say if they think they’ve got something that can improve on that or they have an idea that is better than that.”
In his weekly update email, Strickland described the conservations as “productive.”
“As I have for the past month, I remain optimistic about this, as we’re all for the same things – in fact we’re already making progress.”
Bond said much of the meeting was devoted to Strickland defending his administration’s priorities.
“Mayor Strickland had no concept of what a low wage job was,” she said. “We wish to continue the dialogue with Mayor Strickland as well as his administration on living wages and meaningful labor.”
Al Lewis made the specific protest call but the group didn’t comment beyond the general call about what might happen at the protest.
“Why Graceland?” he began. “Because Graceland represents the tremendous disparity of what works for a few and what doesn’t work for the many. This is a righteous and courageous cause.”
Black Lives Matter movement protesters briefly blocked afternoon traffic outside Graceland last month with six handcuffed by police and issued citations for blocking the street.
That protest came the day after a tense meeting between protesters and Strickland as well as Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings in Raleigh that ended with the protest leaders saying city leaders did not take them seriously.
The Raleigh session was the day after the bridge protest.
Meanwhile, Frank Gottie, one of the leaders of the July 10 bridge protest, who started the march from the Forum plaza to the bridge, was arrested Saturday on warrants for aggravated assault, domestic assault and driving while his license was suspended or revoked. He was also charged Saturday with resisting official detention and violating bail conditions.
He was released on $15,000 bond Saturday and is due in court Monday and Tuesday on the charges.
Gottie is the third leader of the bridge protest to be arrested on charges unrelated to the protest since July 10.
Devante Hill was arrested on a warrant involving a dispute over a computer.
Joseph Kyles was arrested on an aggravated assault warrant.