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VOL. 131 | NO. 142 | Monday, July 18, 2016


Bill Dries

Last Word: Baton Rouge Again, Identifying The Memphis Movement & Early Voting

By Bill Dries

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It is becoming more and more difficult to keep the danger to police officers from extremists and the danger of police training and policies that are used to justify questionable police shootings in the same frame.

Difficult but not impossible.

As this goes up online, that appears to be holding as we mourn the deaths of three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana – a dateline already prominent in what is becoming a national chronology of the issue of violence in our nation and its causes. As Sunday becomes Monday it appears the shooter in Baton Rouge ambushed the police officers and had posted conflicting social media statements including calling for a response to violence by police.

Keeping all of these forms of violence from becoming sides that a pendulum swings back and forth between is becoming more difficult.

At the end of a very important week for all of this in Memphis, the coalition of groups that have formed in the wake of the July 10 march and demonstration on the Hernando DeSoto Bridge added a plank to a list of demands that included moving to replace the system of fines, fees and court costs in the local criminal justice system.

For nonviolent offenses, the group is calling for a community service program of work to substitute for the money that often keeps those who go for a quick release from jail connected to a system that won’t let go easily.

Beyond that, the group is trying to move ahead based on momentum from the bridge protest that brought out lots of people normally not involved in this issue or many other issues.

The numbers on the bridge prompted Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland to say he got the point.

The goal for the coalition of the groups, identified as the Coalition of Concerned Citizens, is to get Strickland to continue talks about what they want to see happen.

And it’s far from clear that the demonstration did more to the point that there will be serious efforts to quickly change the local criminal justice system.

That is proving difficult for several reasons including the number of groups and leaders represented. They agree on most but not all points and that will likely continue to shift over time.

As it does, some of the leaders fear differences will be magnified with one leader being played off against another – essentially a divide-and-conquer strategy.

These were concerns in the civil rights movement of the late 1950s and 1960s.

At least for now there are concerns about identity. No fewer than three separate groups have contacted us and presumably other media outlets claiming they represent official Black Lives Matter groups – expressing support for the Memphis protests which have all been peaceful. But the groups are at different places on the protest spectrum and their involvement with other groups.

In our stories we’ve written about the Black Lives Matter movement as a more general way of identifying the effort and we’ve been covering Black Lives Matter protests for the last two years.

So, when we refer to the local Black Lives Matter movement in our stories we are talking about a general movement as opposed to a particular organization. This will almost certainly evolve over time with particular groups pursuing and focused on certain goals. When it does, we will make a distinction between a specific group and the movement in general.

Our cover story in The Memphis News this week goes back to the origins of this particular moment – the July 10 march from the National Civil Rights Museum to the plaza at FedExForum that then became the march to the bridge. We think the story of how that came together just a week ago helps to give some context to a very fluid situation that continues to shift and change.

The weekend began with 25 police cars, including units from the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, around Health Sciences Park, formerly known as Forrest Park. Local law enforcement bought into the social media rumors of a “days of rage” protest in Memphis and other cities that is about two years old.

As a result, the park itself was all but deserted and probably the safest piece of public property in the entire city for the full weekend.

At the same time, there was a heavy police presence at Poplar Plaza for less than a dozen sign-carrying protesters on that corner of Poplar and Highland – where protests on various causes are common.

At Thursday’s protest-press conference outside The Commercial Appeal, I heard something that I haven’t heard in decades – protesters talking about cutting down groups to around 20 people to get around the police department’s strict enforcement of ordinances governing blocking sidewalks – a true throwback to the days of the civil rights movement when these kinds of games were a regular feature of protests and the policing of those protests.

We got a look at the list of six finalists for the job of Memphis Police Director that Strickland is considering. To no one’s surprise, interim police director Michael Rallings is on the list. The five other finalists from the International Association of Chiefs of Police are a group of deputy chiefs and former chiefs from other cities.

This could be a big week for the Overton Park Greensward controversy at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Or the council could delay a final vote on the ordinance that would set in stone the particulars of the proposal by Strickland to end Greensward parking. Strickland’s plan didn’t fill in all of the blanks. Some of this is up to the council.

And on Friday, the zoo let it be known it wants a shuttle system that is a tram running through the Old Forest. The forest is a state-protected area that is probably the only real estate in Overton Park that is more of a lightning rod than the greensward has become.

So the council will be judging this week whether it wants to give more time to working this out or make a call this week.

Starting Monday, early voting in advance of the Aug. 4 election day expands from the Downtown site at 157 Poplar Ave. that opened Friday to 21 other sites across the county.

Drum roll please – 221 of you voted early or absentee on Friday and another 44 on Saturday – no early voting on Sunday. Combine that with 630 votes cast absentee at various nursing homes around the county before Friday and you have a total of 895 early or absentee voters so far.

Early voting runs through July 30.

The neighborhood around the Crosstown Concourse development is The Chandler Reports Neighborhood Report.

This is an area that has been changing for a while, with the pace of the change picking up as the old Sears Crosstown building moves closer to its completed transformation and opening later this year.

Chandler Reports, the real estate information company that is part of The Daily News Publishing Co. Inc., shows an average sales price for Madison Heights of $91,832 in 20 recent sales. Eleven of those sales in the first six months of 2016 averaged $147,536. See what we mean?

First Horizon beats the street – Wall Street that is – in its quarterly earnings.

A closing note from SEC Media Days in Birmingham and it is from Ole Miss and Hugh Freeze, the football coach there.

Twice now Memphis Wrecking Co. has withdrawn its application to expand a construction landfill in Frayser. The expansion would move the dump closer to Whitney Elementary School. It has drawn opposition from groups working at Whitney Elementary in an area of the city that has become a magnet for such community rebuilding efforts. Because of the size of Frayser, those efforts have taken time to build.

The construction materials landfill came to what is the northern gateway to Frayser at the start of those rebuilding efforts with a pledge by its developers at the time that once it was full, the landfill would be closed and they would move on.

The Memphis News Almanac: Darrius Stewart, where The Animals and Herman Hermit’s stayed while in town for a Coliseum show, the city is almost wired for telephone service as the original Peabody empties out and the Cossitt expands.

MORTGAGES 54 374 1,120
BUILDING PERMITS 177 767 2,425