VOL. 10 | NO. 21 | Saturday, May 20, 2017
Barbecue Decoy Surfaces As Overton Square Protest
By Bill Dries
Several dozen people staged a street theater protest in Overton Square Saturday, May 20, after a decoy call for a protest Downtown at the Memphis In May International Barbecue Cooking Contest.
“So while they deployed their resources at BBQ fest, CCC was at Overton Square highlighting the real obscenities,” Al Lewis, a member of the Memphis Coalition of Concerned Citizens, posted on Facebook Saturday afternoon.
The group staged four skits outside Overton Square businesses to highlight “several of the long train of abuses and issues plaguing the majority population of our city,” according to a release from the group an hour after the protest in Midtown.
The skits included a dramatization of a lynching, a modern-day police arrest and beating of a black suspect, a homeless white family and a rape victim next to a stack of rape kits.
The coalition said it targeted Overton Square because of a racist phone tirade recorded by restaurant workers in Turks & Caicos in April attributed to Lauren Loeb. Loeb, through her attorney, has denied it was her.
She is the grand-daughter of Henry Loeb, who was Memphis Mayor during the 1968 sanitation workers strike.
Overton Square’s resurgence has been spearheaded by Loeb Properties, the real estate and development built by the father of Henry and Bill Loeb. Loeb Properties is run by the sons of Bill Loeb.
Henry Loeb and his family moved to Forrest City, Ark. after his time as mayor where he funded a farm equipment dealership.
Lauren Loeb had been membership programs and services director of the Greater Memphis Chamber up until six weeks before the phone tirade.
The coalition, in its statement, said Henry Loeb “personified the Loeb family’s unrepentant stance against the plight of black Memphians when he steadfastly refused to bargain with the sanitation workers union that culminated with Dr. King’s murder.”
“The CCC thinks it only befitting that these facts and their impact be demonstrated and highlighted in the Overton Square area that Loeb Properties manages,” the statement added.
With onlookers watching from the patios at Lafayette’s Music Room, Babalu and Schweinehaus, the different acts of the street theater were followed by chants of “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support one another. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
The Coalition of Concerned Citizens staged a “die-in” at the home of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland in December.
The group also organized an August protest at Graceland during the annual candlelight vigil on the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death that drew a substantial presence from Memphis police and several arrests.
Police set up checkpoints blocking those they and security for Graceland identified as protesters from going into the vigil area on Elvis Presley Boulevard. But white protesters made it through the checkpoint without any questions.
Several of those stopped by police have filed a pending lawsuit in Memphis federal court alleging police and security barred people based on their race.
The police presence at the barbecue contest Saturday wasn’t as visible as it was at the Graceland protest.
Early posts from the coalition about “Operation Oink”, as it was called, indicated protesters would gather at the city’s barbecue booth. But the city’s booth is rarely occupied by Saturday afternoon as the barbecue contest becomes more about the teams that are competing for prizes.