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VOL. 133 | NO. 166 | Wednesday, August 22, 2018


Bill Dries

Last Word: Day Two in Federal Court, Cohen on Manafort and Saturation Concerns

By Bill Dries

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Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings on the witness stand Tuesday in Memphis Federal Court for day two of the trial on police surveillance of protesters.

Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings continues his testimony Wednesday in Memphis Federal Court about police surveillance of protesters.

And Rallings testified that he had only a “vague” knowledge of the 1978 federal consent decree banning such surveillance prior to the lawsuit filed in 2017 by protesters put on the City Hall security list. As a supervisor at the police training academy, Rallings also testified that the rules set by the decree to prevent political surveillance of protesters were not taught to police officers to his knowledge.

Rallings said the current police policy toward protests was the result of the July 2016 protest that shut down the Hernando DeSoto Bridge. Rallings denied the goal of police tactics is the harassment of protesters but insisted it was the safety of all involved. Police Sgt. Tim Reynolds and his immediate supervisor made the same point during their time on the witness stand Tuesday Downtown.

It was Reynolds who started the Facebook account under the alias “Bob Smith” that police used to track rumors and reports of future demonstrations and keep tabs on those involved in the protests.

Here is our summary of the opening day of testimony and the story of Bob Smith.

Day three is Wednesday for proceedings that will determine whether Memphis Police continue what has been a much more aggressive posture toward protests in the last two to three years than police had adopted by the late 1970s when the consent decree took effect.

Policing of the era that produced the consent decree had two faces. The most visible face was police officers in effect acting as passive marshalls to marches by the mid 1970s including the annual marches commemorating the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Meanwhile, 1978 -- the year of the consent decree -- was the year that police officers and firefighters went on strike becoming protesters themselves in job actions during the summer that generated far more tension, drama and at times conflict than the annual April marches led by the city’s growing black political leadership.

The hidden face of the police response of the era was the continued existence of the department’s domestic intelligence unit which violated the consent decree less than a year later by photographing Iranian students and ACORN activists protesting outside the Memphis Cook Convention Center where the Democratic National Committee was holding its midterm convention. The unit was active at least as early as the 1968 sanitation workers strike and its files were burned by police before they could become part of the consent decree conditions – police saying they were destroyed in the normal course of destroying old city records.

U.S. Rep Steve Cohen on Tuesday’s events elsewhere including the Cohen guilty plea and the Manafort jury verdict:


“The jury in the Manafort case looked at serious charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team and found the former Trump campaign chairman guilty. The President’s former fixer Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws and other felony violations based on conduct uncovered by Mueller’s team and turned over to prosecutors in New York. This doesn’t look like a ‘rigged witch hunt.’ It looks instead like the Mueller team’s investigation is resulting in effective prosecutions of guilty individuals in the President’s inner circle. This is becoming one of the most effective investigations in U.S. history.”

Brady White is the starting quarterback for the University of Memphis Tigers.

The quarterback dilemma for the Tigers ahead of the Mercer opening game at the Liberty Bowl was resolved Tuesday with word that David Moore is leaving the program and Brady White is the starting quarterback.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam in the city Wednesday afternoon for several stops official and political. He attends an evening campaign fundraiser for Republican state Senator Brian Kelsey who faces a hard fought challenge to re-election on the Nov. 6 ballot from Democratic nominee Gabby Salinas.

In Nashville Tuesday, Haslam announced an end-of-term re-examination of TNReady testing methods and combined it with a call for some type of state testing that measures student achievement as part of accountability standards.

The Shelby County Schools board Tuesday evening approved a set of nine new charter schools to open about a year from now including the conversion of six Catholic Jubilee schools to Compass Community charter schools. As expected, some board members expressed concerns about the saturation of some areas by the combination of charter, private and conventional schools. In this case, three of the new charters will be in Orange Mound.

Chalkbeat follows up on American Way Middle School in this first school year as an I-Zone school after state education officials wanted a different path for the school.

Back to the campaign trail and the U.S. Senate race, Democratic Senate nominee Phil Bredesen rolls out a rural broadband campaign piece that is certain to provide more than a little contrast with Republican nominee Marsha Blackburn who has been running her own broadband TV ads in the race to Nov. 6.

Lots of talk about holograms of famous musical entertainers going on the road. And the Orpheum has booked a Roy Orbison hologram show in October that I think is the first major hologram concert in the city. Might have to do some more checking on that. The Orbison show is no small matter with LiveNation booking the tour. So many questions about how this works. Can Roy Orbison -- or any other entertainer who is the object of a hologram -- play different cities on the same night with this technology?

Drug overdose deaths in Tennessee last year rose more than 8 percent from the year before, breaking the record set in 2016.

The U.S. Justice Department is recommending that Mississippi prosecutors reopen the 1959 case of William Roy Prather in Corinth. This follows an Associated Press investigation that may have produced new evidence. Prather was shot in the face Halloween night as a group of white teenagers were night-riding in the black section of racially segregated Corinth. Eight teenagers were charged in the case. One pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Six of the seven others got probation as juveniles and an 18 year old was acquitted.

This follows the Justice Department's recent decision to reopen the case into the 1955 murder of Emmett Till in Money, Mississippi.

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