VOL. 133 | NO. 5 | Friday, January 5, 2018
NAACP Leads Coalition Calling for Boycott of Monuments Protest
By Bill Dries
The Memphis Branch NAACP is urging Memphians to ignore planned Saturday protests by groups opposed to the recent removal of Confederate monuments.
“This rally or caravan is designed to increase the hate rhetoric that has suffocated the American people for too long,” said NAACP president Deidre Malone at a Friday, Jan. 5, press conference.
The press conference included leaders of other civil rights organizations and religious leaders. They joined the call for a boycott of the protests being promoted on social media by the group Confederate 901 and some white nationalist groups.
“Just as in Charlottesville, the purpose of this caravan is to entice public engagement in order to use that interaction for the purpose of violence, hate speech and divisiveness,” Malone said, referring to a white nationalist alt-right torchlight rally in Virginia last summer that erupted into violence between protesters and counter-protesters and left one person dead and more than 20 injured.
The call Friday by the coalition of local groups to ignore the protests echoes the city administration’s position earlier in the week.
“It really takes two to pick a fight,” said Latino Memphis leader Mauricio Calvo.
There were similar calls in advance of courthouse step rallies in 1998 and 2013 by two different factions of the Ku Klux Klan from Indiana. The 2013 rally drew a slate of alternative activities at the Fairgrounds that the city organized with the Greater Memphis Chamber and Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau. Memphis United also organized a discussion about social justice at the Fairgrounds as well.
This time, Malone said the recent violence in Charlottesville as well as a shift in the city in favor of removing the monuments has created a different environment.
“Just because we don’t show up does not mean that we are scared. It just means that Memphis is focused on moving forward together,” she said. “What we wanted happened. The monuments are down. So we are focused on the future. That’s old news for us.”
Tami Sawyer, the founder of Take Them Down 901 who also heads the Memphis NAACP’s political action committee, also joined the call to ignore the Confederate group protests.
“Instead we have called for a day of service. We will be in the community,” Sawyer said. “We’re calling on all Memphians instead of giving attention … to outsiders with intentions to bring hate and racism to our city to show up and show we love and support and care for one another.”