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|BLACK LIVES MATTER PROTEST AT GRACELAND
July 12, 2016 - EER News Hound / Elvis Express Radio
|Graceland found itself used as a backdrop for the latest 'Black Lives Matter' protest which are sweeping across America. Below is one report on the issue.
By Katie Fretland and Kayleigh Skinner of The Commercial Appeal
The morning after a meeting with police and city leaders, protesters released a letter sent to Memphis police interim director Mike Rallings saying that he had broken their trust.
The letter was emailed by Black Lives Matter protester Keedran Franklin, who was one of the panelists at Monday's dialogue.
Shortly after, about dozen people, including Franklin, marched on Elvis Presley at lunchtime Tuesday afternoon chanting. They blocked the road in front of Graceland.
"I'm a black woman and I'm a Memphian," said 26-year-old Jayanni Webster. "Too many people in my community are unfairly treated by police."
At least four people were cuffed while kneeling in the road including one woman who was dragged away by police. "Let her walk!" Franklin yelled. He was then cuffed.
As he was being detained Franklin said to make sure he's not killed while he's detained. The four were arrested for obstructing a passageway.
The remaining group, which had grown to about 30, then gathered on the sidewalk singing "we ain't going to stop till people are free."
Around 12:25 p.m., Memphis police task force said they were preparing to go to Graceland with protesters. Police were diverting lunchtime traffic off Elvis Presley to Dolan Road.
Emergency vehicles were advised to avoid Elvis Presley.
Protesters chanted "We fired up! We can't take it no more" and walked down Elvis Presley to cross the street to the side here Graceland visitors prepared to board buses. Some
protesters criticized black reporters for "selling out" and not joining in the protest.
Many cars honked and drivers held up fists to show support.
Graceland visitors were looking on with their phones watching the protest. At a short standoff with officers one protester yelled to police that they don't have to tell them where
they're going. The protesters then walked pass them.
Justin Davis, 20, marched shouting, "200 years of white supremacy!"
The protesters crossed Elvis Presley and back again. They shouted "Free Jayanni" for Webster and "Free TNT" for Franklin.
The crowd grew to about 60 protesters.
The group circled the block and stopped again near Graceland's gates. At least 8 police officers managed traffic, which grew congested as more protesters gathered.
MPD Deputy director Mike Ryall said about a dozen officers were present. Ryall said they wanted to maintain a good peaceful event and "always our main concern is safety."
Protester Al Lewis said he came to stand up against the "continued murdering of young black people."
"This is the result of how they set us up yesterday," he said in reference to his disappointment with Monday afternoon's panel discussion.
Antonio Blair announced to fellow protesters that if they didn't split up into groups of 20, police would arrest them. The crowd split into groups on different parts of the street.
"Please split up and let's do this as peacefully as possible," Blair said into a megaphone.
Blair said he and other organizers were disappointed with Rallings and Mayor Jim Strickland. Blair and his peers requested more police accountability but did not elaborate on
"Yesterday the demands we set down were not met," Blair said. "It was like they stabbed us in the back with a knife."
The letter is posted below:
This letter regards our agreement of July 10, 2016, which was the impetus for the termination of the citizens' occupation of the I-40 bridge at Memphis. You personally made the
agreement with this group of citizens.
You failed to honor the agreement. While we made the concession of not meeting that night at 9:30 p.m. at the FedEx Forum, as agreed, you made the unilateral decision on the
venue and the participants. You allowed those who had nothing to do with the agreement or the event that precipitated the agreement to control the meeting. You decided or
allowed the decision to be made of who would speak.
While you honored your staff for keeping the peace, you failed to honor the citizens who also kept the peace. You allowed politicians, who have proven to be ineffective and/or
unwilling to make positive changes in the city, to be seated in positions above the citizens with whom you agreed to meet, giving the appearance of honoring those who have not
demonstrated true concern for the citizens.
Finally, the items you had agreed to discuss with us were not discussed. You made a mockery of our agreement. You broke the trust. This says to us that you are not a man of
your word. While others sing your praises, we have data that you have proven to be less than praise worthy. We are disappointed.
The Concerned Citizens