Greater Imani Church in Memphis, TN reached full capacity on Monday as citizens from all around Shelby County came to meet with city leaders to discuss challenges taking place in Memphis.
This meeting sparked from protest held in Memphis on Sunday that turned into a scene that has never been seen in the area in modern times.
Hundreds marched downtown Memphis and parts of the crowd succeeded at blocking the I-40 bridge connecting Tennessee and Arkansas for nearly four hours. The protesters were fed up with police brutality in the country, and wanted to make a difference. Instead of forcing the crowd to leave immediately, Interim Police Director Michael Rallings marched with protesters to testify that he wanted the best for the community.
Rallings agreed to help hear all of the concerns of citizens but put out a pledge for Memphis to go 30 days of non-killing.
Memphis leaders wanted to hear what the people had to say, and the citizens had a lot to say. Parking had people walking from blocks away with some neighbors of the church handing out water.
A crowd grew outside of frustrated people irritated that the fact that no one else could fit in the church. “Let Us In”, “Here are concerns”, “I have questions” was screamed from the parking lot as people waited for any chance of entrance.
Crowds grew around news trucks just to see what was happening inside.
Within the blinking of an eye the doors open just for a few to enter.
The intensity grew as you got closer to the sanctuary of the church. The screaming and yelling became louder, deep breathes of frustrated people, signs with messages like “I Matter” and “Black Lives Matter” filled the room. In the center of the room was Mayor Jim Strickland ready to take in everything that was being dished out.
There was not enough time to answer every question so what the Mayor did next sent the crowd into applause and excitement.
Mayor Strickland accepted the challenge of answering every question in the next thirty days and said he will publish them publicly. When Strickland was challenged on the lack of diversity in Memphis he quickly responded to explain that his leadership team consist of equal representation with four blacks representing the 67% African American population and three whites representing the 33% white population of Memphis.
He even agreed to take in two students from the inner city school system as interns to help him with this initiative.
Everyone who didn’t get to answer wrote down their questions on notecards for the mayor and his staff to receive.
If you looked towards the front of the room, you saw many police sitting. Who were they? They just happened to be every single commander for each precinct of Memphis. With so many problems at hand, the police commanders and policemen and women took down information from citizens so they can get a grip on problems that so many people are having.
One person that was able to share her story was Likisha Clark, “I’m a black woman in America and the police said that I would never win,” she said, sharing her story about a run in with Memphis Police. Clark said, on June 2, she was arrested and spent five hours in jail for ordinance, loud music being played.
Clark said that her radio doesn’t even work.
Terrified for her life, she didn’t want the world to think she committed suicide if the police killed her, so she called her boyfriend to hear the conversation.
“Sir give me another lie, please,” pleaded Clark in frustration.
What started as a pull over with one cop ended with three cops, she said. She was told that if she didn’t sign the ordinance jail time was her alternative option. Not wanting to sign the ordinance, the three white policemen dragged Clark out of the car, hitting her arm against the door two times.
“I felt like I was profiled because I was black woman in a Lexus downtown,” she said. “They thought I was a dope guy and thought they had something but they had nothing.”
A few citizens were eruptive but some received comfort from police.
There were many hugs and tears shed as citizens and policemen held heart to heart conversations on unsolved murder crimes and situations that police help was needed.
Some citizens wanted to encourage the police to keep doing a good job, saying all police are not bad. Many even wanted Mayor Strickland to go as far as hiring Interim Police Director Michael Rallings as the permanent director.
“The hiring of a director will be complete towards the end of July and early August” stated Strickland.
Rallings went on to say he has refused the position five times but will consider. Others were sick and tired of violence towards black men with Memphis having its own taste of police brutality one year ago.
Darrius Steward was shot by police and later died at Regional Medical Center. From investigations Stewart grabbed the officer’s handcuffs and swung them at the officer but many had questions to why he had to die when there were two policemen on scene versus Stewart.
Some groups are targeting the highest revenue tourist sites in Memphis like Graceland to continue protest because they feel as if nothing is being done while others are going to continue to work with police, the mayor, and elected officials to come up with solutions for the future.
Monday’s meeting was the first for many more to come.