The group that organized last Monday's protest outside Graceland, which aimed to raise awareness of police violence against black citizens, is threatening to pursue legal action against the city of Memphis for what they believe to be violations of the First Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Coalition of Concerned Citizens planned the protest outside the annual Elvis Week candlelight vigil, but when they arrived, they were blocked from getting close to the vigil by concrete barriers and a heavy Memphis Police Department presence. Protesters (and some media covering the protest) were barred from entering the barricaded area, which meant some who'd parked on the other side of the barricade weren't allowed to access their vehicles. A representative from Graceland was near the protest site, helping police determine who to let through and who to keep out.
Some at the protest said police appeared to be letting white citizens inside the barrier and keeping black citizens out.
The coalition also organized the massive protest in late July that resulted in the I-40 bridge being shut down for several hours.
The coalition released the following statement today:
"On this day, the Coalition of Concerned Citizens observed and documented repeated instances of Memphis Police Department officers willfully violating the laws they were sworn to uphold. MPD further aided and abetted the continued violations of citizens’ rights as instructed by Graceland Enterprises security officials.
Never did an official of Graceland or MPD offer a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for not allowing entrance to a public event on a public US Highway. Despite the constant inquiry by Coalition members and other concerned citizens into the grounds and criteria on which citizens, overwhelmingly people of color, were being denied access; the only responses offered were threats of arrest and force.
The Coalition of Concerned Citizens finds the conduct of The City of Memphis, Graceland Enterprises and the Memphis Police Department troubling and reprehensible. The Coalition joins State Representative G.A. Hardaway in seeking a Justice Department investigation into the pattern and practice of the Memphis Police Department. The Coalition of Concerned Citizens holds that the Constitution must be equally applied to every citizen regardless of race, creed, color, religion or sexual identity. The Coalition has overwhelming evidence that this is currently not MPD practice as was demonstrated Monday evening, August 15, 2016.
We cannot stress enough the danger the citizens of Memphis are placed in when law enforcement officials disregard the law. Any time an entity decides to violate the very laws it was created to uphold; the safety of the public is at risk and the public trust in that entity is eroded.
It is the Coalition of Concerned Citizens' observation that the City of Memphis, Memphis Police Department and Graceland Enterprises, collectively and with collaboration chose to ignore and violate the highest law of the land and rights protected under the Civil Rights Act.
Due to the outrageous and egregious conduct of the Memphis Police Department and Graceland Enterprises, the Coalition of Concerned Citizens is pursuing any and all legal and civil means to rectify and remedy this blatant disregard and violation of the Constitution and the rights and dignity of affected citizens."
On Monday afternoon, the city released the following statement by chief legal officer Bruce McMullen: "“We are aware of the statement released by the Coalition of Concerned Citizens and their intentions, however, the city has no comment.”