Memphians hoping to spark change after a week of protesting

Updated: Jun. 3, 2020 at 5:56 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Demonstrators in Memphis have made it clear they are seeking change against police brutality, racism and changes to policies on a state and local level.

Protesters took to the streets all week after the death of 46-year-old George Floyd who died while in custody of Minneapolis Police.

“All of us need to stand together,” one protester said.

"I think we have to have more discussions, I think we have to have put our money where our mouth is and try and pass some policies to deal with it," said Tennessee Senator Raumesh Akbari of Memphis.

Sen. Akbari says she and other members of the Tennessee Black Caucus have been educating their fellow lawmakers about institutionalized racism and police brutality.

"We're not going to be able to police ourselves out of violence. I certainly think that having better relationships, having use of force reviews and certainly looking at implicit bias within all professions but certainly within the police department - those are all good first steps."

Akbari says many lawmakers and most of the country have been moved by the death of George Floyd.

"We are in a pandemic, the world has been brought to its knees. I think people are more aware than ever what this looks like," Akbari said.

She says policy changes likely won't happen during this session because the legislature is focused on COVID-19 and the state budget, but she hopes lawmakers are listening to protesters and their constituents so that changes can come sooner rather than later.

"As a member of the state assembly you represent everybody in the state not just those in your district," Akbari said.

Locally many activist groups have been eager to sit with local leaders to discuss change and how to move forward.

Memphis Interfaith Coalition for Action and Hope requested to speak with both the city and and county leaders, local law enforcement officials and District Attorney General Amy Weirich to discuss concerns, needs and demands for change.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, County Mayor Lee Harris and Sheriff Floyd Bonner have said they are willing to meet with the group.

WMC Action News 5 reached out to MPD Director Mike Rallings and District Attorney Weirich about the groups request to meet, and have not heard back.

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