Rallings praised for handling of BLM protest; Strickland criticized

Rallings praised for handling of BLM protest; Strickland criticized
Published: Jul. 11, 2016 at 10:09 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 11, 2016 at 10:36 PM CDT
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(Source: Austin McAfee / WMC Action News 5)
(Source: Austin McAfee / WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Many Memphians praised Interim Police Director Mike Rallings' handling of Sunday night's "Black Lives Matter" protest, but many of those same people believe Mayor Jim Strickland should have done more to lead the city.

Rallings and two other officers locked arms with protesters and stood tall as they marched down Memphis streets.

No arrests or injuries were reported during the protest, which lasted until about midnight.

"Memphis set an example for the world of who we are and how we stand in times like these," Mayor Strickland said. "I have the absolute highest praise for Michael Rallings. The highest praise for the Memphis Police Department, who put in many hours in a tough situation and kept the peace and resolution came in a calm manner."

"This is something that we can take a moment to appreciate. I take this as a beginning of an ongoing dialogue that I will continue with the citizens of Memphis who feels their voices have not been heard. I want those citizens to know, I hear you," Director Rallings said during a Monday morning news conference.

The "Black Lives Matter" protest started at FedExForum, then continued through Downtown Memphis before it took a turn when participants walked up to the Interstate 40 bridge towards Arkansas.

"You are our police chief. You have demonstrated your commitment and love for the city," a protester told Rallings.

Back at FedExForum, Rallings and protesters clung to a pastor, praying for change and making an agreement to come together Monday to discuss what can be done.

"We want peace in the city, but I want to hear what these young people have to say," Rallings said.

Moments later, protesters made their way back to the bridge and were met with Shelby County Sheriff's Office deputies in full riot gear.

However, no violence occurred.

"Our leaders are going to have to come forward," Rallings said. "I'm showing I'm not scared. OK, I came from church. So, I got the armor of God. I took off my body armor. I have the armor of God. I'm not scared of my people."

Meanwhile, many protesters wondered where Mayor Jim Strickland was during the protest.

Strickland issued a statement about the protest through social media, and he did phone interviews with local media. Strickland said Rallings asked him to stay away from the protest, for safety reasons.

"Director Rallings did not want me out on the street. I was downtown. I was in City Hall, and I was in constant communication with the Memphis Police Department."

Rallings said he had his hands full at the protest and he did not want to have to worry about Strickland's safety.

"That's a very dangerous situation. And I know, you know, there are always naysayers," Rallings said.

Still, Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams said Strickland should have found another way to step up and lead.

"I look at a lot of these other cities, and the mayor and the director are hand-in-hand," Williams said.

Rallings ended Monday morning's news conference with a challenge for the city.

"I think we have to show restraint. We can easily resort to violence, so I'm asking our city to be less violent. We have to set the example," he said. "I'm going to ask everyone, if you know someone, I want you to talk to those individuals and ask for 30 days of no killing. Senseless killing."

Copyright 2016 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.