'Black Lives Matter' issues 4 demands of city leadership

Protesters make 4 demands for Memphis officials.
Published: Jul. 11, 2016 at 4:58 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 12, 2016 at 10:01 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Organizers hope a town hall meeting held Monday will help usher in change to Memphis.

At 4 p.m., a committee of civic and faith-based leaders gathered on a panel with Mayor Jim Strickland and Interim Police Director Mike Rallings. The meeting was held at Greater Imani Church located at 3824 Austin Peay Highway.

At the town hall meeting, "Black Lives Matter" supporters issued four demands. They say those demands have been well-researched and should be a catalyst to improve Memphis.

The four demands are:

  1. The immediate, official hiring of Michael Rallings as police director.
  2. Investigation into why only three percent of the $500 million spent in public funds goes to African-American businesses.
  3. More funding for crime prevention technology and youth empowerment. Give young people places to congregate after several community centers recently closed.
  4. Increase cultural sensitivity training for officers.

Mayor Strickland was given a chance to respond to these three demands. He faced criticism when he said he would not name Rallings as police director today.

"With respect to the police director [job], that decision will not be made tonight," Strickland said, "But, I've been impressed with Mike Rallings for years back when I was on city council. I asked him to be the interim director and I asked him to apply for the job and last night, I think we saw why I asked him to do that. The process is almost completed. I hear what you're saying, but that decision will not be made tonight."

Despite this, the crowd continued to shower Rallings with praise for his actions Sunday night.

"I wanna say this, because I want the police here to know that I am so proud of you," Rev. Radontae Ashford said. "You have became an example for the world of how you can deescalate a situation concerning black lives. You have proved on yesterday that black lives do matter. There was not one arrest. No one sprayed any pepper spray, nobody pulled out a billy club. You have shown that you can deescalate a situation when it comes to black lives. And Director Rallings, I want you to know, I'm letting you know that we are proud of you for locking arms with us. And you walked four to five miles with us. And you prayed with us and I want you to know that we really appreciate you. We honor you."

However, Rallings told the crowd that Mayor Strickland offered him the director position five times earlier this year, and he declined.

"I doubt anyone you have that applied for the job is able to do what this man did last night," Rev. William Adkins said.

Minister Devante Hill said he is concerned about the quality of life for children in the community.

"Our children are at stake and our babies are dying because their basketball goals are falling apart," Minister Devante Hill said. "Their swimming pools are rusted. And their playgrounds are no more. There are more vacant buildings in this city than playgrounds, so let's take some of those buildings and do something with it."

Strickland responded by adding that he and his team have added new youth programs.

"We have more programming for our youth and our community centers and our libraries than we did last summer. We have 24 community centers, we have a pilot program where we have brought literacy training into our community centers, seven of them for the first time. We've contracted with Literacy Mid-South to give the tutoring needed in those seven community centers. We've got summer camps going on, free swimming lessons, our libraries have more programming, I don't know, twice as much programming or so as we did last summer. The challenge is we've got to carry that forward."

Hill also wants officers to be trained to deal with all cultures.

"The only way to make your officers safer, the only way to make your officers safer, is to teach them about the people that they're policing," Hill said. "That's why it's important to have a leader who is abreast about the community, who knows the different sides of the community. And this meeting is to make sure they're safe and they can go to their families at night and make sure we're not in fear when we come into contact with them.

The organizers of the meeting said the goal of this event was to explore options to improve relationships between the community and police officers, ensure equal protection under the law, and locate resources and programming to positively impact the African-American community.

"We have been asking for this meeting for months," Dr. Earle Fisher said.

The event brought thousands to the church and left hundreds more to watch from the parking lot.

Latisha Clark, who said she was a victim of police brutality after officers reportedly slammed her arm in the door, made it to the meeting.

"I was a victim. What are you going to do about it?" Clark asked. "It makes me more cautious dealing with the police officers. I used to feel like hey, they are here to protect and serve."

Supporters hope their demands are met, but are prepared to protest once again if they are now.

"If they don't meet any of them demands, they are going to have a bigger protest than they can imagine," Frank Gotti said.

Some at the meeting left angry, saying their voices were muted. However, Strickland made a promise to answer all questions raised at the meeting.

Organizers set a 30 day timeline for Strickland to post his response to all questions on social media.

This was just the first of a series of meetings. Another town hall will be held July 21 at 6 p.m. at Greater Community Temple.

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