Mayor's office responds to harsh criticism following protests
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - One of the big demands by Black Lives Matters protesters was for Mayor Jim Strickland to appoint Mike Rallings as permanent police director.
People slammed Strickland for not coming out to Sunday's protest, at Monday's town hall meeting, and during Tuesday's pop-up protests for not listening to their calls for help.
"The mayor is not listening to us. You know, so we got to do what we have to do," protester Kenny Lee said.
The mayor is contractually obligated to not give in to the crowd and name Rallings police director. Instead, he said he needs to let the search fire he paid $40,000 to do its job.
Lee, however, said the mayor should step up and take control of the situation.
"Is the mayor going to come out here and march with us today?" Lee asked. "That's what I want to know. Is he going to sit up in his office? Because since he couldn't come last time, I wonder is Jim Strickland gonna come on down today?"
Chief Communications Officer Ursula Madden said the mayor was in meetings all day, but hears the protesters' calls for help.
Madden said it is not his fault he did not hear more concerns at the public forum. She blames the organizers.
"The mayor was there to listen to the concerns of the citizens and the public. And unfortunately, the folks didn't get to speak," Madden said. "Not because we didn't want them to speak, but we were guests there and the panelists on the stage decided those folks didn't deserve the right to talk."
The mayor still plans to address those concerns.
"We said we would answer the questions that were presented on those cards within 30 days, and we plan to do that," Madden said.
She said they have moved up the date of the next meeting to July 19, which she said is just the second part of an ongoing dialogue to improve the lives of Memphis' black community.
She said she thinks that as the mayor has a chance to address more of the questions and concerns directly, people will understand how much he is working to create change.
"I hope the perception changes," Madden said. "This mayor understands some of the issues that are facing people. He wants to understand more, and given the opportunity, he would love to listen."
Some protesters said they just want their voices to be heard.
"We just want to be heard," Mossie Ayers said. "We want to pay our bills, we want to work, and we want to go home safely everyday just like everybody else does."
Some Memphians defended the mayor, saying the protesters' demand for action immediately are misguided.
"Who's going to respond to a thousand questions in one day?" Elicia Bridgefort said. "It's a process, and anybody with an education or got any sense knows it's a process to take and read--and then, because most of them probably ain't dealing with what he's dealing with anyway."
Protesters said they are going to continue protesting and blocking streets until they feel like the mayor and the city council listen and start making changes.
Madden said the question cards from Monday's public forum have not been handed to the mayor to start answering yet.
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