City hall 'blacklist' a source of contention at Tuesday council meeting

Protesters and city council members demand answers on 'blacklist'
Published: Feb. 21, 2017 at 2:33 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 21, 2017 at 9:37 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Memphis police director Mike Rallings is emphasizing public safety and reiterating that nobody has been banned from city hall in light of the recent controversial 'blacklist' becoming public.

Monday night, Rallings admitted that some names were put on the list by mistake. He did not, however, say how the names were chosen.

"We will continue to review the list," Rallings said. "It's a work in progress, and we admit there are some errors on the list. We are going to do everything we can to make sure those are corrected."

The list includes roughly 80 people who are not allowed inside city hall without an escort.

The American Civil Liberties Union confirmed it is investigating the list. They released the following statement:

Thank you for your inquiry to ACLU-TN regarding the list of people requiring police escorts at Memphis City Hall. The ACLU of Tennessee is currently investigating this situation.

Some city council members said they understand having a security list, but are not OK with not knowing how people ended up on it, and not even knowing about the list in the first place.

Public Safety Committee chairman Worth Morgan delivered a message to police in Tuesday's council meeting.

"I think it would be our preference to hear about it from y'all and from the administration rather than via third party or media sources," Morgan said.

One issue some have is names added after a protest at Mayor Jim Strickland's home.

Some people on that list said they were not at the mayor's home, and they feel they were targeted because they are political activists.

"The question is that these people haven't been able to have a discussion with MPD of why they were placed on," Morgan said.

Monday, Rallings denied that the list targeted activists.

"This is not a politically motivated stance. Again, these precautionary measures have been in place for many years. Let me be clear, escorted individuals are not banned from entering the building," Rallings said.

While MPD said they are reviewing the list, Rallings would not say whether the list is still being enforced.

Activist Fergus Nolan is on the list, and he said he was able to walk into Tuesday's council committee room without an escort.

Tuesday night, protesters gathered outside city hall, holding signs that said "Why does this list exist?" and "Who will watch the watchers?" as dozens of people concerned about the list demanded answers.

"I had no idea I was on it, and I have no reason to be on it," Hunter Dempster said.

Morgan said he wants more transparence.

"It would be our preference to hear about it from you and from the administration directly rather than be a 3rd party via media sources," Morgan said.

He also wants to know more about the guidelines for the list.

"I want to see where the line is drawn. So what exactly gets you on the list, what keeps you off the list," he said.

That is something Dempster agrees on.

"I want an explanation on why this list exist and how they came up with those names," he said.

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