Thursday, October 5, 2017

Did Memphis Arrest People for 'Engaging in Public Protest?'

Police Move in to Arrest Citizens who Oppose Confederate Statues in City Parks
Memphis city attorney Bruce McMullen's statement that officers did not arrest citizens for protesting but for "violating the law" at a Confederate statue protest raised eyebrows when he made the remark and has raised the hackles of those who were arrested Aug. 19.

After citizens sought to place a "Black Lives Matter" banner around the horse's feet on the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue in Health Sciences Park, police arrested seven persons.  Five were charged with "disorderly conduct" and two with "obstruction of a highway/passageway."  Those are typical "catch-all" charges officers use when no more specific violations have occurred.

At a panel discussing removal of this and one other Confederate statue in public parks in Memphis, McMullen, the city's chief legal officer, stated:

"I don't think the city has ever arrested anybody for engaging in public protest.  People that were arrested were arrested for violating the law."

Which begs the question: What law?

Four of those cases have been dismissed in court -- two for "defective warrants," which in legalistic terms means the arresting officer made an error on his affidavit. It may be something simple, such as the wrong date or address was written down. In these cases, however, the flaw was more fundamental. The affidavits did not describe any behavior on the part of the citizen that was a basis for the charge.  The remaining three cases are awaiting preliminary hearings.

Besides officers and command staff from the Memphis Department of Police Services, also present and participating in arrests were officers from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center Campus Police and Parking Services. An officer who swore to two charging affidavits stated: "An unlawful protest was underway." 

Those are two of the cases still pending.

Some of those arrested have posted on Facebook, asking the city to explain what laws were violated. That's a good question which deserves a good answer, doesn't it?

Officers take Scott Prather to the ground after he walked away from the NBF monument Aug. 19
Prather's charge of "disorderly conduct" was dismissed in court

Below is a video clip that includes McMullen's remarks on that panel, held Oct. 3, 2017, at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.  Other videos and stories from Citizens Media Resource, Daily Kos and Who Will Watch the Watchers? are linked at the bottom.

Slow Road or Rad Road for Memphis to Remove Confederate Idols?

Memphis is Latest Battlefield at Crossroads of Rebel Statue Removal

Nathan Bedford Forrest Monument is about Domination, not History

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