Monday, August 28, 2017

Shiloh Won't Take Confederate Statues off Memphis' Hands, Park Head Says

Don’t look for Shiloh National Military Park to accept the statues of Nathan Bedford Forrest or Jefferson Davis, despite that suggestion in a Commercial Appeal editorial and that option being entertained by some on Memphis City Council.
Angel cradling a solider is the type of monument
found at Shiloh, not generals on horses
“I do not believe there are any monuments in Memphis that would meet our design standard,” said Shiloh park superintendent Dale Wilkerson.  “The National Park Service has a fairly well-prescribed standard and process for monuments in parks.  All monuments related to the battle of Shiloh have to meet the design standard for this park.” 

Wilkerson said no one has approached the park about moving the Memphis statues there.

Before he was promoted to brigadier general, Forrest had command of a Confederate rear guard after the Union victory. He was reported to be the last man shot at Shiloh. A bronze statue of Forrest, who became a general before the war was over, mounted on his horse and a monument to Jefferson Davis in Memphis have been the subject of efforts to remove them from public spaces.

The city of Memphis cannot seem to get out of its own way on what to do about the statues, and to underscore the city’s level of disarray, earlier today the city put metal barricades around the statue – then took them down!
Memphis put up metal barricades, then took them down

See our earlier story in dailykos, which includes “Arrests and Aftermath..,” a video of police grabbing citizens at the statue on Aug. 19.

“The battle of Shiloh was a soldier’s war, not a general’s war,” Wilkerson said.  “There are markers that say this or that general was here, but there are no monuments to generals and no monuments of men mounted on horses.

“Generals can make a plan, but once the battle started, many of the men found themselves in forests with thick smoke, and they were disconnected from their commanders.  They had to prosecute the battle on their own and determine how to proceed,” Wilkerson said. 

“All artwork at Shiloh is an allegorical piece of art that’s meant to tell a story.  For instance, the Wisconsin monument is an angel cradling a dying soldier.  There is no monument or artwork of any particular person.”

Only Congress can establish a national park, Wilkerson explained, and “we look to our enabling legislation which prescribes the design of the park.  We have to ask, What was Congress’ intent?  Our enabling legislation says that states involved in the battle can place monuments.  There were 19 states involved, and 16 have placed monuments. Conversely, a state such as Virginia cannot place a monument here, because no soldiers from Virginia were involved in the battle.”

Shiloh was one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.  About 110,000 men fought over two days, April 6-7, 1862, and there were 23,746 casualties.

“That was more casualties than every previous American war combined, including the Revolutionary War,” Wilkerson said.  “It was one of the first large-scale tragedies of the Civil War.”

The park was established in 1894, and many veterans of that battle gave input to the park service.

‘Many veterans thought of it as a soldier’s battle, not a general’s battle,” Wilkerson said. 

The city of Memphis is awkwardly struggling with its two Confederate monuments, Forrest in Health Sciences Park and former Confederate President Davis in Mississippi River Park downtown.  While Mayor Jim Strickland has said he wants the monuments gone, even referring to it as “our drive,” he says he is hamstrung by a law which requires the Tennessee Historical Commission to give the city permission.  The commission rejected the city’s request last year, although City Council voted in 2015 to remove Forrest. 

Strickland had something of a media hissy fit last weekend after police arrested seven persons who were at Forrest's statue as some persons tried to put a “Black Lives Matter” banner around the feet of Forrest’s horse, King Phillip.  Strickland called the Commercial Appeal’s reporting of the arrests and protests “divisive,” although Strickland’s public defensiveness and media meltdown were more divisive and more telling than any newspaper story. 

Strickland made a point to say that he was a long-time member of the NAACP, and he was chided on social media as his credentials claim sounded to some like the equivalent of, “I have black friends.”

While Strickland has the highest-paid PR staff of any elected official in Tennessee, somehow they did not rein in Strickland from his Trump-like outburst.

The national Confederate statuary controversy was stoked Aug. 12 when a neo-Nazi drove his car at a high rate of speed into persons who were counter-protesting a large action on the part of so-called “alt-right,” white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Heather Heyer was killed when struck by the car, and 19 or more persons were hurt.  Forrest was the first Grand Wizard of the Klan, and he sold slaves at his “Negro Mart” in downtown Memphis.

While the city of Memphis is dithering around and wringing its hands, like it does not know which end is up, to jump-start the removal of the statues may require a willing buyer to step up, or an auction.  To assist the city and to help mend the divide between government and the community, Citizens Media Resource is forming an entity for the purpose of brokering the sale of the Confederate statues to private buyers, such as a museum or for part of an individual’s collection. 

In fact, look for us later as Statuary Clearinghouse, Auction and Brokerage (SCAB) as a liaison to discreetly field prospective buyers and facilitate a sale from the city.  I know, that sounds a bit tongue-in-cheek, which is our typical style – but we are dead-dog serious about this approach.  It would help the city tremendously if they could say, Hey, we got us a buyer, and here’s who it is.  That would pull the process along, instead of the city being left to embarrassingly flounder.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Behind-the-Scenes Help Gets a Nod for all those Talks about Law Enforcement

In the process of making a film, there are people who help in small or large ways but who have no paid or official roles.  That's why you see "Thanks To" or "Special Thanks" credits.  Not that everybody who deserves a "thanks" gets one!
Anne Kirkpatrick is sworn in
as Oakland chief March 1, 2017

Memphis native and now Oakland police chief Anne Kirkpatrick consulted with us while we were making the feature doc, Who Will Watch the Watchers?  We talked in spring 2016 about the city of Memphis search for a new police chief, and Kirkpatrick was interested in the job.  She was friendly, open and generous with her time, even if I called her too late at night for someone who was in the Eastern time zone -- not Pacific as I had expected -- and had to get up early the next morning to do her job training police chiefs for the the FBI.  

Kirkpatrick worked for the FBI, traveling to train command staff in U.S. cities, including Memphis, when the top cop job came open.  We talked about police practices, her philosophy and goals, and broader things that helped me shape a director's perspective while researching a film.  She enlisted me to keep her up to date on Memphis news related to the search. 

Kirkpatrick had been one of only two national candidates to be recommended to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel after a $500,000 search by the Chicago Police Board in 2015-2016. This followed the firing of CPD superintendent Gary McCarthy in the wake of the LaQuan McDonald killing by a Chicago officer.  Despite the costly, national search and the strong recommendations for Kirkpatrick and Dr. Cedric Alexander, who at the time was public safety director for DeKalb County, Georgia, Emanuel rejected the board's report and hired from within the existing Chicago department. But, he told Kirkpatrick at the time that he had a special role in mind for her.  

In June 2016 Kirkpatrick was named to head the Chicago's new Bureau of Professional Standards with the onerous task of cleaning up CPD and going beyond reform to "change hearts and minds," she said.  In January, Kirkpatrick left CPD to become chief of police in Oakland.  Many current and former Memphis police department police directors and deputy directors know Kirkpatrick, mostly from her sessions training them in Memphis.  Kirkpatrick told us she thought highly of the Memphis command staff, and the feeling was mutual, according to those she trained.  

When it came time for Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland to appoint a new director of police services, he hired Michael Rallings from within.  Mayors presumably are under much pressure to do that.  Nonetheless, Strickland had made a big deal out of the city conducting a "national search" for a new top cop to replace Toney Armstrong.  They hired the International Association of Chiefs of Police to recruit for the position, although there was a mysterious gap between the time Strickland announced the search in January, 2016, and when it officially was authorized in May, 2016.  The city said they spent $40,000 or so for the search fee and perhaps about that much more in time and expenses interviewing, lodging and entertaining candidates and meeting with the search entity.  

The city went through the charade of bringing four national candidates into Memphis -- for interviews, ribs at Rendezvous and an intro to the city -- even after Interim Director Rallings had already been annointed as the presumed heir to the position after his role in the Hernando DeSoto Bridge shutdown July 10, 2016. Perhaps Strickland thought he could have a learning experience that he could bank for the future by playing out this "national search."  

The mayor has not revealed to us any of his thought processes, however, nor has he ever responded to our interview requests. (MPD at least called us back and said officially "...we decline to participate" but wished us well.) 

The only time we got a call back from Strickland's PR team was after we talked to people at the International Chiefs of Police and they alerted Ursula Madden that we were asking questions. Madden called me in what I would describe as something of a frenzy.  We wrote a story and sent a link to Richard Ransom, then anchor at Channel 3.  Ransom did a "cop search" story every night that week, then got Strickland on the "Informed Sources" show for that weekend.  Within days of our calling out the city for foot-dragging and by late Friday afternoon, suddenly the search was up and running.  

At no time did the search firm contact Kirkpatrick.  Why not?  Let's underscore this.  The police search group did not contact a Memphis native and top-rated national candidate who trained existing Memphis police chiefs and command staff.  She was good enough to train us but not be one of us?

Nor did they contact Alexander, who was actually offered the CPD chief job by Emanuel -- who then reneged under pressure by Chicago aldermen.  At some point, we wrote an analysis about the Memphis cop search. Jerome Wright, then editorial page editor at The Commercial Appeal, contacted us about using it for their Sunday Viewpoint section. I realize that these types of pieces often are written by advocates or experts inside an industry or profession, who are pushing an agenda; but sometimes they are written by AP or actual journalists. For some reason, I had this idea I might be knocking a journalist out of money -- I was just writing as a journalist, not an "expert" on anything or someone pushing a position -- so I inquired if there were any compensation for the piece. Just asked. Unsurprisingly, that's the last I heard of it. 

We also talked with Alexander during this time, including about police practices and philosophical issues. Alexander had been a member of President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, and he wrote a book, The New Guardians: Policing in American Communities for the 21st Century. The President's Task Force made the point that officers should be guardians, not warriors.  

Alexander asked us to spend some time in Georgia, where we would have unlimited access to his department, he said, and make a documentary which he thought would be a good fit for CNN -- for whom he was a frequent law enforcement consultant.  We did not follow up on that offer, but we appreciated the thought.  Although Kirkpatrick and Alexander did not know it, those conversations helped as we made Who Will Watch the Watchers?  And we are thankful.