Monday, February 20, 2017

Memphis City Hall 'Through the Looking Glass'

 Did Mayor Lie to Police in Document about Telling People to Keep off his Grass?

Mayor Jim Strickland's Side-Eye: Watching the People Who Are Watching Him
If there were any doubts that the Memphis mayor is still paranoid about non-violent activists he has identified as political enemies, it was only necessary to observe the MPD cruiser parked across from his home. 

For the sake of accuracy, we drove by to confirm there was not a “no trespass” sign posted on Mayor Jim Strickland’s property before we asked:

“Did Mayor Strickland make a false report to police when he claimed 43 people had received a ‘no trespass’ notice to keep off his property?”  Clearly, this list of names was generated by police.  But, that does not excuse Strickland from seeing that some persons on the list he knows to be no threat -- other than political.  

Being a “watchdog” and “watching the watchers” is the duty of the press and citizens, and it’s all elected and appointed officials that bear watching, not just police, in order to have the most just and democratic possible society.

Memphis Through the Looking Glass
However, in the opposite-day world of government in Memphis (and elsewhere), like in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, where clocks run backwards and things seem wildly askew, the mayor and law enforcement are spending massive amounts of taxpayer dollars to police peaceful protests, to illegally spy on citizens and to make lists of political enemies.  The city has called them “potential security risks.”  Local media has called it the mayor’s “black list.”

What we have is those who must be watched are over-watching the watchdogs.

In Memphis, certain activists and puzzled others are on a list of 57 persons whom police say must be escorted when they are in the public space of City Hall.  Forty-three of those are from the mayor’s list, and 14 are from a Memphis Police Department list comprised of persons who took part in an environmental protest on MLK Day Jan. 16. 

Mayor Strickland had tried this last July 28 when a WMC-TV reporter was told he could not move freely about City Hall without being escorted, and he was shown the door by police.  The administration quickly backed off that stance once it made the news.

This is despite the fact that the city and Memphis police department are operating under a 1978 Department of Justice consent decree which forbids political spying, and MPD policy forbids political “intelligence gathering.”     

Making the A-List
In this through-the-looking-glass sort of way, the persons on the political enemies list seem to have one thing in common:  They are trying to make Memphis a better place to live.  They are people the Mayor should be embracing and engaging, not fearing, libeling and spying on. 

Thus, some are calling this list of activists the “A-List.”

None of them seem to have threatened or committed any violent acts toward the mayor or the police or anyone in government.  They have spoken out about social justice issues and acted to uplift young people in Memphis.  Some have publicly criticized the city’s policies, and some have not.

Some have used tactics of non-violent civil disobedience in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated in Memphis.   

The most appalling of those entires on the mayor's list is that of Mary Stewart, whose 19-year-old son Darrius was an unarmed, backseat passenger at a traffic stop when a Memphis officer shot and killed him July 17, 2015.  Mary's sister Teri also made the list.  

Two persons whom Strickland well knows from working on issues as a City Councilman are Bradley Watkins and Paul Garner of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center.  Strickland worked closely with Garner in 2015 in the effort to revive the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board.  And Strickland very well knows who Mary Stewart is.  

Mayor Puts It in Writing
Strickland’s signed statement on an official MPD form is titled, “List of Persons Barred from Premises,” and he attests to police in writing that those 43 persons have received a “no trespass” notice as required by law before police can arrest and charge them with criminal trespass, a Class C misdemeanor.  The “premises” is identified as Strickland’s home at “267 Ridgefield.”  Strickland signed as “property owner,” and dated the document Jan. 4, 2017.  This document is also known as an authorization of agency which authorizes a law enforcement agency to arrest someone.

The point is to authorize police to arrest any of those persons without warning should they show up on Strickland's doorstep, driveway or yard. 

The legal point seemingly is lost on the mayor, who is a lawyer, but not on the police department.

“No one but me has received a notice,” says Keedran ‘Tnt’ Franklin, who live-streamed to Facebook the morning of Dec. 19, 2016, as more than a dozen people took part in a “die-in” on the front lawn of Strickland’s home near Poplar and Highland.
"Die-In" on Mayor's Lawn
Courtesy Keedran Franklin

Franklin, who is involved with the grass roots group Coalition of Concerned Citizens, said that on the night of Dec. 19, four officers came to his house.  He was sure they were going to arrest him.

However, the police understood that before arresting and successfully prosecuting someone for trespassing, there is first the requirement to give notice.

So, there was no arrest, but officers told Franklin:

“Do not go back to 267 Ridgefield again.”

We conducted a survey of several others whom Strickland said had been notified, and we found no one else who had been told to stay off the mayor’s grass.

Trespassing Statute
TCA 39-14-405 states a defense to prosecution for trespassing is if “the person’s conduct did not substantially interfere with the owner’s use of the property,” or, “The person immediately left the property upon request.” 

Thus, notice must be first given before a trespass charge can be prosecuted.  If a property owner “posts the property with signs that are visible at all major points,” that pre-empts the requirement for a personal notice to an alleged offender.  That's why we drove by, to verify the absence of a "no trespassing" sign.

On Dec. 19, those “dying” on the mayor’s lawn did not interfere with the owner’s use of the property, and they were not told to leave.  They left on their own, having used political theater to make a point they had expressed in letters to Strickland and Elvis Presley Enterprises the day before about how persons were treated on Aug. 15 during a candlelight vigil at Graceland and about lack of city effort on problems such as poverty and police relations. 

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
Memphis businesswoman and “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America” member Lorrie Garcia is an unlikely troublemaker or security threat.  However, Garcia made the mayor’s list of trespassers and security risks, Franklin said, because she and others joined the Coalition of Concerned Citizens on Dec. 31, 2016, and bought movie tickets for 63 teenagers. 

“There was a news report about a gang fight going to be at the Malco Majestic, and we found out it was fake,” Franklin said of his New Year’s Eve action #FreeMovieChallenge. 

“We decided as concerned citizens to reshape the paradigm and buy movie tickets for teenagers that night and show them that people are here to uplift you and love you.”

Franklin believes a van parked nearby was taking pictures of him, Garcia and others of the Concerned Citizens Coalition.

Thus, apparently for surprising some teens with free move tickets, Garcia and others landed on Mayor Strickland’s “no trespass” list which police in turn claimed was made up of people who posed a “security risk” at City Hall.

Should anyone disagree with our question about the proper procedure for giving a no-trespass notice, or if we are mistaken somehow that all 43 persons on that list had not received official notice to stay off Strickland’s property, please provide that documentation, and we will publish it.  We are not attorneys and are not giving legal advice.

Massive and Costly Overreaction to Dissent
The city and the police department have demonstrated extreme and costly overreaction to peaceful, public dissent during Strickland's tenure as mayor.  In the wake of nationally viewed killings of unarmed black men last summer, protesters shut down a portion of the Hernando DeSoto Bridge over the Mississippi River.  While that action ended with no arrests, in response, police days later instituted what they called a “Level 3” alert, a show of force which included tactical officers armed and standing outside Kroger’s and Wal-Mart.  Police said it cost them $1.9 million in overtime.

Police made a massive show of force with military equipment at a protest outside of Elvis Presley’s Graceland last August 15 during an annual candlelight vigil, and they arrested several persons — whose charges all were dismissed in court.  Police and Elvis Presley Enterprises officials allegedly blocked black persons from entering Graceland’s grounds at the public event, while allowing white persons free entry.  That is now the subject of a federal lawsuit.

Police have followed persons campaigning for a $15 minimum wage, and on MLK Day Jan. 16 police blocked the Interstate and the public street in front of Valero oil refinery while protesters, including some chained together in concrete-filled barrels, opposed the 440-mile Diamond Oil Pipeline.  

Everyone arrested at those two actions was placed on the A-List, even independent journalist Rachel Gay of Hive Swarm News & Media, who has filmed environmental activists at Standing Rock and elsewhere.  

On Feb. 15, about 30 Shelby County Sheriff Department deputies with zip ties formed a phalanx outside courtrooms where some of those arrested at the Valero action had court dates.  It was another display of overkill as there was no threat whatsoever as only two defendants and about five supporters showed up, and cases were continued until May 2.  

‘We Live in Dangerous Times’
Paul Garner, organizing coordinator at the nonprofit Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, has worked with young Memphians, conducting know-your-rights workshops and providing constructive opportunities for young people in the juvenile justice system.  Garner also made the mayor’s no-trespass and “security risk” list.

Arrested on MLK Day while live-streaming as an observer at the Valero Refinery, Garner’s case was dismissed, and his video shows police came up and grabbed him without saying a word or giving any order or notice.

Garner did show up in solidarity with others who were arrested that day for the Feb. 15 court date at which deputies showed up en masse.

“In my opinion, this is intimidation against activists and organizers who are trying to make this city a better place for everybody that lives here,” Garner said as he viewed the deputies blocking the area between elevators and courtrooms.  “This is absurd when our county and our city wants to spend its money on when people stand up and exercise their rights to free speech.  This is a waste of resources. It’s an unnecessary show of force.

“This reaffirms my determination. This means we are winning.  Means they are afraid,” Garner said.

“I think this will have an unintended opposite effect, that this should embolden people to stand up and protect our rights, because we are not going to be intimidated by harassment or numbers of law enforcement.  

“We are living in dangerous times,” Garner said.  “Dangerous in that our civil rights and rights to speak out are constantly under attack by this presidential administration and clearly by our mayor ‘s administration and by our county.”

On that day, Garner and others had been hearing about a “black list” since early January.  Little did he know at the time that it would show up, with his name on it, two days later.

Link to story on WMC-TV:…
Link to story in The Commercial Appeal:…
Link to 1978 DOJ Consent Decree:
Link to MPD Policy and Procedures Manual DR 138:…
Link to Die-in story:

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