Friday, February 17, 2017

Paranoia at City Hall as Mayor Posts "Black List" Limiting Free Movement of Political Opponents

Sergeant-at-Arms gives Fergus Nolan "the eye" at Jan. 17 City Council meeting as Nolan signs up to speak
Moore Media Images/Gary Moore
In the Trump era, are politicians and police becoming emboldened at cracking down on the First Amendment and those who criticize their policies?  

In Memphis, it seems so. 

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and the Memphis police have published a “black list” of political opponents who are not free to move about public spaces in the city.

The list of more than 80 persons includes political activists and persons who have spoken out about public policy or issues involving city government. Many of them do good works in the community with young people, hourly workers, homeless citizens and environmental issues.  Others appear on the list for no clear reason.  

We are calling it the “A-List.”

The list even includes Mary Stewart, whose 19-year-old son was killed by police in 2015.  Also on the list: a preacher who married a gay couple; leaders of a peace and justice non-profit; Black Lives Matter proponents; persons who have been arrested for filming and observing the police; an independent journalist, and environmental activists.  

This, while the city and the Memphis Police Department are operating under a 1978 Department of Justice consent decree against political spying.  MPD also has a policy against gathering “political intelligence,” and it has a policy against stopping people from filming the police and “express(ing) criticism” of police.  

In a statement, the mayor's spokesperson said the list includes persons who pose a “potential security risk” and who must be escorted by police when they are in City Hall.  However, there is no indication that any of the politically targeted persons has ever committed, been arrested for or proposed any violent acts, nor does the city make any such assertion of a threat of violence. 

Those named on the list are weighing their legal options.  

Link to 1978 DOJ Consent Decree:
Link to MPD Policy and Procedures Manual DR 138:…

Memphian Fergus Nolan, who was arrested for filming a police vehicle May 30, 2016, while he and others were supporting a greenspace action in Overton Park, discovered the A-List when police pulled him out of a City Council meeting on Feb. 7.  MPD Lt. Albert Bonner looked in a binder and told Nolan he must be escorted by police whenever he set foot in City Hall.  

On his way into the Jan. 17, 2017, City Council meeting, police chief Michael Rallings had greeted Nolan by name.  During the meeting, Nolan made a public comment about the Overton Park Greensward, which caused council chairman Berlin Boyd to summon the Sergeant-at-Arms and tell the officer to keep his eye on Nolan. Charges against Nolan from the May 30 arrest were dismissed without costs, and his record was expunged.  

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 July, 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 that included tactical officers heavily 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 at a protest outside of Elvis Presley’s Graceland last August 15 during an annual candlelight vigil attended by tourists from around the world, 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 an Interstate ramp and the public street in front of the Valero oil refinery while protesters, including some chained together in concrete-filled barrels, opposed the 440-mile Diamond Oil Pipeline.  

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

Between 20-30 Shelby County Sheriff Department deputies with zip ties formed a phalanx Feb. 15 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.  

Forty-three persons were named in four pages headed, “Listing of persons barred from premises,” and identifying the premises as Strickland’s personal residence at “267 Ridgefield.”  The document also says those on the list have been “ordered to stay off the described property,” although we have talked to several persons on the list, and no one says he or she has received any such notice.

Strickland himself signed that list on Jan. 4, 2017, after protesters had held a “die-in” on his front yard Dec. 19, 2016.  However, most of those making the “A-List” did not take part in the “die-in.”

The most appalling entry on the mayor’s list is that of Mary Stewart, mother of 19-year-old Darrius Stewart, an unarmed, back-seat passenger who was killed by a Memphis officer after a traffic stop July 17, 2015.  Stewart’s sister Terry also made the list.

“I have never been to the mayor’s house.  I don’t even know where he lives,” said Stewart. 

In another section of the black list, police on Jan. 17 named 14 persons who were either observing or protesting at the Valero refinery on MLK Day Jan. 16. 

The list also includes 27 persons who are marked as “former employee,” or “harassment” and so forth. 

The city’s targeting of non-violent dissenters reveals a bizarre paranoia on the part of the mayor and police chief and exposes the city to a possible class-action civil rights lawsuit based on First (free speech), Fourth (unreasonable seizures) and Fifth Amendment (due process) protections.  

In October the Department of Justice announced it would conduct a "collaborative review" with the Memphis Police Department to assess practices and policies and make recommendations.  The DOJ's George Fachner, who leads the Memphis project, is putting together a report outlining the scope of the MPD assessment.  We have been in contact with the DOJ and will publish the DOJ's report as soon as it is available.  

Activists in Memphis had been hearing of such a “black list” since early January.  After Nolan was stopped at City Hall on Feb. 7, he felt convinced that the list existed, and he began speaking to local media and posting to Facebook and a website.

When Nolan attended a Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board meeting on Feb. 9, there were no issues upon his entering City Hall, and the lone officer in the entry lobby said he did not have a list.  Fox 13 reporter Annette Peagler was following the story, and she got this reply from MPD spokeswoman Lt. Karen Rudolph:

“City Hall is a municipal public building; however, peace and safety for all citizens and city employees who are within City Hall is paramount. Like with all government facilities, security measures are in place. There are individuals who require an escort within City Hall, i.e. disgruntled employees who may have been terminated, individuals who have been named on an authorization of agency and individuals who are subject to orders of protection.”

An “authorization of agency” presumably refers to either the posting of a “No Trespassing” sign or a prior “no trespass” notice issued by police, a property owner or someone authorized by the property owner.  Strickland had loudly complained on local TV news after the “die-in” about trespassers on his yard.  However, per case law and statute, merely entering another’s property does not constitute trespassing.  For a trespass to occur legalistically, the offender must have been given notice to leave or not return, and then he or she does return with intent to do harm.  (We are not attorneys and not giving legal advice.)  Thus, a trespass notice sets up police to arrest anyone who later returns or who enters a property where “no trespassing” is posted. 

Reporters who spoke with Nolan on Friday Feb. 17 had obtained the list from open records requests.  Mayor Strickland’s spokeswoman Ursula Madden provided this statement:

“City Hall is open to the public, but peace and safety for all citizens and city employees in this building is important. Like all government buildings, there are security measures in place at City Hall. People who require an escort may include disgruntled employees who have been fired, people named on an authorization of agency, and individuals who are subject to orders of protection. It is the professional assessment of the Memphis Police Department’s Homeland Security Bureau that individuals on the list pose a potential security risk. It’s important to note that these individuals have not been banned from City Hall. They simply require an escort. The Memphis Police Department maintains this list, and is responsible for providing security at City Hall.” 

In reviewing the names on this list, this black list or A-List, we count about 15 persons with whom we are personally acquainted, through producing films to reporting on issues.  Without exception, we can say that each and every one is working to have a better city and a better world.  That makes it an A-List.  But, if that makes anyone an enemy of the mayor or police, it is those elected and appointed officials, not the people, who need to be shown the way out of City Hall.  

Links to stories from local media:…/mpd-releases-list-of-those-……/memphis-city-…/98067844/4/

Who Will Watch the Watchers? YouTube channel

This story also appears on Daily Kos.

No comments:

Post a Comment