(Memphis) Several downtown blocks will be shut down on Saturday from morning until evening, in preparation for two rallies.
The first will be held by a group called Power to the People, from 11:00a.m. to 1:30p.m.
Their rally is a protest against the Ku Klux Klan, and they will gather on the east side of Third Street.
The second will be held by the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan from 1:30p.m. to 4:00p.m. at 140 Adams St.
Other groups apparently tried to apply for rally permits as well, but MPD Director Toney Armstrong said he could not approve so many rallies in such close vicinity to each other.
Instead, he is allowing all other groups and other members of the public to convene in a contained area, separate from the KKK during their rally.
Armstrong said, “All of those people, mixing gang members, KKK supporters, other factions of KKK” will go through a single entry point and be searched by metal detectors and wands for any weapons. They will all be kept in the area designated for the public.
But because several groups with different interests may be mingling together there, “we’re basically sitting on a powder keg that can go at any time,” he said.
Meanwhile, the KKK group who received a rally permit will be bused into the area. Police personnel will also be arriving by MATA bus.
Armstrong explained that in preparing for large numbers of people, using buses would be better for public safety.
KKK rally organizers have told Armstrong they expect about 80 to 100 people, though Armstrong said he doubts there will be that many.
Rally participants will not be allowed to wear hoods over their heads or carry any weapons.
Several Memphis residents told News Channel 3 they won’t be going to watch what happens.
“Me, myself, I don’t want to protest. I feel like it’ll be safe though, and a lot of citizens say it’s their right to protest,” said Renee Massey.
But with rain in the forecast, and such strict security measures, law enforcement hope people are discouraged from showing up.
“It’s much to do about nothing,” said John Brannon.
Even if something happens, there will be overwhelming police presence. Armstrong said every municipality in the county along with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office will provide personnel or resources.
On top of all these preparations, police have had to investigate threats made in the last two weeks to Director Armstrong and other unnamed African-American officials. While police won’t say who made the threats, extra precautions are in place.
Police will remain fully staffed at all other locations in Memphis as they normally would.