Memphians donate thousands of dollars to city after state rebuke

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It’s not often that people volunteer to donate money to their local government, but people in Memphis are doing just that.

After lawmakers in Nashville withheld $250,000 in state funding from Memphis because of a dispute over Confederate statues Tuesday, Memphians began stepping up to fill the gap through the online crowdfunding platform, GoFundMe.

The donations began rolling in around midnight Tuesday, mostly in increments of $10-50.

By 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, the total had surpassed $25,000 from nearly 800 donors.

Brittney Block of Memphis, who founded the GoFundMe account, said the money would be donated to the city in a restricted grant to be used for Memphis’ 200th anniversary celebration in 2019.

“Our city should not be punished by the legislature for making decisions in the best interest of its community and citizens,” she said.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland praised her effort, telling Block, “we love your initiative and we love every single Memphian who has shown support!”

Late last year, after months of debate with state officials, the city of Memphis conveyed two city parks to a private nonprofit entity which removed three controversial Confederate monuments from the parks and put them in storage. The state comptroller ruled that the city was within its legal authority to do so.

But, the move prompted backlash from East and Middle Tennessee Republicans in the Tennessee General Assembly. Earlier this month, a bill was revived that would charge local elected officials with a felony for removing Confederate monuments.

Tuesday, the House passed a budget amendment that stripped $250,000 from Memphis, and several Republicans said it was retaliation for Memphis’ removal of the Confederate statues.

“Today is a demonstration that bad actions have bad consequences, and my only regret about this is it’s not in the tune of millions of dollars,” Rep. Andy Holt, of Dresden, said of the punishment.

Memphis lawmakers said the amendment set a bad precedent.

“We should all be worried by the action of Republicans in control of the Tennessee House, as this sets up a dangerous precedent,” state Sen. Lee Harris of Memphis said. “It means that local elected officials can be punished for lawful decisions that end up rubbing powerful elected officials in Nashville the wrong way.”

WREG will have more on the ongoing controversy at 5 p.m.