Civil Rights Group Upset Mayor Canceled Appearance At Forum

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(Memphis) – Two civil rights groups who invited Mayor A C Wharton to talk with the public about the city’s crime problem say they are disappointed. The mayor backed out this week from attending their forum, and they’re not sure they understand why.

The mayor was supposed to attend the Southern Christian Leadership Council and Rainbow PUSH meeting Thursday night, but in a letter to SCLC President Rev. Dwight Montgomery, the mayor wrote he didn’t feel the timing was right this week and canceled his appearance.

The meeting was going to be held at the Annesdale Cherokee Baptist Church.

Stephanie Mann lives across the street from the church and has become accustomed to hearing gunshots at night.

“There were gunshots last night on this very street,” she said. “I heard it last night and I hit the floor and I was like whats going on.”

It’s crimes like that that Rev. Montogomery and residents like Mann were hoping to discuss at Thursday night’s forum.

Montomogery says he was ‘flabergasted’ the mayor canceled.

The mayor’s office said the timing of the event was inappropriate because of the recent shooting death of an officer.

“They feel like somebody would say something negative about police officers and it wouldn’t be appropriate because Officer Lang was killed,” Montgomery said. “Officer Lang would be against police acting inappropriately.”

Montogomery said the focus of the meeting was never intended to be about bad officers, his main concerns are crime, and getting the faith-based community involved in the solution to fighting it.

“If we don’t do something about crime other officers will be killed, other children will be shot like the two-year-old, and other people will be killed like just like the person killed in club Crave. So you can’t talk about something being inappropriate,” he said.

Mann hopes to have her turn with the mayor soon.

“He’s the mayor, we should talk about what should be done,” she said.

So someday she can stop going to sleep to gunfire.

The mayor’s office says that they already are working on several crime programs and have several committees formed.

In a statement to News Channel 3, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff wrote, “The police policy and procedure review team that has been formed was put together partly in response to everyone’s interest in looking at MPD’s efforts to engage the community.  As a part of the police policy review team, Reverend Keith Norman is leading this particular look at community engagement.”