MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis Police have roped off Health Sciences Park, Memphis Park and Tom Lee Park downtown in advance of a “ride” planned to protest the removal of two Confederate monuments.
The four streets bordering Health Sciences Park — Union, Manassas, Madison and Dunlap — have been closed.
Confederate 901 organizers say they will going counter-clockwise on the I-240 loop around the city for “at least two, two and a half hours” and end up at the Fillin Station Grille in Southaven, where they will rally.
Police are escorting a few dozen vehicles as they do their ride on I-240.
About two dozen protestors are at the Health Science Park with signs protesting the removal of the Confederate monuments.
— Bridget Chapman (@bridgetchapman_) January 6, 2018
The city of Memphis wrapped up 2017 by hauling off two Confederate monuments, one of KKK founder and Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest and another of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
State law prevented the city from removing the statues, so the city council voted to sell the public parks where those statues were located to a newly developed non-profit called Memphis Greenspace.
Now, city leaders and civil rights leaders are asking you to stay away from downtown Memphis Saturday after a group called Confederate 901 announced they'll be driving through the Bluff City to protest the monuments’ removals.
Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen and Chief Communications Officer Ursula Madden discuss our priorities as we monitor the potential for demonstrations today. pic.twitter.com/heEfRUZilF
— City of Memphis (@CityOfMemphis) January 6, 2018
Confederate 901 organizers have been going live on Facebook all week promising a big turnout.
They sent WREG the following statement.
Organizers of Confederate 901 began this adventure to bring attention to the crimes committed by the city of Memphis on December 20th 2017. We are a group of like-minded individuals that have had enough of the communist agenda of destroying our country‘s history especially southern American history. We originally planned to do a ride only but due to the overwhelming support and people asking to do more than just a ride we entertain the idea of a rally/ protest. Once we got wind that hate groups were going to attend the event uninvited on January 6 we decided to abandon any attempts at a rally or protest due to that info we had received. We refuse to stand with such groups and We absolutely do not promote any violence or hate from any group whatsoever! Confedrate 901 is and has not ever been affiliated or aligned with such groups like the kkk or any neo-nazi or white supremacy but Yet the media still portrays us as a hate group which adamantly deny! Our organizers have and continue to be in contact with African American community leaders in Memphis in hopes of maintaining a peaceful ride and to have dialog. It has been a wonderful opportunity to do such and we look forward on working with them to bring awareness to the corruption the citizens of Memphis deal with on a daily basis. This will be a peaceful ride. Confederate 901 will not be coming to cause any trouble to the citizens of Memphis whatsoever but only focus on our greavences with the Memphis city government. This event has absolutely nothing to do with race, religion, or sexual orientation but only the cornerstone of our constitution “the rule of law”. We encourage anyone that supports American history and the protection there of as well as want to hold the Memphis city government accountable to join us for our ride on the 6th. Once again, we ARE NOT affliated with any groups that promote hate and/or violence whatsoever!!! We promote love and unity and respect for the rule of law and American history, unlike those at the Memphis city hall. When tyranny becomes law Rebellion becomes duty! THE SOUTH SHAL RISE AGAIN! God bless! Sincerely Tommy Saw
The NAACP, civil rights, and church leaders believe otherwise.
They expressed concern at a press conference Friday.
"This rally or caravan is designed to increase the hate rhetoric that has suffocated the American people for too long. Just as in Charlottesville, the purpose of this rally is to entice public engagement in order to use that interaction for the purpose of violence, hate speech and divisiveness," said NAACP Memphis branch president Deidre Malone. "We encourage our citizens to stay away from this group in the downtown area or wherever you may encounter them while they are in our city."
Tami Sawyer with #Takeemdown901, a group who fought to remove the Confederate statues, also stated they will not counter-protest.
"Instead we have called for a day of service. We will be in the community," she said. "Memphians, if this is getting under your skin, get out and show Memphis how you care about it."
Lee Millar with the Sons of the Confederate Soldiers said he also asked members to stay away.
"Don't come to downtown Memphis, don't get involved. Memphis doesn't need any more turmoil," Millar said.
Memphis police told us they are prepared to handle anything that happens.
Here is MPD’s full statement.
The Memphis Police Department is aware of the potential rally that is planned in the downtown area on Saturday, January 6, 2018. We are prepared to maintain peace and secure public safety. We have planned accordingly and are working with our local, state and federal partners to ensure the safety of our citizens and those who commute throughout our great city.
The leadership of the Memphis Police Department respects and welcomes the expression of the First Amendment Rights to all citizens in a law abiding manner. During any demonstration, MPD's lawful obligation is to provide PUBLIC SAFETY for every citizen. MPD will deny the unlawful destruction, looting and damage to all property. MPD will not allow any disruptions in business, school, government and every day function of life and liberty by unruly protesters or unlawful protest.
We are not anticipating any acts of violence and expect everyone to act in a lawful manner; however, all citizens should be aware that there will be a strong presence of police, and traffic delays may be experienced in the downtown area throughout the day on Saturday. In the event that large crowds gather, and it is deemed necessary, some roadways may be closed and traffic diverted.
Stay tuned to local news coverage, the City of Memphis and the Memphis Police Department's social media platforms for up-to-date information.