Dozens protest outside Attorney General’s Memphis meeting

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Dozens of people showed up downtown Thursday to protest Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ visit and meeting with local, state and federal law enforcement officials about the city's crime issue.

Sessions’ supporters were outnumbered by protestors, who argued the attorney general’s policies discriminate against people of color and make crime worse.

The crowd's chants could be heard loud and clear from city hall to the federal courthouse building.

Demonstrators shouted, “Hey hey, ho ho, Jeff Sessions has got to go!” and “The people united will never be defeated!"

Activists from local groups – including the NAACP, the Official Black Lives Matter Memphis Chapter and the Tennessee Young Democrats – spoke out against the attorney general from outside while the attorney general met with city leaders inside.

The hot topic of the day seemed to be Sessions’ tough stance on crime and his desire for more mandatory minimum prison sentences.

"This has proven time and time again as the wrong approach to solving the complex crime issues in our city," said London Lamar, president of the Tennessee Young Democrats.

Protesters argued Sessions' policies discriminate against people of color and actually perpetuate the very crime he's trying to reduce.

"The difference between a good guy with a gun and a bad guy with a gun is one has nothing to lose, and one has everything to lose. People forget that," said protester Felicia Peay. "If you have nothing, you can't find a job, you can't find a way to sustain yourself – just a living wage – then you are more likely to commit a crime."

Instead, demonstrators called on city leaders to invest in education, housing and jobs.

"What is needed is an investment in social services, like education systems, adequate housing and jobs with a livable wage," said Lauren Williams-Batiste with the Official Black Lives Matter Memphis Chapter.

Another bone of contention during Thursday's protest was illegal immigration – an issue demonstrators and Sessions' supporters went head-to-head over.

"I'm not talking about citizens of the United States – I'm talking about illegal aliens that are stealing Memphians' jobs," said Dwight Hargrove.

Memphis NAACP President Deidre Malone admitted she realizes local leaders had a responsibility to meet with Sessions to discuss how to fix the crime issue in the city, but she also wants Mayor Jim Strickland to speak up about Sessions policies.

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