MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A group of frustrated Memphians demonstrated Wednesday in support of justice for George Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained on the ground by Minnesota police while saying he couldn’t breathe.
The protest in Memphis was in front of the Midtown police precinct, and police shut down a portion of Union Avenue during the protest.
It started around 7:30 p.m. when 20-30 people began a silent protest in reaction to the death of Floyd. They were lined up along Union until a small group of counter-protesters showed up across the street.
The night became contentious with both sides yelling at each other as tensions rose. Police stepped in, shutting down Union and allowing both sides to protest without coming in contact with the other.
Officers took three of the demonstrators, Laura Mason, Dominic Vietti, Joangela Sigala and Tony Liggins, into custody and charged them with obstruction of a highway. Vietti was also charged with inciting a riot while Sigala and Liggins face disorderly conduct charges.
Another woman, Katherine Pace, allegedly hit an officer in the back of the neck during the protest. She was charged with assault.
Chief Sam Hines with the Memphis Police Department stepped forward to address the crowd, saying “We’ve had about five or six homicides over the Memorial Day weekend. Is anybody excited about stopping those? Is anybody excited about protesting against those individuals, those victims, those fathers, those sons and brothers that were killed?”
Thursday morning, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland released a statement on behalf of himself and Police director Michael Rallings on the protests:
I understand and share your frustration with what happened in Minneapolis and other parts of the country. Police Director, Mike Rallings shares your frustration, and so do all the true police officers—men and women who put on the uniform every day to protect and serve.
All cities and police departments have a responsibility to protect citizens from harm and to fight crime.
But all of us—city governments, police departments, and the public—should expect police to protect and serve in a way that is responsible.
It’s right and understandable for people to express their frustration through peaceful protest; however, I wish last night’s protesters would have all had on masks, been six feet apart, and gone through the proper channels to ensure everyone’s safety. By not doing so, protesters and our officers were unnecessarily put at risk.
I’m proud of the Memphis Police Department and the way our officers conducted themselves last night.Mayor Jim Strickland
President Donald Trump called for an expedited investigation into Floyd’s death. In wake of the video of Floyd’s arrest surfacing on social media, many people have called for the arrest of the officers involved.
The four Minneapolis police officers involved have been fired from the department.