MEMPHIS, Tenn– July 10, 2016. For many, it’s remembered as the day protesters shut down the Interstate 40 bridge at Memphis bringing traffic to a standstill for hours.
Activist and organizer Devante Hill stood on the Hernando Desoto Bridge that night.
“It’s definitely a night we’ll all remember. It’ll be hard for us to forget without a doubt probably one of the most momentous nights of that our city has seen since the 60s. It’s a night that changed my life, a night that changed the city leadership’s life,” Hill said.
Protesters were supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement and denouncing the police killings of black men and women nationwide.
“An awakening definitely happen, a sense of awareness. A spark was lit, a flame was lit under city leaders, community activists. It created an initiative for everybody to get out and do something,” Hill said.
Mayor Jim Strickland vividly remembers that night.
“Last year was a surprise that they went up on the bridge. Any effort now would not be a surprise that’s the difference I see,” Strickland said.
The night was filled with tension, but many say police director Michael Rallings eased some of it as he walked almost two miles to get protesters safely off the bridge without arrests and injuries.
“The idea for director Rallings to come out was to create a bond, the initial bond between law enforcement and the community,” Hill said.
Since last year, activists they have met with city leaders discussing issues such as body cameras for officers and better community relations, but has anything really changed?
“Personally the protest had no effect on what we are doing if you look at what they requested after the bridge protest, it was more programming for young people, higher minority spending from the city and cultural and sensitivity training for the police…but we were already doing all that,” Strickland said.
“Some of the efforts on behalf of MPD since then, some of them have not been as proactive to that effort as it could have been. on the other hand, their have been efforts MPD have partnered on that have been proactive, but we’re like a family. We’re not going to agree on everything” Hill said.
Sill, organizers say their protest captured the attention of the city in hopes of making it better.