Organizers, Memphis city leaders clash over Union Avenue protests

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The day after hundreds gathered to protest police brutality, shutting down Union Avenue, organizers are clashing with Memphis city leaders on their perspective of how the night was handled. 

Black Lives Matter leaders say it’s not the counter protest that upsets them. It’s how authorities handled the events that followed.           

The protest initially began just as designed: peacefully, responsibly – a show of support for George Floyd, who was killed by Minneapolis Police earlier this week.

“We could do this silently, we could do this respectfully, we could do this by implementing and incorporating CDC guidelines,” said protest organizer Ayo Akinmoladun.

Less than an hour in, counter protesters appeared, allegedly shouting racial slurs and insults. Some claimed they were members of the group “Confederate 901”.

That’s when police got involved, separating the two groups.

Black Lives Matter advocates are most upset with what they call unbalanced treatment, a topic the city views differently.

 “Why is it that police officers police certain groups of people in a more violent, inhumane way?” said Reverend Andre Johnson.

Thursday, Mayor Jim Strickland praised the police department.

“I want to say how proud I am of the Memphis Police Department and those particularly officers who were on the scene last night. I thought they handled themselves very well,” Strickland said.

Organizers, including County Commissioner Tami Sawyer, are calling for action from the city’s top officials.

“They never come and engage with us and say ‘Hey, what’s going on, how can I listen to you?’ And we’ve experience this over and over and over again,” Sawyer said.

“If the narrative continues to be shaped in a way that is detrimental to protesters, then there will be another protest,” Akinmoladun said.

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