Racial profiling questions raised at Elvis Candlelight Vigil

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.
Data pix.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- "We cannot let this go on without at least making a request for some answers," said Tennessee State Senator Lee Harris.

He and Representative G.A. Hardaway braved the rain as they stood just feet from the grounds of Elvis Presley's Graceland to get their point across.

"No business open to public and no government space can filter, even in part, on the basis of race," said Harris.

They want to know if one of Memphis' most popular attractions, the annual candlelight vigil honoring Elvis, was profiling who to let in and who to keep out.

Tensions were high Monday night as the vigil got underway and protestors who had planned to rally at the vigil were kept behind barricades.

Elaine Blanchard, a protestor, said she easily got through.

"A Graceland security guard came over and lifted my hand and helped me over the barricade," said Blanchard.

Another protestor, Pearl Walker,  was not allowed through.

"We kept saying we wanted to go to the vigil. They kept saying 'move, move, get back,'" said Walker.

Blanchard was white, while Walker was black.

Even during the vigil and rally, WREG talked to people who said it was all racial.

"They didn't want to hear nothing I got to say. Told me I had to leave. Ya'll denied me to go to the vigil. I got my candles," said Jeffrey Wolfe.

"They asked us where we were going, we said 'Graceland.' They let us go, where as people of color from the south side, 'where are you going?' Don't even know if you got asked that," said protestor Stan Polson.

Police said they wanted to maintain the peace.

In the end, three people were arrested.

One of them was Spencer Kaaz, who was charged  for criminal trespassing.

He said he was a protestor trying to go to the vigil, but he too thinks there was more at play.

"Also had instances where black people walked up and they are together with white people who were allowed to pass through, which is obvious racial profiling," said Kaaz.

Memphis Police said it wasn't them.

They say they were there to keep the peace and Graceland security was the one granting or denying access.

"We don't know if that racial profiling was on the behest of Graceland or MPD," said Representative Hardaway.

Graceland sent us a statement saying their main concern was safety and security for everyone.

They never said how they decided who could enter the vigil and who couldn't.

The lawmakers said there is also another question here, when you are using a public street you can't restrict certain segments of the public, like protestors, from being on that street if they have done nothing wrong.


Latest News

More News