Two state legislators say it appears racial profiling was involved when police decided who could – and who could not – walk down Elvis Presley Boulevard, a public street, during a “Candle Light Vigil” that drew some protesters.
Several of the protesters who were nominally affiliated with local Black Lives Matter causes attempted to walk toward Graceland on the closed-off but still-public street, but were prevented from doing so by police officers manning the barricades. Three were arrested.
While the permit issued shows that Elvis Presley Enterprises was granted permission to close a portion of the street that runs in front of Graceland, it says nothing about preventing access to the public.
City Chief Legal Officer Bruce McMullen first said that Graceland’s permit didn’t give it the authority to close any public spaces to the public, unlike the permit Memphis in May has to close Tom Lee Park.
Later, though, McMullen clarified his opinion to say that the permit-holder “can ask the police to remove anyone from the permitted area.” He did not specify where that opinion originated.
…At a Tuesday afternoon press conference, state Rep. G.A. Hardaway and state Sen. Lee Harris asked city officials to address what they said sounds like racial profiling.
“If that street is blocked off and a crowd is allowed to enter — an Elvis Presley crowd that may be humming Elvis Presley tunes — then another crowd that is chanting “black lives matter” must also enter. Doesn’t matter what their race is,” Harris said at the press conference. “We can’t have members of the public thinking that chanting ‘black lives matter’ is different or more heavily regulated than singing an Elvis hymn. It is not.”
To illustrate their point, the legislators introduced two women who attended the protest: Elaine Blanchard, who is white, and Pearl Walker, who is black.
“These two ladies, here for the same reason, but they were treated differently because of race,” Hardaway said.