MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The fight over the Greensward doesn't appear to be settled, even after the city council's decision to allow the zoo to continue using it for overflow parking. However, it appeared those on each side of the battle were split over race during the recent meeting.
For now, the zoo will continue to use the Greensward for parking with the approval of the resolution by the city council. After the approval, many supporters of the Greensward took to social media to say the zoo played the race card to get its way.
With approximately 50 speakers against the zoo addressing the council, all white, and the few supporters of the zoo being African-American, the supporters of the Greensward said the zoo used race to gain its way with the council.
"I don't think the zoo should have any say so over what can be done with the Greensward because it's part of Overton Park. It's not part of the zoo," Greensward supporter Molly Read said.
Read said the Greensward means a lot to people of all races and backgrounds.
"You come up here and you see just as many black people as you do white people," Read said.
However, people said it is about priorities and not race.
Pastor Deandre Brown, a community activist in Frayser, spoke in support of parking on the Greensward at Tuesday's council meeting. He said he was personally attacked online after the meeting and accused of being racially motivated.
"It was more about affluency, maybe, as opposed to being poor, but it had nothing to do with race," Brown said.
He said he was actually impressed as many as 100 citizens attended the council meeting to rally around either side of the issue.
"My concern was that we have people murdered in our streets. I would love to have those same people fighting with us with that same passion against issues like that as well," Brown said.
Grace Weil is against parking on the Greensward, but said she understands that people in a lot of areas of Memphis have bigger concerns to care about, such as crime, poverty and lack of access to quality education.
"Honestly, I am incredibly surprised that people are this passionate about what, on the surface level, is grass," Weil said.
Brown said if the number of people would get involved with other issues in the city as they have with the Greensward battle, issues could get resolved.
"With the issues we have in our inner city, if that many people were to help me in one of our schools, we could solve these overnight," Brown said.
"Yeah, there are other issues that are more important, maybe. But this is also equally important," Read said.
Brown said he is not meaning to belittle or discount any issue that are important to anyone, he just hopes people who organized around this issue will lend that passion to other issues as well.
"Instead of us fighting about who's right and who's wrong, we find ways to let that issue be where it is, but move forward to fight other issues that we can really overcome," Brown said.
Supporters of the Greensward said the fight is not over. They have vowed to continue their fight while mediation on this issue and a parking study continue.
Brown said his group is working on adopting schools to keep kids on the right path and out of trouble, and he is inviting all of the Greensward supporters to join him in that effort.