MPD officers used to deter violence at Greensward protest

MPD officers used to deter violence at Greensward protest

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - For a second weekend in a row, protesters spent their Saturday protesting the Memphis Zoo overflow parking.

They were not alone; they were confronted with police officers on the ground, in the sky, and on horseback.

"It's just kind of sad to see that," Greensward supporter Jillian Duke said.

Duke has been protesting against the zoo for two weekends. She said she was shocked to see the show of force from Memphis Police Department on Saturday.

"Scare tactic--which is very unnecessary, because we're really not doing anything like aggressive or violent," Duke said.

But city leaders disagree.

"There have been threats on social media to cause violence, and the police department took it seriously," Mayor Jim Strickland said.

"During the prior weekend's protest, numerous issues were identified," MPD Interim Director Michael Rallings said. "Major traffic congestion was experienced by Zoo patrons, verbal threats were voiced by protesters and patrons, a small contingent of protesters were lying down on the Greensward blocking Zoo patrons who were directed to park on the Greensward area, and threats of more aggressive behavior in the future were stated to officers. We could not ignore these actions. It is our responsibility to maintain peace. We must make sure that all parties are protected and that no civil unrest is experienced. Officers of the Memphis Police Department did just that."

Greensward supporters claim Memphis spent $40,000 over the weekend to secure the zoo.

Memphis leaders clarified the Greensward supporters' claim by saying it cost $13,500 for the regular duty of officers involved in the Greensward protest. From April 2-3, the city paid an extra $24,000 in overtime.

"I'm not going to second guess the police department," Strickland said. "The police department evaluated the situation, and I'm sure they'll adjust for future weekends."

Meanwhile, Duke hopes MPD does adjust. She said she hates seeing so many officers used to keep the peace in Overton Park when there are other areas that need those officers more.

"I understand cops being there, but I don't think it's necessary for a large amount of police to be there," Duke said. "I think it's supposed to persuade us to stop, but that won't work."

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