Officers pack 201 Poplar during court appearance for Valero protesters

Officers pack 201 Poplar during court appearance for Valero protesters
(Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Dressed in flak jackets and armed with zip ties and guns dozens of Shelby County deputies, along with M.P.D. officers, made their presence known at 201 Poplar on Wednesday morning.

The officers came out in force after rumor of a "solidarity event" planned for two men facing charges after a protest at the Memphis Valero plant.

"This is just a high-profile case," Shelby County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Earle Farrell said. "We always over-secure an area when their needs to be security."

Seema Rasoul and Clay Ayers face misdemeanor charges for obstruction of a highway, criminal trespass, and disorderly conduct.

Officers arrested them during a January protest at the Memphis Valero plant.

Paul Garner was also arrested that day. He said law enforcement's presence Wednesday was meant to scare the protesters.

"It's a waste of resources," Garner said. "It's an unnecessary show of force. In my opinion, it's intimidation."

Earle Farrell disagrees.

"We're not doing this to intimidate anybody. We are doing this to make sure that everybody in this courthouse is safe," Farrell said.

No "solidarity event" happened at court Wednesday morning.

However, protesters said law enforcement's presence at 201 Poplar served as motivation for future demonstrations.

Ayers' case was continued until May 2. The court's computer system has not updated with the results of Rasoul's appearance.

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