March for 1,000 children marks anniversary of I-40 bridge protest

(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - One year ago, protesters shut down traffic on the Interstate 40 bridge to demand justice.

Sunday night, those same protesters were back in downtown Memphis on the anniversary of their historic march. It's being called the March for 1,000 Children.

Activists gathered for a 20-minute march from Robert Church Park to City Hall and hosted an event on the anniversary of the protest.

Their goal was to send a message to city and government leaders that more needs to change.

"The goal for today is to show the mayor that the kids need something to do in their city. We need amusement parks. We need better programs in our community centers. We need better programs in our neighborhoods," activists Frank Gotti said. "I'm just showing the city that we can all come together as one. The people, the police, everybody."

Children from all over the city wrote notes about what they want to see change. They put those notes in a box.

"For them to come together and stop all the bad vibes," wrote Ayana Alexis.

Others wrote things about hope and unity.

"I want America to make new things," one child wrote.

"My hope is to care about kids and people in the city of Memphis and stop the crime," 9-year-old Kyrah Dawson wrote.

Some said it's about education.

"First thing, they say they need a better education. We got to get that," 19-year-old Lee Witherspoon said.

Gotti said this year was not about their requests - it was about the requests of the children.

"We ain't going to ask for anything. We just going to let the kids ask," Gotti said.

"We know what our problems is (sic) in our community and we the only ones who can fix our own problems," one activist said.

The kids themselves placed the box full of notes at the front door of City Hall. They're hoping that they mayor and the rest of the city's leadership will read them and act.

For the children, it's all about the mayor understanding their thoughts and feelings.

"One thing I really want is the mayor to open that box and see what we really think," Alexis said.

"I want to see the little kids accomplish something. Grow and get an education and be a leader and not a follower," activists Lee Witherspoon said.

The downtown event is not the only event scheduled on the anniversary of the bridge controversy. The Concerned Citizens Coalition is also holding an event at Tom Lee Park.

Memphis police discuss community relations

While activists gathered to mark the anniversary, Memphis Police Department also gathered in Hickory Hill to discuss their relationship with the community a year after the protest.

MPD Director Mike Rallings said the meeting was all about communication, lowering the crime rate through a relationship built with the community.

The meeting consisted of a conversation between law enforcement and the people. A representative with the Department of Justice also attended the meeting.

The goal, according to police, is to maintain an overall environment for public safety.

"We all have different ideas and opinions, but the key is that we sit and talk and recognize our differences and all working together to live in a place and live peacefully," Rallings said.

Locals were also able to go through a simulator that helps them view how law enforcement have to think on their feet during a dangerous criminal act. - make a decision to shoot or not to shoot.

Memphis police said they hope to hold more of those events in the near future to solve these community challenges.

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