MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Protesters were detained in Memphis City Hall Plaza Wednesday morning after being warned to relocate or face arrest.
Some of the group has been outside City Hall for the better part of two weeks, calling for the reduction of funding to the Memphis Police Department.
According to a sign posted in the plaza, protesters were told to relocate by 6 a.m. or they could be arrested for unlawful assembly. Police began detaining the group around 8:30 Wednesday morning.
Our camera captured officers escorting cuffed protesters and carrying some to vans just outside the plaza. A total of 17 arrests were made; nine physical arrests and eight misdemeanor citations were issued in lieu of a physical arrest.
Ursula Madden, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, released a statement about the situation and explaining a construction project that reportedly prompted the city to remove the protesters. Read the complete statement below:
Public safety, which includes the protestors (sic) camping on civic plaza, is the City of Memphis’ primary concern. Due to a phased renovation and construction project that has been underway since 2019, protestors (sic) in front of City Hall were given advanced notice to relocate so that needed construction equipment can be placed near the building. The protestors (sic) were also given two alternative locations on Civic Plaza to continue to exercise their first amendment rights—north of the fountain, or near the flag poles between City Hall and the Federal Building (map below).
Everyone was given sufficient time to leave or relocate. In addition to alternative protest sites, we also had representatives from Hospitality Hub onsite yesterday and this morning offering assistance and guidance on housing opportunities for anyone who may be experiencing homelessness or housing instability.
As has been reported for some time now, the roof of City Hall needed to be repaired to prevent leaks inside the building, most notable inside City Council chambers. In addition the City has entered the design phase of construction to replace the marble façade on the building. More than a year ago, fencing was place around the building to create a fall zone.
Due to the COVID-19 epidemic, construction was halted, and resumed with cranes used to stage construction material on the roof in May of this year. All possible demolition without further need for scaffolding has been completed, and now, we must extend the barrier to complete exterior demolition and finish the project.”
Below is a general timeline for the phased construction process that is underway. This project was funded by reallocated funds and CIP FY 20. The map below shows the areas highlighted in blue for alternative protest sites near City Hall.
- Beginning with the renovation of the committee room in 2019. Goal was to have Council meetings there while the Council roof and chambers were under renovation. The project ended, Fall 2019.
- Council Chambers closed Jan. 2020 to begin demo of the ceiling, etc.
- Demo continued until March, 2020. Construction was halted due to COVID and the Safer at Home orders.
- Demo and interior resumed with Cranes used to stage construction material on the roof- May 2020.
- All possible demo has been completed and scaffolding and exterior demo is necessary