Floyd protest Day 6 blog: Night of protests ends quietly

By Updated: June 03, 2020 1:22 AM CT | Published: June 01, 2020 1:28 PM CT

As Memphis enters its sixth day of protests over George Floyd’s death, two separate groups merged for the march. One began at the I Am A Man Plaza and the other at the National Civil Rights Museum. 

The march ended at curfew, 10 p.m.


Scenes from a protest: Cat and mouse with a ‘rolling blockade’

10:34 PM CT, June 1

As Frank Gottie and DeVante Hill announced their movement reconciliation in “I Am A Man” Plaza, there were several key players missing in the discord among activists over the last two days.

The group of 40, including organizer Antonio Cathey, Hunter Demster and Theryn Bond, were on a parking lot across from the Walter Bailey Criminal Justice Center’s Poplar Street side.

No indication of any kind of truce with Hill. They were preparing for a “rolling blockade” of slow moving cars onto I-55’s Memphis-Arkansas Bridge. Demster had already made the drive and received a ticket for his trouble — citing him for driving slow.

The idea was for police to focus on the bridge that for the last four years has become a symbol of the city’s new activism.

There were several different plans to do an occasional car on the bridge. It was not designed to be a mass movement of cars onto the bridge. Demster asked who in the group wanted to make a slow ride across the bridge. Several in the crowd raised their hands and got a briefing on what to expect and a promise that money would be raised to pay the tickets.

All around the parking lot gathering Monday evening formations of patrol cars from the Sheriff’s Office, Tennessee Highway Patrol and Memphis Police Department were moving to various locations — a constantly shifting movement to keep up with the sixth consecutive day of a nighttime march and to seal off the Hernando De Soto Bridge as much as possible from the threat of the rolling blockade.

Those who put a circular up on social media earlier in the day about the blockade were sitting a block down Poplar Avenue from the nerve center of the effort to guard the bridge against protest.

Around them were a group of drivers who were a key supply chain of sorts for Sunday evening’s cat-and-mouse game between leaders of a break-off march and police that ended with 31 arrests, some pepper spray and two waves of tear gas after six hours.

The drivers showed up at different points with water for marchers and found short cuts to keep some kind of connection to the march and navigate the shifting patterns of police closing Downtown street and then just as quickly reopening them.

One of the drivers Monday evening on the lot was sought out by a police officer/fraternity brother who approached the group and said he was there to see that everything was on “the up and up.”

It quickly got the attention of the activists. Darin Abston began yelling at the unidentified officer and it drew four more police officers to the parking lot as words were exchanged.

“You didn’t say one [deleted] word to the white people,” Abston said, pointing to the larger cluster that was soon part of the confrontation.

It proved to be short-lived as the police left and the blockade group moved to another location.

No word yet on how the blockade went or if it even made it onto what long-time Memphians calls “the old bridge.” Mind you “the new bridge” is almost 50 years old.

Anyway, some in the rolling group were back in time to see the march led by Hill and Gottie reach the Shelby County Jail at 201 Poplar Avenue and express more skepticism about Hill’s intentions. And they urged those in the march to stay around if they wanted to violate the new 10 p.m. curfew.

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March ends at 10 p.m. curfew

9:26 PM CT, June 1

The march is turning onto BB King now. Curfew is coming up soon and protesters are still marching.

Cars are honking in support of protesters as they march down BB King.

Protester Darin Abston Jr. said “we have a plan.”

They plan to stay out past curfew.

He is telling people that want to stay: they will get tear gassed, they will get maced, they will go to jail.

Abston is one of eight people arrested after Saturday’s protest; he led the march down Beale.

Protest is stopped as Hill gives TV an interview.

Abston: “we are bringing in men with artillery. We are bring in real riot gear - only to protect themselves.”

Hill says people need to vote. Officials need to close the educational gap in the city.

“We don’t have to attack, but we damn sure have to protect, Abston said. 

The march is nearing Union Avenue and The Peabody.

“We ready, for change” the group is chanting.

A splinter group led by Abston said they are not leaving. They are going to wait in the parking lot of 201 Poplar. They won’t escalate, but will fight back.

 

The other group is headed toward Beale. That group of protesters is taking a knee again as they pray. Curfew is 20 minutes out and they have stopped to pray.

The helicopter is back as crowd towards Beale takes a moment of silence for George Floyd.

A steady stream of protesters is walking quietly north on Main, presumably headed home before curfew, walking past a steady stream of officers parked in unmarked cars. 

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Protest is now on Poplar

8:40 PM CT, June 1

The group is near the entrance of the I-40 bridge. A line of police is behind barricades at ramp

Gottie spoke briefly to police. He said he told them to put away their batons so they would not agitate the protesters.

Protesters are regrouping before they near police in riot gear. 

Protesters locking arms to march in unison toward police. 

Police left area as protesters move forward.

Protest is now on Poplar. Hill telling police “ we come in peace” put your stick down. We have children out here. 

An officer compiled and put the stick away.

Police are in riot gear on the Main Street Mall. Protesters confront them and tell them to stop intimidating them. 

They are marching toward 201 Poplar and chanting “let them go.”

Still going strong at 9 pm. Hill giving a mini-sermon to group as they stop for a breather.

Protest is nothing like last night. Peaceful so far.

They are right outside the jail and chants of “let them go” are growing louder as group stops in the street on Poplar.

 

They are taking a knee again as Hill reads multiple signs some are carrying. 

As crowd takes a protest pit stop, a protester reads them a poem he wrote. 

The group is marching again. Some are shouting at police in  riot gear inside doors of central booking at the jail.

Group is turning around and moving away from jail.

Some are upset and agitated over police in riot gear at the jail. Others are yelling “stay focused” to get the crowd back on track.

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Hernando de Soto Bridge under guard

7:55 PM CT, June 1

The new bridge looks like they are staking it out heavily. No signs of trouble yet. Lots of Tennessee Highway Patrol on Front. Entrance ramp to new bridge by the Pyramid is shut down by cops and barriers.

Rolling blockade is on its way to bridge.after parking lot confrontation with cops on parking lot by Criminal Justice Center.

Someone in the group got on bridge earlier and drove slow — got a ticket for driving too slow. Police have got to know they are coming probably to the old bridge since the new bridge appears to be shut. 

Several cop cars are on the Memphis-Arkansas bridge

Near Big River Crossing, a police car is next to a pickup truck with a trailer full of barricades. Signs of preparation, no signs of activity. 

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Merged protests begin march

7:28 PM CT, June 1

A group of about 300 will march together from “I Am A Man Plaza.”

Protesters are marching together toward MLK. 

The merged groups are 300 in size now. 

DeVante Hill is telling crowd to have energy and to “make this a peaceful night.”

Frank Gottie said the protest plan is to continue until the other three officers in Minneapolis are arrested. 

Protesters are moving after Hill and Gottie reconciled. 

They are chanting, “I got my hands above my head, please don’t shoot me dead.”

 

The “George Floyd” chant echoing off FedExForum as the protesters march by.

The protest is on MLK Avenue now. 

Hill is telling the crowd to remember not only George Floyd but also Trayvon, Sandra Bland, Emmitt Till and Darius Stewart.

Protesters are taking a knee for those killed by police. 

 

The group is marching again, chanting “If you can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.”

Protesters are nearing Beale Street. They are chanting, “Hey, Hey, racist cops have got to go.”

Activists are sitting on the Elvis Presley statue on Beale Street. 

 

Hill talking about MLGW bills and how people can’t afford to pay their bills. 

Gottie told the group to repeat after him, “Memphis Light Gas” and the crowd responded “robbers.”

Honoring George again by shouting his name. 

 

Now they are chanting, “I can’t breathe!”

The march is peaceful. There are no issues after the two groups reconciled. Hill is telling the group if black people can’t breathe then white people can’t breathe. 

Hill is telling the crowd “we are all in this together.”

He said they are going to figure out where to take the protest next.

We are up here with Elvis doing the Blue Suede Shoes” activist Barbara Buress said as the protesters are about to march again. 

They are marching down Main Street now. 

Heading on Peabody now toward Front Street.

Protesters are marching down Front Street. Cops had intersection blocked off to Riverside.

Cops are blocking intersections to allow protesters to cross safely. A helicopter hovering above as the group kneels in silence. 

The biggest thing to happen tonight is the two activist leaders reconciled after dispute. 

Police are here, but no officers in riot gear. They are on the periphery.

Hill, a minister, just finished preaching to the crowd about evils of racism. Protesters are marching again.

Recycling chants of Black Lives Matter as group continues down Front Street.

Chants of, “Hands up, don’t shoot” as protesters pass police cars.

Protester Robert Tuggle said he brought his three-year-old son, Robert Jr. to the protest to give him some “insight” about what is going on in the world today. 

Protesters are marching again down Front.

The group is on back side of  City Hall still on Front.

Hill stopped the march to show the city that the protest is peaceful tonight.

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Watch live: Protest at the National Civil Rights Museum

7:11 PM CT, June 1

One of two protests in Memphis tonight against the Minneapolis killing of George Floyd by police is in progress at the National Civil Rights Museum. 

Watch below:

 

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Day 6

7:22 PM CT, June 1

One group of protesters took to the streets for a sixth day in Memphis with about 60 protesters marching from the National Civil Rights Museum as a curfew imposed by the city was set to start from 10 p.m. to daybreak.

Monday’s demonstration was different as activists splintered into two factions Sunday after some in the group called one of the protest organizers, DeVante Hill a “police informant.”

Hill held a separate protest at starting at “I Am A Plaza” 

The group leading the daily protest is made up of members of grassroots organizations including Black Lives Matter Memphis, Memphis Coalition of Concerned Citizens and the  anti-violence organization ‘Put Dem Guns Down and Fight Like a Man. 

The “Fight Like a Man” group was founded by Frank Gottie, a gang member and activist who in  the July, 2016 took part in the protest that shut down the Hernando DeSoto bridge for several hours. Gottie lead people off the bridge with MPD Police Director Mike Rallings. 

Gottie said in an earlier interview before Monday’s protest that he knew he would have to take part in another protest because of racism and ongoing police brutality in the African-American community. 

“Ain’t nothing changed,” Gottie said. 

He said he grew up respecting the police and still does, but explaining this to his seven-year-old son after the death of George Floyd has been hard. 

 “When my son asked me why the police killed George Floyd whe he did what they told him to do, for the first time I didn’t know how to answer him,” Gottie said. “I was silent because what do I say to my black son about the police killing a black man like they did. Tell me what do I say?”

Gottie said that is why he is back out protesting. 

“This is my son and all the children,” he said. “We have to make things better for them.”

Dueling protests are going on now. The National Civil Rights group crashing Hill’s protest.

The crowd has grown to about 200 and here the comes rival group led by Gottie.

Gottie’s group said they are not here to “take over” Hill’s protest but that’s what has happened. 

Barbara Buress is leading Hill’s group in a chant.

“This is not a takeover movement,” says a woman with Gottie group who just walked into the rival group’s circle.

Gottie and Hill are talking to the side. Meanwhile, someone in Gottie’s group is making the same pitch that worked with most of Hill’s group last night.

Gottie’s group is about to leave. 

“We are all on the same accord, “ one man is telling the crowd. 

Gottie and DeVante Hill are talking now. Gottie is saying it’s about respect. 

Hill said yesterday “broke his heart” when the splinter occurred. 

Hill and Gottie worked it out. Hill said “we are going to do this together.” 

“We are going to march together peacefully, “ Hill said as the two groups prepare to march together. 

There will be no breaking of windows or throwing of bricks, organizers are  telling the group. So Gottie and Hill say they are together and this will be one march.

We are still not seeing other activists that Gottie went with last night.

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Herrington: Groups gather Downtown

7:09 PM CT, June 1

Chris Herrington is tweeting from Downtown.

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Group gathers at the National Civil Rights Museum

6:39 PM CT, June 1

Activist Frank Gottie is at the National Civil Rights Museum. There is a small group of 20 people. 

For Sierra Hefner of Brighton, Tenn., Monday tonight was her first protest. 

“Instead of reading history in a text book, I wanted to see history in the making to be able to tell my children and grandchildren,” Hefner said.

The 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew is also generating conservation. Most here said they oppose it.

“I am not in favor of the curfew. The more authority they exercise, the uglier the resistance is going to get,” said protester Joseph, who did not want to give his last name.

At 6:48 p.m. someone yelled that the protest was at Mason Temple. 

The crowd was about to leave but Frank Gottie told the people if they went to Mason Temple that “they would be working with the police.” 

People stopped in their tracks and returned to the parking lot of the Civil Rights Museum. 

With megaphone in hand, Barbara Buress told the protesters “this is not an orchestrated protest. If you want orchestrated, this is not that.”

At 6:51 p.m. there are now 50 people at the Civil Rights Museum. People are sitting and standing around. 

Some are getting antsy and ready to march. 

Buress, one of the organizers told the crowd that if they see the “other” protesters to ask them to join this protest.

At 6:57 p.m. the protesters are marching now. Leaving the Civil Rights Museum. 

At 7:01 p.m. a much smaller crowd of about 60 protesters is walking down Vance from the Ciivl Rights museum.

They are chanting “George Floyd.”

 

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Crowd gathers at I Am A Man Plaza

6:36 PM CT, June 1

Small crowd of 50 at I Am A Man Plaza.

This is DeVante Hill’s gathering.

DeVante Hill: “Last night it got a little conflictual.” He said the march will go to the National Civil Rights Museum for “hard conversations” with the other group. “I have to really hear from you guys tonight. He said he has talked today with those in other group.

At 6:43 p.m. there was a group of about 100 at the plaza. 

Hill said his bullhorn got snatched last night. He has a new one tonight.

In a circle around the monument in plaza. There is still plenty of faction tension left over from yesterday. Hill is saying he wants people grouped closely together to avoid competing slogans. 

At one point yesterday a competing chant was “DeVante’s a cop.”

Hill says last night was “vile” and “disgusting.” 

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Rallings, mayor respond to protests with curfew, Guard

1:48 PM CT, June 1

Mayor Jim Strickland and Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings held a special press conference Monday, June 1, to address recent protests.

“Thank you to the protesters, those protesters conducting themselves in a peaceful and powerful manner,” Strickland says at the beginning. “I know that you are hurting and that you are angry and that you want change. I’m with you on that.

”We must do better,” he added. He said he’s talked with faith community, elected officials and community and activist leaders.

Read More

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