“Let’s not give the Confederate901 group or others who believe what they do, our time or energy,” Deidre Malone, president of the NAACP Memphis branch, said on Friday .
Ahead of a planned weekend demonstration apparently spurred by the recent removal of three statutes saluting Confederate-era figures, Malone joined with clergy, civil rights leaders and representative of “like-minded” organizations at a press conference at the NAACP Memphis headquarters at 588 Vance Ave.
“This rally or caravan is designed to increase the hate rhetoric that has suffocated the American people for too long, ” Malone said. “Just as in Charlottesville (Va.), the purpose of this rally is to entice public engagement in order to use that interaction for the purpose of violence, hate speech and divisiveness. …
“We encourage our citizens to stay away from this group in the downtown area or wherever you may encounter them while in our city.”
In a statement distributed on Friday, Memphis Police Department officials noted that they were aware of the potential planned in the downtown area.
“We are not anticipating any acts of violence and expect everyone to act in a lawful manner; however, all citizens should be aware that there will be a strong presence of police, and traffic delays may be experienced in the downtown area throughout the day on Saturday,” the MPD statement read.
If large crowds gather, some roadways may be closed and traffic diverted, if necessary.
“We are prepared to maintain peace and secure public safety. We have planned accordingly and are working with our local, state and federal partners to ensure the safety of our citizens and those who commute throughout our great city,” MPD said in the statement read.
“The leadership of the Memphis Police Department respects and welcomes the expression of the First Amendment Rights to all citizens in a law abiding manner. During any demonstration, MPD’s lawful obligation is to provide PUBLIC SAFETY for every citizen. MPD will deny the unlawful destruction, looting and damage to all property. MPD will not allow any disruptions in business, school, government and every day function of life and liberty by unruly protesters or unlawful protest.”
Acknowledging that some may be stirred to take action, Malone encouraged them and others to “join organizations like the NAACP, the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Latino Memphis, Black Lives Matters” and their local church for the betterment of Memphis.
“Let me be clear, just because we don’t show up doesn’t mean that we are scared,” said Malone. “It just means that Memphis is focused on moving forward together. The removal and celebration of the removal of the confederate statues speaks to the collective community’s desire to transition into a more harmonious state of being.”
Here’s an excerpt from the press conference, beginning with the Rev. Dr. L. LaSimba M. Gray Jr. saying somewhat tongue in cheek that he welcomed the Confederate 901 supporters from outside of Memphis to spend money while they are here.