Why Are Black Lives Matter Protesters Planning To Shut Down Graceland During Elvis Week?

Elvis Week, the annual celebration of the “King of Rock and Roll’s” life at Graceland — Elvis Presley’s home-turned-museum — in Memphis, Tennessee, kicked off last Wednesday, and ends on Tuesday. It will be host to some unplanned activities on August 16. In addition to the scheduled activities including a vigil, an auction, and a gospel concert, the Coalition of Concerned Citizens is planning to crash the festivities with a massive peaceful protest, reports ABC affiliate Local 24.

The Coalition of Concerned Citizens is a collection of various activist groups — Black Lives Matter Memphis Chapter, Memphis Voices for Palestine, New Black Panther Party for Self Defense & Inward Journey, and the Memphis Grass Roots Organization — are among the groups planning to join the peaceful demonstration to highlight several community issues, including the death of Darrius Stewart and economic unfairness.

The protest is planned for 6 p.m. Monday evening because Graceland “demonstrates one of Memphis’s most common forms of financial inequality,” and because it is the community that is tied to the death of unarmed teen Darrius Stewart, according to Breitbart. The Black Lives Matter group wants to raise tourist awareness of the issues facing the citizens of Whitehaven — a predominantly black community in Memphis — where Graceland and the new luxury hotel, The Guest House, is located.

The Coalition of Concerned Citizens said that a meeting with Memphis mayor Jim Strickland asking him to address the issues of poverty and social inequality fell on deaf ears, so the group felt that bringing awareness to their plight during Monday night’s candlelight vigil, which tends to be the largest celebration for the yearly gathering, might bring some results.

Why Are Black Lives Matter Protesters Planning To Shut Down Graceland During Elvis Week?
The Coalition released the following statement:

“The demonstration, set for Monday at 6:00 pm, is planned as a peaceful show of solidarity, unifying the people of Memphis against systems that promote poverty, violence, and economic disparity. Graceland was chosen as a protest site because it demonstrates one of Memphis’ most common forms of financial inequity and because the site has ties to a prominent case of police brutality that resulted in the death of unarmed teen Darrius Stewart.

“Graceland recently opened The Guest House, a new 450-room resort-style hotel in the heart of the African-American community of Whitehaven. The project cost more than $120 million to build and received upwards of $78 million in public funding and tax breaks. Project developers and city officials promised Whitehaven residents the project would be an economic boon to the community, but as has been case for decades, residents have seen little if any of that money ‘trickle down’ into the middle-class neighborhood’s economy. This is not an uncommon story.”

Why Are Black Lives Matter Protesters Planning To Shut Down Graceland During Elvis Week?
Darrius Stewart was killed on July 17, 2015, after he was shot twice by former Memphis Police Officer Connor Schilling. Schilling shot the unarmed 19-year-old, who was a passenger in a car that was stopped for a broken tail light. Although the TBI investigation prompted the D.A. to recommend charges, a grand jury rejected the suggestion and Schilling never faced any disciplinary actions despite the independent investigation finding some irregularities.

Connor Schilling retired from the force due to PTSD resulting from the shooting, and the family filed a wrongful death lawsuit last month against the city of Memphis for $17 million as a way to hold the city accountable for police killings and civil rights violations, reports WREG.

Why Are Black Lives Matter Protesters Planning To Shut Down Graceland During Elvis Week?
The mayor’s spokesperson, Ursula Madden, attended the Coalition press conference at City Hall and told reporters that Mayor Strickland does have a plan.

“When you have programs like the workforce investment work network that helps people shore up their resumes and gets them the job training that they need to get back into the workforce those are the things that are going to address poverty.”

Should Black Lives Matter protesters target Graceland during Elvis Week as a means to get their issues heard? Sound off in the comment section.

[Photo by Adrian Sainz/AP Images]