In 2019, energy companies announced a plan to route a major crude oil pipeline through Boxtown and other mostly Black communities in southwest Memphis. The location had been chosen, a company representative stated then, because it was the “point of least resistance.” But residents came together, proving the company wrong. In 2021, a powerful grassroots movement shut down the pipeline, which would have been built through a historic neighborhood founded by emancipated people and atop the world-famous Memphis Sand Aquifer. Now, two years later, the same activists are working to get reliable, safe drinking water for their communities.
In a major victory for the people of south Memphis, a plant that uses carcinogenic ethylene oxide to sterilize medical equipment announced this fall that it is shutting down. The decision by Sterilization Services of Tennessee follows more than a year of dogged organizing by residents and activists fed up with the industrial pollution that the company, and more than 20 others, releases into their community. Ethylene oxide, an odorless and colorless gas, has been linked to multiple forms of cancer. “We’re relieved that the community will soon have one less polluting facility that they have to contend with,” Amanda Garcia, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, told Grist.
The death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols at the hands of Memphis police officers last month once again ignited outrage over the violent, militarized nature of U.S. law enforcement and placed scrutiny on police departments’ bloated budgets . Among the objections to policing that are being revived are criticisms of a controversial series of trainings and exchange programs for U.S. police in Israel. Scores of American law enforcement leaders have attended the programs, where they learned from Israeli police and security forces known for systemically abusing the human rights of Palestinians. Some of the Memphis Police Department’s top brass, including current Chief Cerelyn Davis, participated in the programs. Davis, who previously helmed the police department in Durham, North Carolina, completed a leadership training with the Israel National Police in 2013.
The cold-blooded assassination of Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, also known as Tortuguita, Spanish for “Little Turtle,” is a reminder that fascism in the United States cannot be reduced to the political intentions of avowed white nationalists. African/Black and Indigenous people residing in the settler-colonial project known as the United States continue to be subjected to a cycle of state-sanctioned violence and political repression with bipartisan consensus. People of the global majority and their allies must not allow these latest episodes of injustice to go unanswered. The Atlanta City-Wide Alliance of the Black Alliance for Peace (BAP-Atlanta) has been working with a coalition of Indigenous people, African/Black people, other people of color, and Euro-Americans to prevent the construction of “Cop City,” as BAP-Atlanta expressed in a recent statement. The statement highlighted the obvious nexus between the proposed $90 million police-training facility site, where Tortuguita was killed on January 18, and the white supremacy-fueled genocide, militarism, and oppression the U.S. empire exercises both outside and within.
Memphis, Tennessee - Five police officers from Memphis, Tennessee who murdered the 29-year-old Black father Tyre Nichols, were arrested and charged with second-degree murder on January 26. Nichols was brutally beaten for three minutes by Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith following a traffic stop on January 7. He succumbed to his wounds three days later, in the hospital. An autopsy found that he had suffered excessive internal bleeding as a result of the beating. His death provoked mass outrage in Memphis and throughout the country, and many have been demanding accountability for those responsible. Although police violence is prevalent in the US (2022 recorded 1,176 police killings, more than any year in US history), it is extremely rare for police to be held accountable for these crimes. From 2013 to 2022, 98% of police murders did not result in officers being charged for a crime.
As the dust settles on their victory, the coalition of activists and community members that opposed the Byhalia Connection oil pipeline in greater Memphis, Tennessee — which developers officially canceled on July 2 — are continuing to mobilize, because they say a risk to the land, water, climate and community remains. In step with the cancellation, Plains All American Pipeline has requested state and federal agencies to revoke necessary permits for the Byhalia Connection — what would have been a 49-mile route connecting a refinery in Memphis to an oil terminal in northern Mississippi, running through a series of majority-Black neighborhoods in Tennessee. The pipeline was a joint venture between Plains and Valero Energy Corporation.
By Staff of Tele Sur - The Memphis Police Department has a watch list of Black Lives Matter protesters — a fact that has come to light decades after the department was barred from spying on civil rights activists. The list, which includes the names, race, gender, height, weight and corresponding photographs of several well-known activists, bars those listed from entering the Memphis City Hall without an escort. The list infringes on the civil rights of those it profiles. MPD also appears to be in violation of the 1978 federal decree it was handed following revelations the department spied on civil rights activists and other protesters for years, spurring the American Civil Liberties Union to sue them. MPD Director Michael Rallings defended the list Tuesday, saying it was instead related to "security."
By Liliana Segura for The Intercept - EMALE ON BOARD!” the lieutenant called out, his voice booming off the concrete walls. It was the middle of shift change at the Shelby County Juvenile Detention Center in downtown Memphis, and the two-tiered housing unit was mostly quiet. “Female on board!” he yelled again. “That’s a PREA requirement,” Sheriff’s Department Chief Kirk Fields explained as he ushered me through the door. “Anytime the opposite sex enters the floor.” PREA is the Prison Rape Elimination Act, sweeping federal legislation targeting the nation’s prisons and jails.
By Sarah K. Burris for Raw Story - Black Live Matter protesters marched along Interstate 40 Sunday evening to advocate for the lives taken by police in the last week. Marchers began the protest in downtown Memphis at 6 p.m. at the FedEx Forum, according to Fox13, but once they began walking on I-40 to the bridge, traffic was shut down. Hundreds stayed on the bridge, though Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office helped the Memphis Police Department keep the protest nonviolent.
More than 13 percent of the officers in the Memphis Police Department have called in sick since June 30, the so-called Blue Flu that officials acknowledged Sunday was a deliberate work action. A total of 308 Memphis officers have called in sick over the last week, MPD Director Toney Armstrong said in a Sunday afternoon press conference outside City Hall. That's 13.5 percent of the estimated 2,280 officers in the department. That's also a big jump from the 181 who had called in sick through Saturday, a number that led MPD to ask the Shelby County Sheriff's Department for help. About 50 deputies and reserve officers helped patrol Downtown Saturday night, and at least eight more were on loan Sunday. The job action, which does not appear to have spread to the city's fire department, comes in protest to a recent City Council vote that will reduce health care subsidies for current and retired city employees to redirect that money to the city's troubled pension fund.