Today the MLK50: Justice Through Journalism team, like many of you, watched as an unhinged mob of insurrectionists – invited to the nation’s capital by none other than the President of the United States of America – attempted a coup of the federal government.

Congress had convened to accept the state-certified results of the presidential election when the swarm of Trump loyalists descended, climbing up the Capitol walls, tussling with D.C. and Capitol police, who were repeatedly pushed back by people who believe President Trump’s lies. (Vice President Mike Pence would later praise police for their restraint.)

The white domestic terrorists stormed the U.S. House of Representatives, sending congresspeople scampering for cover.  They took over Senate chambers. They vandalized property; a Trump supporter broke into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office and was photographed with a foot on her desk. One woman was shot during the rioting and later pronounced dead; NPR reports that the alleged shooter is a Capitol Police officer.

And as we watched, we couldn’t help but note the contrast between how Washington police treated this violent mob of conservatives seeking to undermine democracy and how Memphis police have chosen to interact with peaceful protesters, most of whom are Black, insisting that their humanity be recognized.

MLK50 has covered movement making in Memphis since our inception. Now feels like the right time to share images, taken by MLK50’s visuals director Andrea Morales, from some of those moments. 

July 2020

Memphis police detain a protester. The woman is being carried by her arms and feet by four police officers.
Memphis police officers detained about 15 people outside of City Hall, 12 of whom were part of an ongoing occupation protest that had lasted more than two weeks. The night before police descended on the civic plaza, City of Memphis officials announced that they would evacuate the protestors to begin a construction project.

May 2020

Shelby County Sheriff's deputies use tear gas against protestors.
Tear gas and less-than-lethal munitions were deployed on Riverside Drive on May 31, as protestors marched against police brutality in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by white police officers.

May 2020

Memphis police on horseback clear Beale Street during a protest.
Memphis police officers clear Beale Street during a protest that made its way through downtown Memphis.

May 2020

Memphis police in riot gear surround a car at a gas station.
As a protest following George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police moves through downtown, Memphis police surround people at a gas station on Poplar Avenue.

April 2018

A police officer pulls Elizabeth Vega’s hair as she was arrested during a protest outside the Shelby County jail. The demonstration was a part of the Rolling Block Party organized by members of C3 coalition, Fight for $15 and Comunidades Unidas en Una Voz (C.U.U.V)

January 2018

A police officer shakes hands with white supremacist and neo-Nazi leader Billy Roper as he and about a dozen people go back to their vehicles after protesting the removal of Confederate statues. About 40 vehicles with the group Confederate 901 caravanned around I-240 for their protest.

August 2017

Memphis police officers surround a man at the edge of Health Sciences Park during a protest calling for the removal of the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue.