Boyd speaking at the District 7 Forum (top); CLERB supporters protesrting him (below)
Backers of CLERB (Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board), aggrieved at the City Council’s decision to postpone action on an activated and strengthened version of the civilian adjunct organization until November, after the election, are making their feelings known in highly noticeable ways.
When WMC-TV, Action News 5, held the first televised mayoral debate on Monday, August 10, pro-CLERB demonstrators were outside the debate venue, the National Civil Rights Museum. Their shouts and chants, while perhaps not obvious to the watching TV audience, were blatantly audible inside the chamber where five mayoral candidates — including two members of the offending Council — were trying to discourse on issues and match wits with each other.
Ironically, the two Councilmen running for Mayor — Jim Strickland and Harold Collins —had voted against the postponement, but another participant in the Channel 5 debate, Mayor A C Wharton, had adopted an attitude toward immediate action on CLERB that can best be described as ambivalent.
CLERB supporters have been much in evidence, too, at events fearing the six members of the Council who both voted for the postponement and are running for reelection. They are: Super District 9, Position 1 Councilman Kemp Conrad, who made the motion for postponement on August 10; Reid Hedgepeth, the Super District 9, Position 3 incumbent; Joe Brown, from Super District 8, Position 1; and Bill Morrison, Edmund Ford, and Berlin Boyd, Council members from Districts 1, 6, and 7, respectively.
Memphis Police Department officer Sean Bolton had been slain only days before the scheduled August 10 Council vote on CLERB, and Police Director Toney Armstrong, presumably representing the views of the administration as well had asked the Council to withhold action during the period of mourning for Bolton.
That turned into a resolution from Conrad putting off the day of reckoning on the issue until November, after the October 8 city election.
The "CLERBMAN" comic panel
During Council debate on August 10, Boyd, who had previously opposed CLERB as “anti-police,” made a speech in which he said, “We lost this officer and we should give the family respect. Let them grieve, If we were going to vote for this item today, I think our votes will remain the same when we bring it back up.”
CLERB supporters are insistent that the civilian review agency, endowed with powers to investigate complaints about police conduct, is necessary to protect the interests of both police and civilians.
Representatives of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center supporting CLERB made themselves conspicuous at a Thursday night forum at Martin Luther King Jr. College Prep High School (formerly Frayser High School), featuring four candidates for the District 7 Council seat — Anthony Anderson, Michael Steven Moore, Thurston Smith, and Boyd.
When Boyd rose to make his closing remarks at the forum, five demonstrators who been sitting together in the school auditorium rose and turned their backs to the stage, revealing the letters C-L-E-R-B spelled out in series.
The demonstrators also distributed leaflets, including one letter-sized color cartoon panel depicting Conrad as an arch-villain named “Con-Rat,” who was shown assaulting a super-hero figure named "ClerbMan."
Asked about the demonstrators’ action after the forum, Boyd seemed frustrated by it and said that, while he had voted for Conrad’s resolution of postponement until after the election, he would have been satisfied with a resumption of Council voting on the matter earlier than that.
How much earlier, he was asked.
“Right about now,” Boyd said.