When news broke Wednesday night that white New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo would not be indicted in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old black man who was allegedly selling loose cigarettes, Memphians Naomi Van Tol and Tami Sawyer took to Twitter with their frustration.
The news about Pantaleo came just a little over a week after a Ferguson, Missouri, grand jury decided not to indict officer Darren Wilson, who is white, in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. It was too much for Van Tol and Sawyer to deal with. The pair didn't know one another before the incidents, but they befriended on Twitter over their frustration. Sawyer suggested staging a solidarity "die-in" demonstration similar to those being held all over the country.
Sawyer said they chose the National Civil Rights Museum as the location and quickly organized the demonstration on social media.
"What better way to let America know that black lives matter than holding a demonstration in front of the Civil Rights Museum," Sawyer said.
About 50 people showed up Thursday afternoon to play dead on the grounds of the Civil Rights Museum.
Peter Gathje from the Manna House was there.
And the Adam and Kristie Jeffrey, owners of Imagine Vegan Cafe in Cooper-Young, showed up with their family.
Once assembled, the group gathered in a circle and held hands, chanting "Black Lives Matter."
Then, one by one, the protesters laid down on their backs, continuing their chants of "Black Lives Matter" and "We Can't Breathe" (in honor of Garner, who told Pantaleo that he couldn't breathe as he was being choked). They laid on the ground for 10 minutes.
Sawyer and Van Tol lay next to one another.
After the ten minutes were up, the protesters departed. A couple Memphis Police cars parked a few feet away from the protest, and officers watched from their vehicles but didn't approach the protesters.