A new, nightly curfew begins tonight from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. in an effort to calm protests here related to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland set the curfew in a special news briefing Monday afternoon. He said the curfew is an "effort to keep things peaceful" and will go on "as long as necessary."
"This means if you're out during those hours, you can be arrested with the exception of essential workers and those with medical [emergencies]," Strickland said.
Strickland said the decision to institute the curfew came after a weekend phone call with mayors and police directors with the 40 largest U.S. cities.
"They felt a curfew was needed when there was property damage or violent acts," he said. "We saw that last night. [There were] broken windows and bottles being thrown. So we decided it was appropriate at this time to have a curfew."
Strickland began the special news conference this way, "Thank you."
"Thank you to the protesters in Memphis, for those conducting themselves in a peaceful and powerful manner," Strickland said. "I applaud you and I thank you for your leadership and passion. I know that you're hurting and that you’re angry and that you want change. I’m with you on that."
Strickland said the city of Memphis and the community at large have made strides in decreasing poverty, improving education and workforce development, and reducing violent crime. However, in all of those regards and others, Strickland said, "we must do better."
"As I said days ago, the needless death of George Floyd and too many other souls around our country serve as a constant reminder that we must do better," Strickland said. "We must do better. In our country, we as Americans and as Memphians, we deserve better."
"Moving forward, I want you to know that I hear you. The Memphis Police Department hears you. The city of Memphis hears you."
In his closing remarks, Strickland described what he called "two types of protestors." The first group "that I believe is the vast majority or protestors" believe in their message and want "to get it across in a peaceful, powerful, and respectful way." The other group, he said, "wants destruction and chaos, regardless of the cost and how many people they may hurt."
"We cannot let the second group steal the message to end systematic racism and take it from those of us who love our city and want to bring meaningful and lasting change to a broken system."
The Tennessee National Guard has been activated to respond to protests here and across the state. Neither Strickland nor Memphis Police Department director Michael Rallings were precisely sure of the Guard's movements here.