Energy surrounding the Overton Park Greensward parking issue flashed in a peaceful (yet police-involved) protest last Saturday, but that energy grew largely on Facebook, which has become a major tool for grassroots efforts around the issue.
Planned originally as a "Greensward Play Date," Saturday's event eventually brought hundreds to throng around the dirt path the Memphis Zoo uses to park cars on the Greensward. But the play date turned into a formal protest as people began to lie down on the dirt path, refusing to let cars pass.
The Memphis Police Department sent officers to monitor the event. It ended as protestors, with the help of U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, forged a compromise with the zoo to allow parking on only the top third of the Greensward.
- Courtesy Get Off Our Lawn
- A play date event on the Greensward last weekend turned into a protest.
• A few hundred yards from the Greensward, another protest — in which some people dressed as large, orange parking cones — was underway.
The Free Parking Brigade formed earlier this month after the Memphis City Council voted to give the zoo control of much of the Greensward. On peak zoo days, the brigade's members encourage zoo visitors to park on city streets or, as was the case Saturday, in the empty parking lot of Snowden School.
Laura Lanier, one of the group's founders, said some friends and "Facebook folks" formed the group to channel their anger and frustration over the council vote into something positive. The intention is to inform zoo-goers and to express those frustrations.
"It is to show the zoo and the council that we know exactly what they're doing and that we're watching," Lanier said. "But we also are trying to point out that there is a viable alternative."
• WREG lead anchor Richard Ransom took to Facebook Saturday, saying the "anti-parking folks are a bunch of well-to-do Midtowners with too much time on their hands."
Ransom posted again later saying "I'm done with the zoo debate!" This came after his earlier Facebook post was barraged with negative replies that he said included "name-calling, profanity, and threats."
"Richard's comments were uncalled for and his statements are not a reflection of our collective beliefs at WREG," according to Jessica Bellucci, a spokesman for WREG owner Tribune Media. "Station management has addressed this internally with Richard."
• Park supporters packed the Hi-Tone last Sunday for "Greensward Aid," a benefit concert for the Overton Park Conservancy legal fund and Get Off Our Lawn.
• One Greensward supporter created a Spotify playlist called "Save the Overton Park Greensward." It includes "Big Yellow Taxi" by Joni Mitchell (which includes the line "pave paradise and put up a parking lot"), "No Parking on the Dance Floor" by Midnight Star, The Beatles' "We Can Work It Out," "Green, Green Grass of Home" by Elvis Presley, and others.