Murder in Memphis recently returned to the portal city of Tennessee with the police-involved shooting of Brandon Webber, a 20-year-old Black man, causing residents to riot and protest for several days before calm returned.
But it’s not the first time that racial strife brought the city to a standstill initiated by white police officers and local leaders.
In April 1866, 46 Blacks were murdered in riots which occurred after white city leaders became incensed with the rise of free Blacks in Memphis just after the end of the Civil War. In that instance, Memphis police attempted to arrest a former Union soldier near Fort Pickering, an effort thwarted by Black soldiers still in the area.
Three days of violence ensured with Black men, women and children, especially former Black soldiers, ruthlessly attacked, raped and murdered. No one was ever arrested or charged.
Memphis would face more unrest following the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968.
Now, pain and death has returned to Memphis following the shooting death of Webber.
Six officers were wounded, multiple police cars were vandalized and several journalists were hurt in the riots. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigations and the US Marshals Service continue to conduct an internal review of the fatal altercation.
One citizen, Shelby County Commissioner and mayoral candidate Tami Sawyer, expressed her concerns on Twitter.
“I was in Frayser [the Memphis community] tonight because Brandon Webber was shot 16 to 20 times in his family’s front yard on the same day as the Pulse nightclub shooting anniversary and on the same day that the DA chose not to charge another police officer for murdering a civilian. Don’t judge Frayser without asking a community how it feels to mourn their youth over and over again. What do people do with their pain and trauma when it gets to be too much, when a city has ignored them, when their loss is too great and they can no longer yell at the sky?”