Pressure from two Memphis city councilors for the Memphis Police Department to refuse to provide security for former President Donald Trump at an event in Southaven next week failed on Tuesday.
It is unclear whether the resolution would have been anything other than a political statement by city council if it had passed. He showed the disapproval of the former president with the elected officials of Memphis.
The heated discussion over Trump’s safety reflected less division on the former president, but whether the resolution was the right thing to do.
The Memphis City Council voted 4-4-2 in committee, rejecting a resolution sponsored by Councilmen JB Smiley, Jr and Martavius Jones. The resolution will go to a full council vote two weeks after Trump’s death.
Jones and Smiley introduced the resolution last week. They cited the tense state of MPD staff and the former president’s history of unpaid bills for private security at his events.
“Elected leaders across the country should stand up and say ‘no more lies and no more deception,'” Smiley said. Smiley is also a candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination of Tennessee. His comments noted the lies that the ex-president has spoken about the 2020 elections.
Trump in Memphis:Two Memphis city councilors don’t want Memphis police providing security for former President Trump
Councilwoman Michalyn Easter-Thomas said the city shouldn’t use taxpayer resources on someone who inspires divisiveness and racist acts. She said the council expected the police department to adhere to its resolution.
“The greatest threat to our democracy is the re-election of the former president…We openly oppose hate…The majority of the people of Memphis stand with us. Your vote today will allow the people of Memphis to know where you stand,” Smiley said.
“I don’t think we should be playing politics with security decisions,” Councilman Worth Morgan said. Morgan is the Republican candidate for mayor of Shelby County in the August ballot. “If there is a request to present to the MPD, it will be up to them to assess…”
Other board members called the resolution a “slippery slope” and questioned whether it should pass.
“I’m afraid … there’s a law passed saying we can’t have this type of resolution,” Councilman Jeff Warren said, noting the Tennessee General Assembly’s propensity to pass laws that supersede the authority of Memphis.
“If we deal with the man, we destroy the office,” Councilman Chase Carlisle said. He also criticized the media for covering the resolution and its discussion at a public meeting and not covering the city’s budget hearings hours earlier.
Councilman J. Ford Canale said he hopes the board will pass similar resolutions for other past presidents and called it a “slippery slope.”
“I hate this man with a passion, but he was the President of the United States,” Councilman Edmund Ford, Sr. said, noting the prospect of violence. “We keep building this man…I don’t want them walking through that door because we do things like that…We’re getting the hate out if we do that.”
The MPD again confirmed Tuesday that it was not asked to provide security for the Landers Center in Southaven, Mississippi, June 18 event. He said the same last week in response to questions about the resolution. Trump’s planned visit is part of the “American Freedom Tour,” a private event for which tickets are sold about 15 miles south of Memphis.
Former presidents enjoy significant security through the Secret Service, which coordinates and usually requests assistance from local law enforcement if necessary.
MPD Chief CJ Davis told the board that the department had not received a request from the Secret Service for security. She said that in a typical security situation, the police department would escort a dignitary to the city’s jurisdictional border and that’s where the responsibility would end.
“We’re going to help in our jurisdiction,” Davis said. “It is understood that the jurisdiction will argue whether it is the incumbent president, the first lady or the former president.”
Deputy Chief Don Crowe said the security requests came from a federal law enforcement agency, the Secret Service, and that the department would assist a federal agency, not a specific individual.
The American Freedom Tour responded to the resolution last week. Larry Ward, spokesperson for the tour, said, “Would the Memphis City Council withhold security from Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton or Joe Biden? Of course they wouldn’t, because it would be absurd to do so.”
Samuel Hardiman covers Memphis city government and politics for The Commercial Appeal. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or followed on Twitter at @samhardiman.