Wednesday, January 26, 2011

FBI and Police Harassment at Mid-South Peace and Justice Center

The Commercial Appeal has an article about the events yesterday at First Congo Church and the harassment of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center by the FBI and the MPD Tactical unit. You can read the article

The FBI and MPD are not being honest with the public....and I for one would like to know who gave this order? Who knew about this beforehand?......and long is our Mayor and the City Council going to allow all these "misunderstandings" to occur? First Duanna Johnson, then the Sweep of the this.'s what happened...I was the person at the Center who spoke to the FBI Agents and was there when the Tactical unit arrived.

3 FBI agents came to the offices of the MSPJC at around 2pm. As we rent space in First Congo Church and as our office were open, they thought we were the church first. They claimed that they were there to alert us to anti-war activists planning a PROTEST outside our building.I informed them that we were a Pro Peace organization and having an indoors meeting as was stated in our press release, not a protest and who we were as an org. They left seeming kinda embarrassed that they came to warn us about our own meeting.

From 4-5:30 we were under intense MPD surveillance, "2 cruisers and 6 tactical squad SUV's".

MPD claims that they were there for OUR protection, yet at no point did anyone actually call to see if we needed protection, nor would they say protection from whom?
The officers on the scene admitted that they did not even know where in the church our offices how could they protect us?
They refused to leave and refused to tell us where the order was from.


Mr Joel Siskovic from the FBI is flat out lying. We called the FBI numerous times yesterday afternoon and evening and received no answer from them at all. More importantly..the agents never warned me about anything in anyway..accept warning us about our own meeting.With us as the threat...

Look we share space with a Church, a daycare, a youth hostel, therapy groups, mid wife classes, belly dancing classes,a music program for kids,a clothes closet for the homeless and a bicycle co'op among many other things...if there was a real threat..then we and our neighbors would have needed to know. they claim this was a misunderstanding....but here's the bottom line.

1. This organization has hosted over a dozen protests, and each time we have a major event we get a permit from MPD. We even have to pay MPD for a Police presence at our protest...over time as we have a history of nonviolent protest..they rarely bother anymore.MPD's office of permits will confirm this.

2. Does anyone have a phone anymore?
IF...IF...IF all that happened was a simple "misunderstanding"...then why was there no call to confirm the nature of the event? Why did they not read our press release?

3. Does it seem odd to anyone else that when we have a meeting about activists filing FOIA requests to reveal FBI surveillance...that the FBI and the MPD Tactical unit shows up. This has never happened before....

4. IF...if..all this was a simple "misunderstanding" then why did MPD not say so before the Media asked them about it?

5. Around that same time calls came in on Shelby County Deputies harassment while checking warrants at the DeCleyre co'op near the University of Memphis and local socialist, social justice and anarchist orgs have reported harassment and warrant checks all going down today.
Yet MPD claims these events are all unrelated.

This is about intimidation and abuse of law enforcement powers...and only now that the media has covered the story has all the backtracking occurred, and we are not going to let this go unanswered.


Brad Watkins
Organizing Coordinator
Mid-South Peace and Justice Center

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Your chance to help end Homelessness in Shelby County



As I mentioned yesterday the city of Memphis is gearing up for the 2011 point in time count of people experiencing homelessness in Shelby County. This annual count is both a requirement for receiving more than $5 million a year to local non-profits in homeless funding from HUD and also a way to establish a benchmark for measuring our community's progress to end homelessness. Last year MSPJC volunteers aided the city by putting out a call to the community to volunteer to help with the count and thanks to your efforts that count was very successful in not only obtaining accurate numbers but in also gaining data about the needs of our brothers and sisters living on the streets of Memphis.

The unsheltered count will take place on Wednesday, January 26th from 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. With a volunteer trainings on either January 19 (11:30 to 1:30) or January 21 from 3 to 5 at MIFA’s Les Passes center @ 715 St. Paul Avenue, the official Headquarters for unsheltered count. You need only attend one of the trainings.

Like last year the count will focus on where people slept on the night of January 25th.
Volunteers will work in teams of three and that one volunteer from each team will be asked to provide their own transportation for their shift.

If you cannot volunteer but still want to help, the city will need donated goods to be distributed to the unsheltered population on the day of the count (hats, gloves, socks, and snack foods). Donated items will be accepted at our offices at 1000 South Cooper inside First Congo Church.

This year the city NEEDS you to help with the point in time count to not only secure continued funding for our homeless services, but to also help guide future efforts within the Mayors'TEN YEAR PLAN TO END HOMELESSNESS. Mid-South Peace and Justice Center staff including myself worked as members of the policy and planning committee for that plan and are committed to seeing these badly needed reforms and innovations come to pass and having a successful point in time count is part of that process. So please forward this to your lists, your churches and neighborhood groups...we need the entire community to lend a hand here.

Anyone interested in volunteering please call or email me at anytime at

...and let me know what hours are you available for during the count anytime you can give makes a difference.


Brad Watkins
Organizing Coordinator
Mid-South Peace and Justice Center

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

We CAN End Homelessness in Memphis..but it's up to you.

Mayors Release New Plan to Help Homeless

This week Mayor AC Wharton and Mayor Mark Luttrell will release an action plan developed by the Mayors' Committee to End Homelessness. The Mid-South Peace and Justice Center has been an active participant in the process to formulate this plan. We have advocated for commonsense, community based solutions to the problems of poverty and homelessness in the process. We are happy to announce that many of our recommendations will be included in the final plan, and once implemented, will result in a rapid improvement in the lives of those that find themselves living without homes.

You can download a copy of the report here. We are asking our supporters to call the Mayors this week and thank them for their leadership on this issue. There are some recommendations in this report that may be controversial to some, so it is important that we stand up and support this plan. In particular we are excited that the following will be recommended:

* A systemic switch to a Housing First model when dealing with homeless men, women and families. This replaces a traditional reliance on transitional housing programs.
* The establishment of a free overnight shelter that will offer a minimum of 20 free nights a month.
* Replication of the 1811 Eastlake Project, a model program for housing the chronically homeless.
* An increase in the number of shelter beds available for single women, a shortfall we have been concerned about for years.

These recommendations and more are a great start to turning around the state of homelessness in Memphis. Please take a moment to call Mayor Wharton (901.576.6000) and Mayor Luttrell (901.545.4500) and thank them for their support of the homeless. Don't forget to call your councilmen as well and let them know that you support this plan!

*Also watch this space for volunteer opportunities to assist the city in the 2011 point in time census of the local homeless population. This count is CRUCIAL for our city to get it's proper share of federal dollars to help get our brothers and sisters off of the streets.
Last year the city in a bold move called on volunteers to aid in this count and the process was a huge success, allowing the city and service providers to obtain more accurate and up to date information about the state of homelessness here in our city. The date of the point in time count is Jan 26th and I will be forwarding information on how you can help in the next 24 hours.

Please take the time to look at the plan and forward it to your friends, neighborhood and church groups. We all need to be a part of this. We CAN END HOMELESSNESS in Memphis...IT IS POSSIBLE.