MPD accused of excessive force in Main St. incident - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

MPD accused of excessive force in Main St. incident

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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DOWNTOWN MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

If a video is worth a thousand words, a YouTube clip posted Oct. 26 has some supporters of a South Main Street event claiming excessive force by Memphis Police.

Friday evening, Oct. 25, officers broke up an event of rappers freestyling outside a store claiming it violated the noise violation. Organizers claim the police went too far.

Freestyling rappers on South Main Street have become a common sight on Trolley Night. The urban beatnick scene got intense when police arrived to shut down the music. Two people were arrested and the rapping and the arrests were caught on cellphone video.

Memphis rapper Chris "Preauxx" remembers Trolley Night held before the weekend of the River Arts Festival in South Main. He and other rappers had their monthly side walk performance with a deejay playing music while spectators watched.   

"Different people were passing the microphone, rapping to different beats," Chris recalled. "It was friendly a environment. Everybody was vibing. It was really harmonious and peaceful."

Organizers say the mood quickly soured when police arrived to enforce a noise ordinance. In the nine-minute YouTube clip of the rappers and the alleged police excessive force, one officer was seen using his baton after arresting two people. One person arrested had to be peppered sprayed.

Kimberly Taylor, who owns a boutique on South Main and often hosts the freestyle rap event, believes one officer got mad one someone made a joke over the microphone.

"Three cops walked up to the deejay booth, party is over and he cuts off the music," Taylor said. "True enough, the rapper with mic makes a joke. He says ‘license and registration please,' and the guy got pissed off."

Organizers said the mood quickly soured when police arrived to enforce a noise ordinance. Fearing the worst, witness Kara Carter and others kept recording with their cellphones.

"The police came in, in my opinion, overacting to what was going on," Carter said. "This is of course my opinion, and I felt it needed to be taped, just in case."

A police source told FOX13 News a different story. The source said several residents complained about loud music and use of profanity after Trolley Night had shut down at 9 p.m. Officers asked the crowd to leave but they would not.

The source said they tried to arrest one person named Niles Sugermon. He got peppered sprayed after he resisted arrest and grabbed an officer around the waist.

Taylor said that is not what happened. She and others are planning on filling a formal complaint with Memphis Police.

"We want a written apology, for you to acknowledge that yes that was taken a little out of hand," Taylor said. "It could have been handled in a very different manner."

FOX13 News sent the YouTube clip link to police spokeswoman Sgt. Karen Rudolph to see a response from the police department.

"MPD has not received any complaints from the individuals involved in this incident,"  Sgt. Rudolph said. "I did review the video, but I did not see any excessive force being utilized. Due to the suspect resisting arrest, the officers did have to utilize their chemical agent, but the suspect was not injured."

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