- Associated Press - Thursday, June 4, 2015

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - A federal judge has ruled that city police can no longer clear crowds from Memphis’ Beale Street Entertainment District unless public safety requires it.

Since at least 2007, police had gone down the street, often in the early morning hours of weekends, to clear people off the road or push them into nightclubs, The Commercial Appeal reports (https://bit.ly/1H3JVA6).

U.S. District Judge Jon McCalla ruled Wednesday that the practice is unlawful.

“It’s a complete victory,” said attorney Robert Spence, who represented two plaintiffs in the case that led to this decision. “It is exactly what we thought was appropriate.”

The case stems from a federal jury verdict in January that Memphis police employed the sweeps even when there was no safety threat, thereby violating people’s right to use public places.

Two men, Lakendus Cole and Leon Edmond, were arrested as a result of two separate sweeps in 2012. They filed a federal lawsuit, and Cole was awarded $35,000 by a jury earlier this year. The jury ruled against Edmond.

The city has the right to appeal the decision, but city attorney Herman Morris says the city has not decided what its next step will be.

“We’re going to analyze it and make a decision on whether or not it’s something that we’re going to appeal, after we’ve had a chance to review it in some detail,” he said.

McCalla’s ruling says the Memphis Police Department can clear the street when there is “an imminent threat to public safety” in the area.

The ruling says the city must appoint a neutral monitor for one year to make certain police are no longer conducting the sweeps.

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Information from: The Commercial Appeal, https://www.commercialappeal.com

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