Black Lives Matter Memphis said it was not responsible for the graffiti and vandalism at Graceland, the former home of Elvis Presley, and Levitt Shell, the historic amphitheater, in Memphis last week. The two landmarks were tagged with "Defund the Police" and "BLM" graffiti, as well as derogatory marks towards President Donald Trump and Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland. Presley's ex-wife, Priscilla Presley, previously said she was "horrified" by the graffiti.
Black Lives Matter organizer P. Moses told Fox 13 the group does not approve of acts of violence and hate and are working with Levitt Shell officials to organize events at the venue promoting peace in the city. "That's not something that we would participate in, but we don't want people to miss the message and the vandalism because somebody did that and whoever did that, did it for one or two reasons," Moses said Thursday. The group is also leading efforts to clean up Levitt Shell.
On Monday night, vandals spraypainted "F— Trump," "F— Strickland," "BLM," "Defund MPD," "Eat the Rich," and other phrases on Levitt Shell reports the Commercial Appeal. Vandals also hit Graceland, spraypainting "Defund MPD," "BLM," "#DefundThePolice," and "Abolish ICE" along Elvis Presley Boulevard. The graffiti at Graceland covered up hundreds of messages left by Presley fans, often left during the annual "Candlelight Vigil." By Tuesday morning, workers were already using power-washing equipment to clean Graceland.
"We wake up, excited to celebrate our city on 901 Day, and we see our beautiful historic landmark defaced with messages of pain," Natalie Wilson, executive director of Levitt Shell, told the Commercial Appeal. "And that breaks our heart. We're brokenhearted and devastated by this." She said the venue hopes to be part of the "conversation that helps heal the city" and called the vandalism unproductive. "People are trying to speak, and I get that, but we've got to come up with a better way," she said.
Priscilla commented on the graffiti Thursday, saying she was "absolutely horrified" by the vandalism. "I'm saddened by acts like this and appalled by this behavior. We were able to clean all the graffiti off thanks to our dedicated crew," she wrote on Facebook. Presley owned the home from 1957 until he died in 1977. It is a significant tourist attraction in Memphis and is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Tennessee state Rep. London Lamar tweeted on Tuesday that she believes the graffiti was not done by Black Lives Matter supporters. "I bet my money that those tagging property in Memphis with BLM and Defund Police are individuals trying to make this movement look bad," Lamar wrote. "Don't believe that it's the movement! It's not! WE ALL KNOW WHO'S OUT TO MAKE US LOOK BAD!"