Five protesters sued Elvis Presley‘s estate Graceland and the city of Memphis for discrimination after claiming they were prohibited from entering a Presley vigil.
In the federal civil rights lawsuit, members of the Coalition of Concerned Citizens, an offshoot of the Black Lives Movement according to the Associated Press, attempted to stage a protest at Graceland last August 16th during an annual candlelight vigil marking Presley’s date of death.
Shortly before the protest, the Coalition of Concerned Citizens revealed plans to stage a protest, called “Operation Blue Suede Shoes,” at the vigil because “Graceland represents the tremendous disparity of what works for a few what doesn’t work for the many,” the group said at the time, the Commercial Appeal reports.
The protests were in response to a pair of police shootings on African-Americans: Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana. The group had protested at Graceland a month earlier, causing traffic problems.
On the date of the vigil, police in riot gear prevented the protesters from entering an area of a public street where Presley fans were gathering. The civil rights lawsuit accuses both Graceland and Memphis police of barring the protesters because of the color of their skin.
“The decision as to which citizens were allowed to attend the public vigil and which citizens were denied access to the public vigil, was based on the race of the citizens,” the lawsuit said, adding that the group’s rights under the United States and Tennessee Constitutions were violated.
Three protesters were ultimately arrested in the Graceland incident. Those suing Graceland and the city of Memphis seek a jury trial and unspecified damages.
In a statement, Elvis Presley Enterprises said of the lawsuit, “For 34 years now, Graceland has welcomed over 20 million visitors. They have come to celebrate the life and legacy of Elvis Presley from nearly every country on Earth, and they have all been welcomed without incident. Graceland is proud of its worldwide reputation for inclusion and hospitality as it welcomes the next 20 million visitors.”