MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Demonstrators who filed a discrimination lawsuit against Graceland told FOX13 they believe their protest last year may have led to this year’s security changes during Elvis Week.
In an email to FOX13 Thursday, Elvis Presley Enterprises confirmed what it called “updated security measures” during Elvis Week.
For the first time, Graceland will charge guests to participate in Elvis Week events that have historically been free, including the vigil on Tuesday, access to gift shops and restaurants on the property, and access to the entertainment tent.
An Elvis Week Property Pass wristband allows guests access to the typically non-ticketed venues. The wristband comes with any Graceland tour ticket. The lowest-priced ticket is $28.75, according to Graceland’s website.
“The monetization of the vigil now is a direct effect of what happened last year,” Keedran Franklin told FOX13.
Franklin participated in last year’s demonstration on Elvis Presley Blvd. the night of the annual vigil, when Elvis fans walk by candlelight to Presley’s grave. The demonstration was organized by members of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Police refused entry to the vigil to anyone believed to be involved in the demonstration.
“I felt degraded,” Franklin said, remembering the demonstration.
Franklin and other demonstrators filed a discrimination lawsuit against Elvis Presley Enterprises.
“I propose that Graceland drop the 30 dollar fee and figure out another way to "keep security,” Franklin said.
Graceland’s spokesperson did not mention last year’s protest in its statement about the changes, only that they wanted to revamp their security measures.
“This year we have updated our security measures at Graceland for Elvis Week, as we anticipate very large crowds for this 40th anniversary,” read a statement from Elvis Presley Enterprises.
“In order to keep everyone safe and ensure an enjoyable and meaningful event for all, we have worked closely with local, state and federal security authorities to establish new procedures that have been widely used across the US,” the statement continued.
Other Graceland guests said they were noticing the cost differences.
“Now they just want money for everything,” Miguel Ignasio said.
Elvis Week guests told FOX13 the week-long celebration seems to get more expensive every year.
“We're coming from all over the world, and it's expensive for us to fly here,” Michelle Jenkins, a tourist from London, said. “Then we have to get accommodations and accommodations have gone through the roof.”
In the lawsuit filed in January, Demonstrators claim there was a conspiracy between Elvis Presley Enterprises and the Memphis Police Department to deny black people access to the candlelight vigil, and that their constitutional rights were violated.
In response to the lawsuit, Elvis Presley Enterprises said it has a worldwide reputation for inclusion. They said Graceland has welcomed more than 20 million visitors in the past 34 years.
The attorney representing the demonstrators who filed the complaint could not be reached for comment Friday.
© 2017 Cox Media Group.