Shelby County Sheriff’s Deputies spray protesters outside 201 Poplar

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A video that shows Shelby County Sheriff’s Deputies spraying protesters with some sort of chemical is getting a lot of attention.

The incident happened Saturday outside the door of the entrance to the jail at 201 Poplar.

Monday night, a county commissioner and a protester said deputies went too far.

One protester, Marissa Kizer, told FOX13 all they wanted was for someone to hear their concerns and take their list of demands to cut funding to the sheriff’s office by $92 million and redirect the money toward public school education.

She said they never expected to get sprayed.

Video shows Saturday’s protest becoming passionate but peaceful outside the jail at 201 Poplar.

“Our demands were to reallocate funding from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office into Shelby County Schools,” Kizer said.

Kizer said the group got to the door of the building but deputies would not let them inside or listen to their demands.

Then Kizer said a deputy pepper-sprayed them without warning.

“Of course people were hurt,” she said. “People’s arms were swelling up. People were struggling to breathe. People’s eyes were red.”

The sheriff’s office emailed their version of what happened.

A spokesman said deputies repeatedly tried to get people to move from the entrance.

When that failed “a deputy sprayed a small amount of chemical agent in the general area of the protesters” who then left. “There were no reported injuries” to either deputies or protesters.

FOX13 contacted County Commissioner Tami Sawyer, who is an outspoken critic of the Sheriff’s Office. She said the entire incident was unnecessary and she plans to look into it.

“They overreacted,” said Kizer. “I think it was a response out of fear and not any kind of respect or desire to protect anyone.”

Kizer said her group will continue to push this issue even after Saturday’s incident. They plan to reach out to the Shelby County Commission to hear their proposals.

She said another visit to the jail can’t be ruled out.