This morning Memphis Tennessee residents were shocked to find the memorial estate of Elvis Presley was defaced with spray paint. The Graceland estate is a historic landmark where Presley lived for 20 years until his death on August 16th, 1977. The memorial is a popular tourist attraction and thousands of Presley fans visit the estate to write messages of love and devotion around the same walls that were painted.
Protest slogans like “defund the police,” “abolish ice,” “black lives matter,” “#saveourchildren,” and more were found in multi-colored letters on the stone wall that surrounds the mansion. Along with the walls, the sidewalk along Elvis Presley Boulevard was also spray-painted with similar expressions. Memphis reacted quickly and by mid-morning, there were workers with power wash equipment removing the graffiti.
There was also similar tagging found at Levitt Shell in Overton Park.— Briseida Holguin (@BriseidaHolguin) September 1, 2020
According to local outlet Commercial Appeal the Graceland wall and sidewalk are in plain sight of traffic on the adjacent street. The amount of graffiti covering the estate is extensive and suggests the people responsible worked as a group and spent quite some time there. Elvis’ stepbrother Bill Stanley said he was appalled that someone would deface the home. “This is totally uncalled for,” said Stanley. “One of the saddest days of my life. I mean, besides the day that Elvis passed away, this right here is right up next to it.” The estate was apart of an overnight hit of graffiti in the city. The historic concert venue The Levitt Shell was covered in similar phrases like, “Eat the Rich,” ”F**k Trump” and ”Defund MPD” and ‘“End homelessness.” The vandalism was discovered on “901 Day,” an unofficial celebration of Memphis culture that takes place on Sept. 1. Graceland spokesperson David Beckwith wrote in an email, ”Graceland has no comment” when asked about the vandalism.
In a statement to the outlet, Natalie Wilson, an executive director of Levitt Shell, spoke about how disappointing it was to discover the graffiti. ”We wake up, excited to celebrate our city on 901 Day, and we see our beautiful historic landmark defaced with messages of pain,” she said. “And that breaks our heart. We’re broken-hearted and devastated by this.” Wilson continued, “We want to be part of the conversation that helps heal our city. We want to see change happen. But how do we talk together, how do we ensure that the messages we provide are productive? This isn’t productive. People are trying to speak, and I get that, but we’ve got to come up with a better way.”
Presley fans are die-hard and it’s no surprise they were livid to hear about the vandalism. It sparked a debate on twitter with many saying it was an act of disrespect to the Rock n Roll legend. Others commended the act of rebellion and called out the socioeconomic disparity in the city. One person tweeted, “Graceland is an expensive, for-profit institution that fleeces tourists while giving nothing back to the black communities it sits in the middle of. It is a symbol of everything this city gets wrong about [sic] economic development and activists are smart to use it to promote their cause.” State Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, asked on Facebook: “What’s the real issue here? Every visitor that has come to Graceland has written on that wall and there were no complaints. So, really, it’s WHAT was written, not the fact that it was written.” The “I (Heart) Memphis“ mural on Cooper Avenue at York created by artist Brandon Marshall was also tagged. Surveillance cameras at a nearby business shows two cars pull up to the mural right before 2 a.m. Tuesday. In the video, five people can be seen spray painting the mural. Memphis police are investigating the incident.