Nearly 40 angry people of color chase members of Chattanooga’s city council from their dais tonight by demanding justice and crying for deliverance from police thuggery in Chattanooga and Hamilton County.
By David Tulis / NoogaRadio 92.7
The tinderbox of anger would have ignited under any trigger. But it’s a statement by councilman Erskine Oglesby that sparks a lockdown upon a single angry topic until the meeting room empties out and a janitor checks the auditorium for plastic cups and lost pens.
“ We as a council feel this unacceptable behavior and we are appalled and incensed by that, and by no stretch of the imagination do you think we tolerate that kind of behavior — ” Mr. Oglesby says, referring to a police beating.
“— But you have, though,” cries activist Marie Mott, lead rabble rouser of the disaffected residents and a sharp press critic of the city’s administration.
‘Community control now’
The moment Mr. Oglesby ceases speech, demonstrators holding pictures of Charles “Interstate Tax” Toney cry for relief from law enforcement and policing of the kind that bloodied Mr. Toney, fractured two ribs, broke his nose and deflated a lung. So touchy is the case that district attorney Neal Pinkston says he is referring the matter to the federal justice department in Washington.
“Community control now! Community control now,” they cry. “You agree, but you ain’t doing nothing,” Miss Mott tells the council members as they rise to flick out the rear door to their offices.
Lending his voice to the uproar is activist Christopher “CT” Torregano, a barber; Aeriel Hubbard, whose family members know Mr. Toney; Allen DeBerry, arrested and harassed by Red Bank police; and Miss Mott, who highlights throttlings and cop rape accusations as a city reformer and talk show host on NoogaRadio 92.7.
The beating of Mr. Tony was not at the hands of city police, however, but in the grasp of the Hamilton County sheriff’s office, led by Jim Hammond.
“You see how they do you?” cries Miss Mott, wearing a yellow ballcap. “Where do they stand for the community? They don’t. They turn their backs on the people. They turn their back on you! *** When do we fight back? What about our black babies? What about our black men? What about our black children. What about our black people? There is no council without black people! They hung us from the Walnut Street bridge. Now they shoot us and beat us,” she cries.
Expecting too much from ‘minimalism’
“We have rights, we have rights,” bellows one woman. Next to her is a vocal Qualeka Shante Alqadri, Mr. Toney’s neighbor. Her smart phone video of the attack has been seen 80,000 times the past eight days.
Another woman cries: “Justice for ‘Tax’! Justice for ‘Tax’!”
“I’m tired of just sharing stuff” on social media, despairs Ariel Hubbard, 22, “and being on the side. I want to be more involved. I’m sick of it. It’s about bringing me to tears. *** They don’t want to listen to us,” she says.
“We are mad because we have been given minimalism and are expected to maximize off of it since the beginning of time,” says CT Torregano, a barber, standing next to his wife, Porsche. “We saw someone with whom we are very personable be victimized by law enforcement — the same people who are supposed to protect and serve, but they have not yet done so.”
Mr. Oglesby’s parsing of jurisdictional matters is a mere quibble to the angry, though he is correct in the strict legal sense.
“This is a Hamilton County sheriff matter, and that is where the jurisdiction ultimately lies,” he says in his speech. “That does not mean we do not care any less about it, or we will not be involved in this. There is this council’s expectation that we’ll stay engaged, and we want to be informed and notified as they move the process of the investigation.”
Berke, council ignore relief in plain sight
Sheriff Hammond held a press conference Monday to attempt to mollify African-Americans about his department’s treatment of Mr. Toney. Standing behind a podium festooned with an NAACP logo was its president, Dr. Elenora Woods. The vague statements of the two appear to have tamped down any spirit of unrest.
Black people in the Chattanooga area are generally accepting of what appears an evil state of affairs against their kind, typical of cities across the U.S. where commercial enforcement and police burrowing into the lives of the citizenry draw special dividends from people of dark pigment.
The passivity of African-Americans in Chattanooga appears quietly accepted by Mayor Andy Berke, a progressive traditionalist Democrat lawyer with national aspirations who rejects local effort to bring relief to the city from his department’s courageous officers.
On Feb. 20 the city came under transportation administrative notice requiring the corporation and its agents to obey the state transportation law (Tenn. Code Ann. § Title 55) that it has abused for decades. Mr. Berke refuses to open the city up by declaring it a haven from state judicial policy of overenforcement of the law. Up until now, police were able to harass motorists without repercussions, but have with the notice lost their legal immunities in stopping people under the transportation law who are not involved in transportation. Notice opens a cause against them and their employer for abusing the law, even though court policy endorses the abuse.
The “traveling under notice” reform is the only one on the table that can be accomplished by executive fiat, without higher payroll or taxes or special programs and bring instant relief to thousands of Chattanooga residents and others, particularly people of color, those most routinely harassed under the commercial program. The reform can also be accomplished one person at a time, by a personal challenge to the officer in a roadside encounter.
Steven Bedford, 21, is an entrepreneur who helped Mr. Toney with his music CD. He is concerned about police abuse of people on the roads and streets, and is in the city council crowd.
“Four out of 10, or five out of 10 people don’t have the proper things that they need” to drive, he says. Driver licenses are revoked, suspended, expired or don’t exist, and black people are vulnerable, he says. Between “60 percent, 70 percent” violate the auto insurance law, he says, too poor to afford it.
Anger over beating vibrates at city council
Angry Chattanoogans demand to know why their treatment by police and sheriff’s deputies seems little improved, but city council refuses to sit and take in their cacaphony, its members closing down their meeting early and slipping into their offices in the back. (Photo NoogaRadio on FB)