Tough cop throws out 30 at party, files harassing charge of hapless venue operator

From left, city council member Anthony Byrd speaks with complainant Mark Jackson and Venue 909 neighbors Florence Fortson Nash and Sherry Petty. (Photo David Tulis)

A heavy-handed police visit upset a venue operator whose guests were scattered by single officer while five others lounged about, at least one shaking his head, a complainant says.

By David Tulis / 92.7 NoogaRadio

Mark Jackson, who operates Venue 909 in Chattanooga, tells City Council tonight that he is aggrieved by the officer’s belligerent shooing away of a private birthday party outside the scope of any ordinance. The event was open to the public, did not require anyone to pay and did not give occasion for the sale of alcoholic beverages, he says.

Mr. Jackson faces the officer in city court on May 2, and he declined to identify him. But Carlos Benford, the man who threw the party for a girlfriend, identifies him as Officer Brock.

The officer ordered that music be shut off, and spoke so roughly Mr. Jackson says that he spoke a harsh word in return — one the officer said he interpreted as a threat, Mr. Jackson says.

“If I have an event, I hate for an officer to just come running into my event with other officers, six officers, and we have only 29, 35 people in my event, and they rush them out. It’s just unfair to treat my customers, who I treat like my family, like that. It’s just officer unfair for any officer to have that power and control to do anything in this manner. It’s just unacceptable.”

‘He doesn’t come correct’

“No, it’s not all the officers. No, absolutely not. The officers are wonderful. It’s just an individual who muscles his way around town and does things that he should not do to a lot of different venues and clubs in this city.”

“He needs to step down and give that authority to someone who can treat us properly. This is what I’m saying. Officers are wonderful. They come there. They talk to me nice. They treat me good. But when this gentleman comes, he doesn’t come correct.”

Mark Jackson, right, tells city council members how he was belittled and harassed by a city police officer — Officer Brock. At left is his customer, Carlos Benford. (Photo David Tulis)

“We were shut down before the party ended,” says Mr. Benford. “The cops came in. There was a lot of confusion going on. *** They said someone paid for a free party. It was a free party, BYOB. No pay at the door. It was a birthday party. They come in, ‘Someone told me they paid so we’ve got to shut you down.’ *** The officer threatened to arrest [Jackson] if the music wasn’t turned off and we were out.’”

City council members are warm in their reactions to the Jackson account.

“I apologize, and hopefully once you file the proper paperwork [internal affairs complaint], these things will be taken care of,” councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod says.

Councilman Anthony Byrd says he sympathizes with Mr. Jackson for the condescending treatment. He, too, ran an establishment, Mr. Byrd says and would be addressed “as if I wasn’t a man, or a businessman. *** Sometimes I felt that if I was of a different race, or of a different financial background, would they treat me that way. So I totally — totally — understand what you are saying.” He has suffered cops coming in and treating establishment owners as unwanted and undesirable people.

Russell Gilbert and Chip Henderson also make supportive comments.

“I feel they are very just and very honest here with the response and all the support here,” Mr. Jackson says. An officer should not be in authority if he cannot deal properly with people, he says.

Piazza beating update

Lest city council or members of the public forget, the TBI is investigating the beating of traveler Fredrico Wolfe by city policeman Ben Piazza, who used profanity, drew his semiautomatic pistol and punched the terrified man nearly a dozen times in the face without provocation.

Councilwoman Mrs. Coonrod says she called the TBI today to ask about the investigation. An official told her results would be delivered to the state prosecutor in Chattanooga, Neal Pinkston, the district attorney.

The David Tulis show is 1 p.m. weekdays, live and lococentric.

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