Four hundred people kneel for several minutes Saturday at the foot of the Chattanooga walking bridge in memory of George Floyd of Minneapolis who was killed five days before by police officer Derek Chauvin. (Photo David Tulis)

The members of Chattanooga city council are not likely to be liable for the sin of idle words. 

By David Tulis / NoogaRadio 92.7 FM

They are more likely to be liable for the sin of idle silence.

Its members’ reluctance to take ownership of the people’s representative body is telling particularly since Monday and the national outbreak of domestic violence and disturbance on account of the cop slaying of George Floyd. 

‘Knowing, intentional’

The city council of Chattanooga was informed 831 days ago about the limits of the state’s transportation law that allows police abuse to descend down to the causations of “probable cause” such as  “light law,” “tinted windows,” broken tail lights, out of date tags and failure to use indicator signals in making a left turn into a rundown neighborhood. 

The knowing and intentional abuse of this body of law is clearly in city council’s notice as I have given that body a formal legal notice about the problem and have given extended coverage of the abuse of this law among city residents such as Jimmy Lee Moore, Diana Watt and Jon Luman.

The abuse pertains to to Tennessee Code Ann. Title 55, motor and other vehicles, a public law available to all and readable on the Internet. The city has no authority whatsoever to enforce this law upon people not involved in transportation. And yet we have consistent and persistent ignoring by city council members of these abuses. 

Rather than the members demanding a sharp review by city attorney Phil Noblett, members have taken comfort in duplicitous mummeries and his persistent confusion about how the constitution works. 

The county is in turmoil. Government has shut down the livelihoods and employments of millions of people, and piled trillions in losses on the supposedly free market in a supposedly free country. The financial economy is deflating, and billions in bad debt is being written off, and the Fed is shoveling trillions in debt into the economy, hoping it will bring increase and productivity.

The country’s violent anger over racist and general police abuse boiled over with Derek Chauvin’s killing of Mr. Floyd. We have in Chattanooga our own officer Chauvin, waiting to make himself known, as well as future possible victims such as Mr. Floyd who face police action by officers acting outside the scope of city authority. 

Officer Chauvin, a Minneapolis municipal employee, had no authority to enforce the federal legal tender statute. The most he could do if he was aware that Mr. Floyd was passing a nonauthenticated counterfeit bill was to get his name and address and to pass the information to the federal secret service, which alone is empowered to enforce the currency laws. 

That missing ‘delegation’ of authority

In Chattanooga police enforce the driver license statute though it is given solely to the department of safety and homeland security to enforce. 

I have put in an open records request with the city attorney’s office regarding the delegation order, contract, agreement or covenant that lets the city enforce the driver license law. 

The “motor vehicle and other” statute at Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-50-201 reads as follows: Administration by department. This chapter shall be administered by the department of safety.

Requester asks for a digital copy of any and all agreements, covenants, contracts, delegation orders or other documents giving City of Chattanooga authority to administer any part of this chapter (chapter 50) in Title 55.”

Mr. Noblett’s office is asking an extension because “It has not yet been determined that records responsive to your request exist./”

Such a document doesn’t exist. Here’s why: A legal principle holding that authority cannot be delegated. It can only be given. There is no authority for CPD to enforce the driver license law in Chattanooga.

The abuse of this law for decades is the basis of Jim Crow in Chattanooga and across the state. Jim Crow is what the protests in Chattanooga are against — at least the fruit of Jim Crow. The idea entailed is the use of summary executive police power on people apart from due process protections.

I put the city on awares and made a speech to city council (a three-minute pitch). To be put on notice is to be put on awares. The city has not rebutted the notice and has not modified the policies that are, by implication, shown to be illegal and unconstitutional under Tennessee law, pursuant to notice. Ignoring notice brings the element of aggravation into the future accounting in court all the abuse. 

Ignoring notice, I suggest to city council, puts tinder and powder into the keg of public perception of police violence and allows there to build the accretion of injustice that makes the psychical, moral and internal pressure greater and more explosive.

The claim “no justice, no peace” is not a promise of violence, nor does it require the speaker to have malevolent intent. No doubt some people do, those who want to torch retail shops and shatter storefront glass.. When I hear those words I consider it a neutral description of human society. The lack of justice invites disorder, chaos, violence and a lack of peace. It is a neutral observation that justifies the existence of church and courts.

The courts are intended to let disputants solve their problems peaceably, under the supervision of judge and jury, and to find truth and justice in often fractured and complicated interactions.

Whence recurrences of violence

Dr. Martin Luther King is revered among African-Americans and many others, too. This quote is worth considering.

Even though there is evidence of provocateurs starting the rioting, damage to property has been a long established way of change in a society. Is it the best way? Maybe not if kneeling at a football game during the national anthem would have been met with a different attitude. 

Let me say as I’ve always said, and I will always continue to say, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating. I’m still convinced that nonviolence is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom and justice. I feel that violence will only create more social problems than they will solve. That in a real sense it is impracticable for the Negro to even think of mounting a violent revolution in the United States. So I will continue to condemn riots, and continue to say to my brothers and sisters that this is not the way. And continue to affirm that there is another way.

But at the same time, it is as necessary for me to be as vigorous in condemning the conditions which cause persons to feel that they must engage in riotous activities as it is for me to condemn riots. I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years.

It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.” 

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

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