Seven days of protests against customary violations of due process rights and justice by city and county employees shows the depth of anger among the people in Chattanooga against government.
About 600 people merge two events to march up Market Street to the county courts building Friday and to demand an end to what they see as continuing abuse by the police-judicial system of their persons, rights and property — an extension of 19th century slavery that encompasses the whole of society.
Abuses by police and deputies and local courts are a trap for many people. They are intimidated by police and assistant DAs. They don’t know how to fight back. They get slovenly treatment in “cattle call” sessions courts, which operate illegally closed to the public. They are pressured to yield their rights, and hardly any exercise their right to trial by jury. They are targets of bad faith and malicious prosecution under inapplicable laws. If they insist on the high right to indictment, they are subject to Hamilton County grand juries that are partial by century-old rules and unconstitutionally controlled. They are disrespected by judges in their rights and abused under legal presumptions that jurist, DA and defense attorney quietly accept without giving notice to the defendant. The people are victimized by overenforcement and social engineering by the police growth industry that Ken Smith and other city councilmen and Mayor Andy Berke pretend serves the cause of public health, safety and welfare.
Mott angry at lawless courts
Activist Marie Mott, a preacher’s daughter, gives a magnificent assessment of the fruit of government operating in commerce and for profit upon the people, with justice reached in scattered instances. Her analysis is less legal than poetic as she declares that the system is pretense, failing to bring peace to society and settle differences and wrongs among the people.
“This is what solidarity looks like,” she says. “This is what choosing not to believe the lies of the media narrative looks like. As a matter of fact, this is what bravery and freedom and fighting for liberation looks like. [Cheers] Repeat after me: ‘We ain’t scared! We ain’t scared! We ain’t scared! But you should be scared — you should be scared — you should be scared.’”
Because we the people will stick together and the circle shall never be broken. We are standing in front of a monument of oppression. This court represents a new level of slavery and chattel. This is an institution designed to work perfectly to lock up black, brown and poor bodies. So when we talk about divesting from the police, we also gotta bring into a wider conversation tearing down institutions that work perfectly in locking up too many of our people. [Cheers] They lock you up to snuff out your life because maybe you don’t recognize how valuable you are. But they understand how valuable you are, and they fear you to the point where they wrote laws and created institutions to keep their knees on your neck. [Uproar] Let ’em know.
Like a prophet, I ask a question. Is that acceptable, family? [No] *** Is new chattel slavery acceptable? [No, hell no] Are brothers and sisters busting out at the seams in prison acceptable? [Hell no] Are our people being chastised to the point to where for the same crime of our white counterpart we will get 3 to 5 times the sentencing — is that acceptable? [Hell no] Is that acceptable? Is it acceptable to invest in these institutions and to not invest one red dime into education?
She says the protests are good, but “they are only a beginning.” She wants the protests to be five times as large. She demands more money for the state factory school system.
I want to see five times this amount of people at a city council meeting about ready to almost turn over tables saying we are not going to wait no longer for investment into our people, but that we demand, if we gotta encircle the mayor’s office, we demand if we gotta circle the city council, we demand if we gotta circle every building around downtown, we demand investment into our people.
Cameron “C-Grimey” Williams extemporizes a list of demands, detailed earlier in the week, but today giving three.
- Cut police spending, spend more on social programs
- Create a police policy requiring officers to intervene when officers commit crimes or violate citizen’s rights
- “If you are not in a life threatening position — what the f–k are you shooting for?” Demilitarizing the policing function, de-escalate encounters with hostile members of the public and drop the line-in-the-sand combat stance that prompts killings by officers.
CPD authority is limited to being conservators of the peace and the city authority to protect the city government and suppress public offenses. But decades of custom have given people to accept policing as a form of proprietary power over citizens, summary and extralegal, where the cop is a roving accuser and sniffer-out of citizen “paper” offenses.
Mayor Berke and city council accept major and continuing violations of due process that otherwise are codified to restrain, narrow and reduce policing and harmful interactions with the state.
For example, they reject the law that limits the exceptions to the ban on arrests in the state constitution. The supreme law allows arrests under warrant, and the statute gives exceptions to this protection, allowing officer arrest on the spot without warrant. But cops and deputies routinely ignore Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-7-103, with permission of chief magistrate Lorrie Miller (a county appointee) and the lower courts. Local officers and their municipal employers also ignore transportation administrative notice about the limits of the state trucking regulations, which they enforce upon the citizenry in violation of law and the constitution but with permission of the courts of the appeal. Rather than respecting the rights of the people and daring not to tread on them, city and county operate in their own interests, and insist on their own convenience.
‘20 or 30’ negative police encounters
Jamar Harden says he has endured “20 or 30” negative police encounters, 10 of them while on the road. He demands demilitarization of police, and “defunding of police as a whole.”
He envisions a police-free future. “I do not want to be like a second-class citizen. We are the people, we are able to police ourselves.” He is perfectly happy for the sheriff to handle the public service of policing if CPD were eventually disbanded at a savings of F$70 million a year.
He says police ignore requirements of due process.
“They’ll try to find any way, they’ll try to loophole their way around to try to find a way to try to arrest anybody. A lot of times, it’s all about the money anyways. Unfortunately, we live in a country where we care about the dollar sign more than we care about ourselves.”
He uses his car to go to work and home, and to go out, but he doesn’t use his car for business or as a motor vehicle. “Carrying personal musical equipment, and going from work to home. Family members, yes. Volunteer work everyone once in awhile,” and for religious services “every once in a while.” It is “imperative” for him to use his car, Mr. Harden says. Does he use his car for hire in transportation, hauling neither goods nor people for profit, acts that would require him to acquire a state privilege (driver license)? “Absolutely not.”
Here, then, the face of one who is clearly not a person involved in the transportation business, but who is subject to officers on the city payroll enforcing the shipping law on one who is not a shipper. Mr. Harden and everyone else in the state is subject to these laws thanks to judicial policy, in rejection of the state constitution and the black-letter law as interpreted via the rules of statutory construction.
Libation ritual by gospel minister
Rev. Charlotte Williams, in a public presentation regarding the March 13 killing of Breonna Taylor, says the young woman was sheltering at home, “but in the wee hours, there was a no-knock policy that came to her door, and she was killed, shot eight times by the police” of the Louisville metro police department. “Today would have been her 27th birthday.”
“We are here to say enough is enough.” She conducts a libation ceremony to which she gives religious significance. She is pastor at Eastdale Village Community United Methodist Church and member of Chattanooga in Action for Love Equality and Benevolence. She says the “African ceremony” usually is with water, but she uses a red liquid instead, symbolizing “the blood is now on our hands. We cannot allow what happened to Breonna Taylor to continue to happen.”