Defending the right of the people to use the streets as a matter of right, Chattanooga police are warning protesters not to black roads that deter travel.
The notice to protesters in Chattanooga insists that if they block movement of cars and trucks, they will be cited and charged criminally under the law protecting free travel. The protesters have been targeting police abuse in more than 30 marches and rallies in the city.
Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-307. Highways and roads; obstruction; penalties; exemptions, says a person “commits an offense who, without legal privilege, intentionally, knowingly or recklessly obstructs a highway, street, sidewalk *** to which the public, or a substantial portion of the public, has access; or any other place used for the passage of persons, vehicles or conveyances.”
City government has been under Tennessee transportation administrative notice since March 20, 2018, in which the right of free movement of people by car or truck is highlighted. The notice, a public document that has not been rebutted by the city, gives grounds for defense against city police abusing so-called traffic stop powers. Local cops arrest people in their cars without a warrant, and without their having committed a public offense; officers arrest and charge them under the state’s commercial trucking statute, which local officers do not have authority to enforce.
And, most bizarre, they enforce the commercial trucking statute on people clearly not involved in the shipping trades.
For the past 66 days Phil Noblett’s staff has been looking for — and unable to find — any document showing legal authority to enforce the state’s driver license law. That law, at Tenn. Code Ann. § Title 55, chapter 50, is enforceable only by the Tennessee department of safety and its Tennessee highway patrol.
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.”
This reporter had asked for copies of any and all agreements, covenants, contracts, delegation orders or other documents giving City of Chattanooga authority to administer any part of the chapter (chapter 50) in Title 55.
Results so far: Zilch.
Notice defends free use of streets
The protests of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis May 25 have focused on police abuse. In Chattanooga, the anger of hundreds of protesters who have marched down the streets has been against police Jim Crow enforcement and abuse, often in roadway encounters (Sandra Bland, Philando Castile).
The administrative notice is the legal part of this public counterattack against police violence, laying the groundwork for legal defense of traffic charges under Jim Crow, and also for tort litigation against the city and individual officers. T-TAN gives grounds for lawsuits against oppression, abuse under color of law, ultra vires enforcement and false arrest done knowingly and intentionally and deliberately, despite notice in the limits of the statute and the powerful bright claims of rights under the constitution.
Cops oppose ‘impeding,’ ‘blocking’ travel
“For the safety of pedestrians and the community, Chattanooga Police officers will be enforcing pedestrian traffic laws,” the department says in a press release.
“Incidents of vehicles striking protesters blocking roadways in cities around the country underscores the danger of disregarding pedestrian safety rules. Additionally, the Chattanooga Police Department (CPD) has received numerous complaints about protesters blocking roads, impeding traffic to include emergency vehicles, and frightening community members who are attempting to travel in the areas where protesters have illegally gathered in the streets.
“Since July 1, 2020, CPD dispatchers received 28 calls for assistance or complaint regarding crowds blocking roadways, stopping cars, and one call that the reporting party stated he felt ‘very unsafe and threatened.’ In addition to these documented calls, officers have received numerous complaints from residents and business owners in the affected areas.”
The law against blocking roadways is consistent with the law overall in Tennessee, that of free movement on the roads as a matter of right by members of the public. That means free movement cannot be stopped under any ruse or claim. The persistent danger to the traveling public in Tennessee has been police and sheriff’s deputies. Many crimes of violence against members of the public occur in so-called traffic stops.
Police in Chattanooga have authority only upon those cars and trucks registered as motor vehicles and subject to the city’s department of transportation because these parties are operating as motor carriers for hire, carrying either goods or passengers (paying occupants). They do not have authority to enforce anything in Title 55 that has not specifically been adopted in the city code. And driver license enforcement belongs exclusively to the highway patrol.
The notice about the liberty of travel follows upon criminal warrants filed against Marie Mott, 32, Cameron “C-Grimey” Williams, 35, Grason Harvey, 22, and Lindsay Baker, 33, on claims they blocked an emergency vehicle en route to an active call for service. Each face charges of disorderly conduct and blocking a hghway.
“CPD has had numerous discussions with the protesters and officers have blocked streets in order for marches to take place as safely as possible since May 30,” says Chief David Roddy. “I am not blind to the issues being challenged, but I will not allow the protesters to endanger themselves, invoke fear in other community members, and impede emergency services to anyone in this city.”