Tradesman Gregory Parker of Rossville, Ga., stands his ground in a police encounter in travel on a Florida toll highway. In a 26-minute video, he evidences patience and grace in being pulled over and arrested without a warrant or without apparent probable cause.
His FB video records how officers in an unidentified county mass their ranks prior to hauling Mr. Parker from his red pickup and putting him in two cages — one in a trooper cruiser, then in a county jail cell. Mr. Parker says the officers surround him with eight cars and block a lane of traffic on a toll highway to create an impressive arrest scene and scare the public.
The officer demands the window be lowered, and Mr. Parker says it is open wide enough. Mr. Parker’s face is mostly in dark, but a light from a lamp outside brightens his ballcap.
The officer, whom Mr. Parker says he believes is a state trooper, demands driver license and registration. He assumes, acts on the presumption that, Mr. Parker is a commercial user of the road, liable to be under the Florida privilege statute.
In Tennessee, only the THP has authority to stop a commercial motor vehicle on the road apart from any suspicion or probable cause, authority to arrest/stop a user of the road (commercial) for the sole purpose of checking a driver license. ‡
“I’m noncombatrive, I’m not armed, nothing,” Mr. Parker says, handing him the ID.
Mr. Parker, bearded and speaking in a deep, gravelly voice. hands the officer an affidavit through the window, one that evidently indicates he is a private user of the road. He also hands him his Georgia ID.
“What’s this? You know what it says? ‘Not valid for operating a motor vehicle,’” the officer says, looking at the card. “So you don’t have an ID?”
“This is not a motor vehicle. If you read over that, this is an automobile.”
“It has an engine, right?” the cop says.
“Motor vehicle’s been defined —”
“It has an engine, right?”
“Been defined in the federal code —”
“It has an engine, right?” the officer insists
“ — in the federal code — that doesn’t make it a motor vehicle, sir. It’s an automobile.”
“So you don’t have insurance, no registration, nothing, right?”
“I don’t answer questions, sir,” Mr. Parker says.
“OK, no problem. I’ll be back shortly,” the officer says.
Officer had gotten behind him, a quarter mile before the toll, followed him through the toll, and once on the other side put on his lights, Mr. Parker says. “He started off already with an attitude,” and “jerked at the door handle,” Mr. Parker relates.
‘I’ll be OK’
“If you’re watching, baby, I’ll be OK, if you’re watching,” he says.
“I love you. Be careful. We’re laying down,” his wife, Kasee, blurts on his phone. The married couple have a daughter.
Mr. Parker says he sees “blue lights coming from the opposite direction. I see another car pull up. Two more cars. They got two more cars coming opposite direction, too,” he says. “With all the extra backup, they’re probably not gonna let loose,” he tells his video viewers.
He puffs on a cigarette, 29 minutes into the arrest, and waits. Mr. Parker travels about in a red pickup conveyance with block letters on the rear door, “Not for Hire.”
He represents an interest in liberty that defies the customary misapplication of state freight-shipping-hauling-transportation laws upon people on the roads — folks on the boulevards, lanes, streets and freeways of America who are there no exercising a privilege, but simply doing their private business or pursuing their pleasure. This abuse of commercial law — effectively denying the right of movement and requiring personal movement by car or truck to be commercial or for hire — is at the heart of what African-Americans rightly see as Jim Crow. The misuse of these laws hit most heavily upon the poor and upon blacks.
“Looks like they’re getting ready to stage a damn shootout or something,” he says. “They’ve got a lane of traffic blocked and everything. *** Now they’re approaching, I believe.”
The officers comes to the window, imposing commercial lingo on every part of the encounter. He demands, “Do you mind shutting the vehicle off and stepping out?”
Mr. Parker does not rebut the statement by insisting that he doesn’t understand what he is talking about, as he is not in a vehicle, and isn’t sure what the officer means.
Instead, he says: “For what reason?”
“You don’t have a driver’s license, righ? It’s been suspended.”
“Yes, but I’m not driving.”
“Yeah, you were.”
“All right do you mind just stepping out, please?”
“So we can talk.”
“We can talk just fine like this, sir.”
“Why do you need me to step out? Why?” Mr. Parker says he can talk with the officer just fine with it running. “I’m not driving. *** Can you give me an articulable reason and state the crime committed for me to step out?”
The officer speaks, and Mr. Parker replies.
License required ‘to operate a motor vehicle’
“Where’s the crime?” he demands, citing the legal basis for any alleged crime. “Where’s the corpus delecti? Who’s harmed? Where’s the damaged party?”
“You have to have a driver’s license to operate a motor vehicle,” the officer says.
“Where’s the damaged party? Without a damaged party, there isn’t a crime — right?” Mr. Parker says. “Ya’ll are ganging up on me,” he says, shrugging. “I don’t understand what’s going on.”
He keeps asking: “Are you arresting me? Are you arresting me? Am I under arrest?”
“Step out of the vehicle, please,” the officer’s voice insists. “You’re not in my presence, so I can’t arrest you. So can you step out of the vehicle?”
“Am I under arrest?” Mr. Parker asks. “If I’m not, I have no reason to exit. I’ll shut it off. I’m not going anywhere, but I have no reason to get out. I do not feel comfortable, sir — I promise you.”
In the conversation about getting out, Mr. Parker says he is “just traveling.”
An officer opens the right-hand door and officers reach in and seize Mr. Parker.
“What reason do you have or me to step out?” he asks as they grab his arms. “Are you going to force me? Are you going to force me?”
They threaten to shoot him with a taser.
“I’m traveling brother, I’m not in commerce,” he is heard saying. He doesn’t consent to”any of this,” he is not under contract in any way with any state. They accuse him of being “a sovereign citizen.” He cites a court case clarifying the right of free movement on the roads, saying he “is just going to work, brother. Just going to a job.”
The FB post ends with an officer putting a finger on the screen, which goes black.
This is the 38—minute video by Gregory Parker showing his arrest on a Florida toll highway.
‡ In Tennessee, that provision is at Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-7-103, arrest by officer without warrant.
(c) Unless a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that an offense has been committed, no officer, except members of the Tennessee highway patrol acting pursuant to § 4-7-104, shall have the authority to stop a motor vehicle for the sole purpose of examining or checking the license of the driver of the vehicle.