Free people vs. police stateLocal economyLocalismNoogacentrismPolitical figuresRight to travel

Kelly’s blue line puts stripe down Mott’s back, but she plans fight

Marie Mott, center left, attends a fashion and arts event. She plans to run for mayor after being bowled over by antics of the white legal political establishment that favors the status quo and old-style Jim Crow customs and usages by the police department. (Photo Marie Mott FB page)
Marie Mott, four days before a city council runoff, is stopped, seized, detained and arrested over a blank lightbulb in what Mayor Kelly calls an “economic violation.” She calls this reporter the day before balloting to complain, “I need to update the last article you wrote. I was not arrested. It was a citation.” ‡ (Photo CPD)

CHATTANAOOGA, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2022 — The defeat of activist and reform candidate Marie Mott in a city council runoff Thursday tells a great deal about institutional support for the abuses heaped up against her at the last minute.

By David Tulis / NoogaRadio Network

Mayor Tim Kelly’s last-hour release of a video of the Marie Mott traffic arrest four days prior gave her occasion to fail to an ill temper. However mildly she might have handled the “traffic stop,” the seizure was intended to be a sensation against her, to prejudice the voters in district No. 8 against Miss Mott and in favor of an appointed city incumbent, Marvene Noel.

It is unclear what effect the last-minute video from the mayor’s office had on the vote. Miss Mott lost by 70, garnering 330 votes.

The 14-minute video, released under open records request by TV-9 and other outlets, could have been a boost for her, illustrating her arguments against police abuse. But rather than illustrating her argument, it was counted on to debase and humiliate her, no matter how well she might have talked with the officers.

Marvene Noel holds on to her seat on city council after losing to Marie Mott in initial balloting. She wins a runoff by 70 votes. (Photo Marvene Noel)

The Kelly administration had backed Mrs. Noel.

Blacks are the biggest victim of the type of arrest imposed on Miss Mott, a widely known public figure. The process of police enforcement of state law and city ordinances upon travelers affects most grievously the weak, the poor, blacks, immigrants and other minorities. The illicit use of state law has long been used to harass police enemies, activists and minorities, troublemakers and to manage the poor and keep them in their districts. Arrest and citation information on the city’s online data portal verifies that policing makes — or finds, so to speak — more criminality among blacks than the majority race. Included in the concept of criminality are, to police, administrative violations and technical glitches such as burned out lights on cars.

One cop speaking to Miss Mott says having a lightbulb burn out is “a crime.”

If indeed release of the arrest video hurt Miss Mott among black voters, it is because African-Americans tend to believe the official narrative about automobile use that is a cultural norm. It is upheld by schools, “common wisdom” among the populace, the courts, the media and the courts.

The public belief system is that no one has a right to travel freely or communicate freely on the road and that such glitches as a burned-out bulb, creating a police streetside sensation Sunday night, are crimes.

The most powerful support for this legally false belief is the black clergy, called in the media “black leadership.” It agrees with the official narrative. It supports police enforcement such as that upon Miss Mott. The idea holds that any police power can be applied at any time upon any person, on one pretext or another, no matter if there is no legal authority for that exertion of police stop-and-search authority. The clergy appears to uphold by silence and disinterest in solutions (such as those I propose) the blockade against the right of travel and movement that undergirds the exercise of many other rights. 

This observation is borne out in the absolute indifference among black clergy and black activists in stopping these harms as a matter of making cops and city obey the law. Somehow, using the law to stop lawbreaking by cops is out of reach. It’s too complicated, too abstract, too remote, not doable, so blacks refuse to capitalize reform efforts such as I have proposed the past five years here and on my radio press platform NoogaRadio 96.9 FM.

Defeating legal fictions, presumption

Miss Mott, unlike other candidates in the city, and unlike current officeholders, is aware of the legal wrongs being done by Mayor Kelly’s police department, with its F$85.4 million proposed budget and 475 sworn cops. She has listened to repeated radio station discussions about this matter as abuse of constitutional rights. She has participated in such conversations. Generally, systematized breaches of law affect the poor and the weak most.

The Tennessee court of criminal appeals in 2017 ruled against a proper defense made of the right to travel by Arthur J. Hirsch, the so-called “Fiddle Man of Lawrence County,” a mild-mannered private businessman. 

In defeating an appeal, the court upheld a legal fiction that travel does not exist in Tennessee except for a change of domicile. The city has been under my Tennessee transportation administrative notice four years, since Feb. 20, 2018. It cites the disability in state law, highlights the claims of the constitution and court cases to clarify that as matter of law transportation (commercial use of the roads for hire) is a subcategory of travel.

That may not sound like a big deal or very exciting. But 80 percent of travelers on the road are private users of the public right of way, members of the public, moving about for pleasure, travel, necessities, exercise of rights and other purposes not reportable to anybody, with state and municipality mere stewards and caretakers of the people’s infrastructure asset. The other 20 percent are people involved in the trucking business, in transportation of goods and people for hire.

Celeste Murphy was hired because she best fit the city’s new police chief requirement as “innovative and compassionate, and committed to using community-focused, data-informed, and victim-centered policing strategies to guide the application of the principles of community policing” and “deliver excellent police services to all the residents.” At the press conference introducing her as Mayor Kelly’s pick, she said she’d read the notice that is the basis for restoration of rule of law in Chattanooga.

Administrative notice is the basis of reform of the Mayor Kelly abuse of Miss Mott that hides conveniently in routine use of police power such as her traffic stop.

Police trap candidate

Celeste Murphy, Chattanooga police chief

Miss Mott appears to have been put into a police trap in the “detention.” The video shows her losing her cool, expressing irritation, even anger. She could have used the encounter to educate the officers as to the limits of their power, as I suggest. Her manner may have cost her votes.

But the trap is also is one of law, by which just about everyone in the state is ensared. That is commercial government itself, and the claim that all travel is commercial, even private travel. Many private users have been defrauded into the system, threatened into applying into the system with its licenses, registrations and insurance proofs. It starts gripping the minds of parents and their highschoolers.

Miss Mott has been hornswoggled like the rest of us. She has a driver license. Her car has a valid tag, though a silver-colored decorative eagle obscures part of the proof-of-purchase tax plate’s details (big deal! Yes, but the cops took offense); her car is registered through the department of revenue (by its registration with the county clerk) as an instrumentality in commerce, in use presumably for hire that night as a carrier common or private. She has all the prima facie signs of being a commercial user. That theoretically makes her subject to the city ordinance regulations that touch on corporate and business users, or so the cops insist that Sunday night.

David Gerregano, Tennessee commissioner of revenue

It is too much to have asked of her to make defense as to the real situation. That is now reserved for her to do in court. Which legal authorities can the prosecutor invoke for his case? How did the city obtain power to enforce an administrative proof requirement that is reserved by law to the commissioner of safety, Jeff Long? Did cops lawfully invoke the powers of the department of revenue, its commissioner, David Gerregano, and his sole Hamilton County agent, Bill Knowles?

Or were they presuming and poaching upon this authority? 

City cops have no business dealing with registration or plates, except through the ordinance, which neither officer mentions, and which the ADA charged with prosecuting Miss Mott will not likely bring up as authority. 

At many turns, municipal cops operate outside their authority, and hence personally, upon members of the public. What about driver licenses? The city was unable to come up with a contract, covenent, agreement, MOU or other document establishing it has authority to enforce the driver license law at chapter 50 of T.C.A. § Title 55, motor and other vehicles. It cannot come up with such proof, because no agreement exits for city agency. In law, power is not delegated, but given.

Whence safety commissioner?

The proofs of insurance, aka financial responsibility, are the province of the safety commissioner by law, not the city nor any of its corporate agents in the police department. Yet cops threatened to arrest yet another black person caught traveling and bringing up the matter of insurance, not delegated to the city corporation to enforce.

[T]he commissioner [of safety] shall administer and enforce this chapter, may make rules and regulations necessary for its administration, and shall provide for hearings upon request of persons aggrieved by orders or acts of the commissioner under this chapter; provided, that the requests are made within twenty (20) days

Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-12-103 (emphasis added)

If the four to six cops involved in the traffic arrest have lawful authority, then city court or sessions court have subject matter jurisdiction over the dispute. If they don’t have lawful authority, under ordinance and under any state law adopted by city council, the court will not have subject matter jurisdiction. It’s up to Miss Mott to point out these gaps in the arrest, intended to harm her person and her political prospect.

Is the matter criminal or civil? The system plays it both ways. Miss Mott would be right to nail down the police authority, and the court’s jurisdiction. As the law cited above makes clear, any dispute over insurance is a matter for the commissioner of safety Mr. Long, and if anyone is aggrieved by his department’s actions, that person has 20 days to appeal. No other party can enforce the financial responsibility law, Miss Mott might argue, hence the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.

In Chattanooga, people acting on Commissioner Long’s turf, in his name, and under his law, are abusing another black caught traveling, Marie Mott.

Miss Mott says, in a FB post the day after her runoff loss, that she plans to defeat the Kelly administration by running for a different office.

I’m not upset with the results because I was firmly attacked by the establishment and smeared by my opponent, who is old enough to be my grandmother and knows better. But that’s OK. I ran a clean campaign, I stood for the people, I answered the call from the NAACP and Newschannel 12 for a debate ***. My assessment, after a long night, has been that this attack was not just from my opponents, but interference, coercion and intimidation from our mayor who has promised, in his original campaign, to solve so many problems *** . I have firmly decided I could never have made positive change on a city council that has proven itself to be in the mayor’s pocket. The absolutely only way that we are going to be able to move forward is to have a mayor that stands firmly for the people. ***  I will be running in 2024 for Chattanooga’s mayor.

‡ For fourth amendment purposes, the turning on of the blue lights is an arrest. “ Though a warrant is normally required when a police officer intrudes upon the privacy of a citizen, see INS v. Delgado, 466 U.S. 210, 216, 104 S.Ct. 1758, 1762, 80 L.Ed.2d 247 (1984), there are exceptions to the warrant requirement. One exception exists “when a police officer makes an investigatory stop based upon reasonable suspicion, supported by specific and articulable facts, that a criminal offense has been or is about to be committed.” Binette, 33 S.W.3d at 218 (citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 20–21, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968)). We have noted that “[u]pon turning on the blue lights of a vehicle, a police officer has clearly initiated a stop and has seized the subject of the stop within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment of the Federal Constitution and Article I, section 7 of the Tennessee Constitution.” Id. (citing State *344 v. Pulley, 863 S.W.2d 29, 30 (Tenn.1993)). Accordingly, in the instant case, when Officer Kohl stopped Garcia’s vehicle by turning on her blue lights, she must have had reasonable suspicion, supported by specific and articulable facts, that the defendant had committed, or was about to commit, a criminal offense in order for the stop to be constitutionally valid.” State of Tennessee v. Gonzalo Moran Garcia, No. M2000–01760–SC–R11–CD, 2003

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