Chattanooga community groups denounce police harassment, demand accountability

Chattanooga Organized for Action and Mercy Junction join together to denounce the increasingly racist, misogynistic and threatening online rhetoric we have seen from local law enforcement officers and their supporters over the past week. While we continue to be troubled by the systemic lack of police accountability to the public, we have found reason to hope this particular situation will be rectified in Police Chief Fred Fletcher’s assurances to complainants that he takes the online comments seriously and is conducting an investigation. We support Chief Fletcher’s efforts to investigate and to enforce the existing social media policy that stops harassment of community residents by officers who are sworn to protect and serve the very people against whom they are launching these vicious online attacks.

An example of some of the rhetoric being used in the "Redux" group.
An example of some of the rhetoric being used in the “Redux” group.

While we found appalling the words of Chattanooga Police Officer William Puckett that began this episode on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, we feel compelled to speak out after watching the situation dangerously escalate over the weekend. Officers with both the Chattanooga Police Department and Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, along with their supporters, have engaged in online conduct that is degrading and threatening to women, people of color, journalists, and those fighting for social justice.

There is a guaranteed First Amendment right to free speech and to petition the government for redress of grievances without threat or intimidation from government officials. The conduct of officers and their supporters over the last week has reinforced an environment in which people who live in the community are intimidated from speaking out against police abuses. The worst offenses have occurred in a public Facebook group, “Chattanooga News & Review, The Redux,” administered by a Hamilton County sheriff’s deputy, a Chattanooga firefighter and a former Chattanooga police officer, and whose members and commenters include several current officers. In this Facebook group, the home addresses of two Chattanooga Times Free Press employees were posted. The Facebook group has included memes and comments that threaten violence against women, are racist, degrade people’s religious beliefs, and belittle activists.

This post from the "Redux" group targets Chris Brooks who spoke out after a Chattanooga police officer commented on Facebook  that "real men work, bitches cheer from the sidelines" in reference to activists.
This post from the “Redux” group targets Chris Brooks who spoke out after a Chattanooga police officer commented on Facebook that “real men work, bitches cheer from the sidelines” in reference to activists.

Chattanooga Organized for Action, as a feminist, anti-racist organization, and Mercy Junction, as a social justice ministry, are compelled to stand with those, across the country, in speaking out against police violence and killings of people of color. While such comments by law enforcement officers, as we have seen in the last week, would be wrong at any time, they are especially offensive and inappropriate after a month in which we’ve seen two grand juries refuse to hold accountable white police officers who killed unarmed black men. There is a current climate of anger, distrust and anguish toward a justice system of violent policing and mass incarceration. That climate has sparked a nationwide movement that makes the timing of local officers’ online posts even more disturbing.

At a time when one in three women in our country will be sexually assaulted, at a time when one in three women will be victims of domestic violence, the officers’ comments are frightening. If women are led to believe — by officers and their supporters’ language on social media, including a meme that stated “Choke Bitches” — that those who are sworn to protect and serve harbor misogynistic attitudes, another layer of the public’s trust with the Chattanooga Police Department and Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office has been eroded. The misogynistic language used on personal profiles and in public pages and groups is a direct reflection of a societal attitude in which it is still acceptable to hate women and girls, and that attitude leads to real world, violent consequences for women and girls. These consequences include Tennessee being ranked the sixth worst state in the nation for violence against women. These consequences include 3,076 victims of domestic violence in Hamilton County in 2012. These consequences include three women being killed by their husbands or boyfriends in Chattanooga in 2011-2012.

Over the weekend, this image showing two Chattanooga Times Free Press' employees home addresses was published in the "Redux" group.
Over the weekend, this image showing two Chattanooga Times Free Press’ employees home addresses was published in the “Redux” group.

At a time when we see protesters in the street across the nation, taking up the cry that Black Lives Matter – including a recent act of civil disobedience by members of Concerned Citizens for Justice in Chattanooga – it is especially disturbing to see local law enforcement impinging upon the First Amendment rights of activists and journalists with the implied threats of publicly posting home addresses, referring to those fighting for racial justice as “wackos” and “bitches,” and distributing photos of those who disagree with them among their supporters. That these officers claim First Amendment rights to continue their harassment of activists and journalists is beyond absurd. Officers are armed agents of the government and their virtual conduct creates an atmosphere in which those they are sworn to protect and serve are less likely to speak out because they see what government officials are doing to those who dare raise their voices. The First Amendment right to free speech in Hamilton County has been thwarted by those in power – the police.

An example of some of the rhetoric being published in the "Redux" group.
An example of some of the rhetoric being published in the “Redux” group.

Chattanooga Organized for Action and Mercy Junction stand unwaveringly with the thousands of people across the country bravely taking to the streets and making the cry that “This Ends Today.” It is time for all of us to stand firmly against racism, misogyny and government censorship, whether it comes in the form of police shooting unarmed black men, domestic violence, or Facebook posts that represent and reinforce racism and misogyny by armed representatives of the government.

An example of some of the rhetoric being posted in the "Redux" group.
An example of some of the rhetoric being posted in the “Redux” group.

Source for sexual assault statistic: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 

Source for domestic violence statistic: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Sources for Tennessee/Hamilton County-specific statistics regarding violence against women: Violence Policy CenterCity of Chattanooga’s grant application to establish the Hamilton County Family Justice Center

 

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9 thoughts on “Chattanooga community groups denounce police harassment, demand accountability

  1. See here Misnomersabd miscreants of this Website , I J.P. Cline am a Private citizen and thus am not a Police officer in the state of Tennessee or any other state per se’, although I give my fullest support to all law enforcement activities and honor the men and women who serve and protect in our communities and across this nation ,I remain in full possession of my 1st amendment right to speak out freely as an American citizen against what I percieve to be an injustice ..You have no right to attach or misdirect an assignment on my person or to adjudicate me in a court of popular opinion for my right to expression of outright anger towards the federal government for their obvious manipulations and support for causes that exceed and promote racial unrest in our country , I remind you that as a Private citizen I also reserve my right to proper treatment and protection under the law that provides me the occasion to offer up proof against accusations that I underwrite any form of racial disharmony and upon establishment of such unmitigated and infallable proof I may and can require an intent to place civil suit on your collective addresses accordingly to our civil laws. Wanna try me on this one ? Come on Boys ?

    1. Well stated, John. I’ve also seen no racist remark nor has any admin suggested anything along the lines of race or violence. Brooks and company needs to get a new, less redundant speech. The truth is offensive, but it will set you free. In saying that, there have been more questionable, definitely slanderous remarks made on the CNR page, as well as Brooks’.

      1. Thank You Lindsay ,
        I’m not really worried about the screed this Page attempts to devise against our Law Enforcement community , the majority knows the truth and who is who , My rant was fomented out of the pure disgust and anger of witnessing an act of attempted murder on a Law officer engaged in his duty , who’s only intention was to provide safety and security to the community he serves ,

        I don’t give a flip about the disgruntled leftists and their ilk acting in defense of the evil people who think they are right to protest by calling for the murder of our Police at large as was just recently witnessed just last weekend in NYC, It matters not to me if a small thousand fold or so of malcontents across our nation race bait and use our Law enforcement community as a clay pigeon to shoot at both in their literal and active capacities because our laws will get them in the end and upon close inspection these people have brought the weight of the law down on themselves for their own lawless behavior …If someone is breaking the laws around here it is the people who write the messages assuaging incriminating claims against honest citizens and police officers who are at this point finished with the levels of their anarchistic lunacy .

        I submit a country, No a NATION cannot continue to exist without it’s basic constitutional and civil law and only under the auspices of our civil laws we can ever hope to pronounce the word “Freedom ” as issued through the liberty of that civil law as established in prudence for the citizens welfare and civil trust, When anarchists collectively take a notion to disregarding the fabric of our civil society by degrading our civil laws and pursuing a code of violence against our LEO’s then they are themselves should be deemed as lawless and anti social criminals in the making …

        I love the fact they printed my rant Here and I won’t change a word of it either , it is the truth , and while they sstand with a few thousand malcontents they fail to realize that I stand with millions who are disgusted at the protracted war they are waging against our most valuable and trusted civil servants,,,We Elect a Sheriff , and We elect a President While I see a Good Sheriff in Hamilton County ,,I also see a BAD president of the United States who is actively engaged in dismantling the legal system of our nation from within as well as diminishing the civil rights act of 1964 brought forth by Congress and Martin Luther King in drastically diminishing the racial equality already established under it’s norms and worths ,

        I in fact see a Highly placed world leader along with his minions Eric Holder and AL Sharpton , all of who I consider to be racists of the most devious and hateful kind destroying our nation with a divisive hatred for America itself regardless of the color of that Americans skin or their belief or culture. The Truth doth Hurt , yes it does , but the Truth will not be denied under God ! . And I know I have been traveling a lonely road these last few years as doing the right thing and being an individual requires that , but lately I look around and see millions walking along with me , talking along with me and we are all saying the same thing , we are tired of consternation being caused by idiots who have a guilty conscience simply because they don’t know our laws and our defacto civil rights but in turn make it up as they go along … That’s all I have to say about that !

  2. Preliminary 2014 Fatality Statistics

    Preliminary 2014 Law Enforcement Officer Fatalities

    Jan. 1 through Dec. 15, 2014 vs. Jan. 1 through Dec. 15, 2013

    2014
    2013 % Change
    Total Fatalities 115 90 +28%
    Firearms-related 46 27 +70%
    Traffic-related 44 39 +13%
    Other Causes 25 24 +4%
    Please note: These numbers reflect total officer fatalities comparing
    Jan. 1 through Dec. 15, 2014 vs. Jan. 1 through Dec. 15, 2013
    2014 Fatalities by State

    California 14
    Texas 11
    New York 6
    Florida 5
    Alabama 4
    Arizona 4
    Georgia 4
    Indiana 4
    Pennsylvania 4
    Virginia 4
    New Jersey 3
    Oklahoma 3
    South Carolina 3
    Tennessee 3
    Alaska 2
    Louisiana 2
    Massachusetts 2
    Michigan 2
    Missouri 2
    Nebraska 2
    Nevada 2
    North Carolina 2
    Ohio 2
    Arkansas 1
    Colorado 1
    Illinois 1
    Kansas 1
    Kentucky 1
    Minnesota 1
    Mississippi 1
    Montana 1
    New Hampshire 1
    New Mexico 1
    Oregon 1
    Utah 1
    Washington 1
    Wisconsin 1
    Federal Agencies: 5
    Military: 1
    U.S. Territories: 5

    Note: All data are preliminary and are subject to change.

  3. The idea that you would stoop low enough to, YET AGAIN , stir racial tensions is so disturbing and disgraceful. You insult Chief Fletcher when you make false statements about his staff, with your unending barrage of insults slung at all LEOs. If you TRULY cared about bridging any gaps, you’d stop being a slandering FB activist with your Sharptonesque ridiculousness. The admins of the Redux page, as well as other members, many officers included, have offered to assist a non-LEO in his ministry to children in the community most affected by crime, as well as the homeless; this man provides food, hope, clothing, and when available, toys for the kids. Officers, upon hearing about this ministry, IMMEDIATELY asked, “What do you need ? I can help.”. I’ve extended the invitation to your people to put aside political differences, despite the slanderous remarks one has made about myself and others, and let’s work together to make a difference! Let’s work with the police, not against them. And yet, you and your fellow pseudo activists just continue the FB disdain and anti-police propaganda. Change will not happen with your attacks of LEOs or toting #blacklivesmatter #icantbreathe”; change takes place ON THE GROUND , with an effort to get to know officers and vice versa. When you want TRUE peace, your signs will read #everylifematters #supportLEnotcriminalactivity . Your campaign will STOP singing praises about you and start singing the praises of people who are at ‘ground zero’ doing the work to reach out to those in need, of every race and walk of life.

  4. With regards to the TFP ‘wruters’, there is something called journalistic integrity, and anyone who possesses such would never be so blasé about posting officers home addresses. Anyone with a brain understands why. The poster was right to do so and that information is public record on search engines. With regards to the comments about the four women whose children were killed (Trayvon had no business in that interview, as that had nothing to do with LE and police dispatch advised Zimmerman not to give chase), those were not racial in the least; you had four women who didn’t parent the children , and in the case of Michael Brown, his grandmother had custody of him until he reached adulthood, which is the age he was when he assaulted a store clerk and robbed him, followed by two attempts to murder the police officer who stopped him. Forensic evidence isn’t biased, and it showed the public that Brown was the aggressor. The statement regarding hair color was true enough and not said in any context but, “I like it”. You have serious issues and the problems facing this city need to be addressed by someone who has firsthand knowledge rather than a self proclaimed activist who didn’t grow up in this town. You are using generalizations and examples of LE in other towns, failing to note that here, when the police do something wrong, it is handled immediately and in the same manner as any other citizen. With that being said, if you continue to try and censor the very voices that equally deserve an audience, censorship will not stop there, and you might find that FB activism groups will be next. Fair IS fair. Equal rights for all. Now, we can either do as the great Dr King once said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools.”. What you are doing is trampling his grave. He stood with LE and worked to find common ground; you’re working to widen the gap, not bridge it. So, what is it you TRULY stand for? Kudos for yourself or do you REALLY want to see relations in this city grow stronger? Your bashing of LEOs is uncalled for and offensive, as there are many wonderful officers, African American, who are brothers to those you are attacking, some having worked together for decades. If one of these officers were racist, the citizens of Chattanooga who have been here for many years, some our entire lives, would have witnessed it. One of my favorite friends and officers is not only a police officer who faces evil on the streets daily, but he’s also a pastor. Your attacks on Christianity and the refusal to pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America is deeply disturbing, especially considering your place with regards to council member.

  5. Chattanooga is an extremely segregated city, and no doubt cops like this are the reason. It’s frightening to think these sociopaths have any power. They really drive home the fact it is time to purge police forces across the country and rethink our approach. These “officers” are openly antagonizing the community and civil rights they are supposed to protect. They seem to think the broader community is their prey.

  6. You know what’s disturbing? I want to say that the only folks who don’t think there are problems with race in this country and in this town, are typically racist. But then I was scared to pit’s that. Why? Because apparently if I make dissenting comments then those who are called to protect and serve could possibly post my picture and address for others to do with as they please. Friends, that’s a problem. We call it a “police state” when it happens in other countries.

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