Mercy Junction calls on Visitors Bureau to stop criminalizing the poor

Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center, which includes both followers of Jesus Christ and an interfaith community, condemns the Chattanooga Visitors Bureau’s criminalization of poverty and the labeling of our economically disadvantaged sisters and brothers as “the enemy.” We condemn the oppressive mass incarceration and policing systems that enable the city to value a tourist’s dollar over the lives of its own citizens.

We call out the lies of the powerful and question the legitimacy of the charge that Mendon John Price was “aggressively panhandling.” We know Mr. Price, who we call John John. We know him as a gentle, respectful and kind person.

John John.jpg
Mendon John Price

We demand that the Chattanooga Visitors Bureau apologize for calling Mr. Price the “number one enemy downtown.” In a city filled with the violence of capitalism, racism and patriarchy, in a city where children are hungry and elders are homeless, the Visitors Bureau’s statement is deeply offensive on many levels, only one of which is signaling out a deeply loved member of our community – our differently-abled, wheel chair-bound brother, who has only one leg – as the enemy.

We also call on the Chattanooga Police Department and the court system to dismiss any charges, as well as any fines and penalties, against Mr. Price. They are unfair and unfounded and using precious public resources that should be directed toward making our city a better place to live for all Chattanoogans.

The Rev. Brian Merritt, co-director of Mercy Junction who serves as a minister at Renaissance Presbyterian Church, where Mr. Price often attends, points to Christ’s attempts to radically tear down the oppressive systems that keep some in power and others shackled to poverty.

“John was at church this Sunday,” Rev. Merritt said. “After the service he came up to me in his wheelchair and said, ‘I liked what you said when you said, This is the day that the Lord has made. That is true.’ John can teach the powerful of this city a valuable lesson about gratitude. Maybe they will repent and strive to be a city that is grateful for all its citizens. Then it will be the day the Lord intended.”

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