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What you can do to help

The Chattanooga 3

The Committee to defend the Chattanooga 3 calls for travel boycott on Tennessee due to the treatment of the Chattanooga 3 arrested for speaking out against police brutality

ACTION ALERT FOR THE CHATTANOOGA 3
Date: Fri, 1 Sep 2000 13:02:06 -0500
International Committee To Defend the Chattanooga 3
P.O. Box 19962, Kalamazoo, MI 49019
Email: jonina1@yahoo.com, komboa@hotmail.com ************************************
ACTION ALERT!! ACTION ALERT!!
Mobilize for the Sept. 12 Trial of the
Chattanooga 3 August 29, 2000

Dear Friend:

Over two years after being arrested for protesting against police brutality at a meeting of the Chattanooga, Tennessee, City Council on May 19, 1998, Black activists Lorenzo Komboa Ervin, Damon McGee and Mikail Musa Muhammad (Ralph P. Mitchell) are scheduled to go on trial September 12. The Chattanooga 3 (as Lorenzo, Damon, and Mikail are known) are charged with violating Tennessee's "disruption" law, a misdemeanor offense that makes it illegal for a person to use "physical action" or "verbal utterance" to prevent or disrupt a lawful meeting. If convicted, Lorenzo, Damon and Mikail face up to a year in state prison.
 
From its inception, the case of the Chattanooga 3 has been a malicious prosecution hatched by Hamilton County District Attorney General Bill Cox, Black police chief Jimmy Dotson, and other government officials bent on destroying the movement against police brutality in Chattanooga--a city which for years ranked No. 1 for reported acts of police
brutality among U.S. cities with populations under 200,000. A few hours before their arrests, Lorenzo, Damon and Mikail helped to organize a protest at Chattanooga City Hall by over 150 people angry over the police killings of two Black men, Montrail Collins and Kevin McCullough, in a two-week period between April 28 and May 7, 1998. Collins and McCullough were two of the over 40 predominantly Black people who have been killed by Chattanooga police since the early 1980s. No police have ever been prosecuted for these
killings, but the Chattanooga 3 could go to prison for exercising their First Amendment right to protest against police brutality!
 
Chattanooga's white political establishment is going forward with the trial of Lorenzo, Damon and Mikail despite the fact that the district attorney had agreed to delay the trial until the Tennessee Supreme Court decides whether to hear Lorenzo's appeal of his 1994 disruption conviction, in which he challenges the constitutionality of the disruption law. In that case, known as the Chattanooga 8, Lorenzo and seven other civil rights activists were tried for disruption for participating in a peaceful sidewalk demonstration in downtown Chattanooga to protest the refusal of a county grand jury to indict the eight police officers responsible for the chokehold death of Larry Powell, a victim of "driving while black." Lorenzo, a former member of the Black Panther Party and a long-time leader in the fight against police brutality and racism in Chattanooga, was one of two people convicted in the Chattanooga 8 case. He appealed his conviction to the Tennessee Criminal Court of Appeals. Despite an excellent friend of the court brief filed by Professor Dwight Aarons of the University of Tennessee School of Law citing the unconstitutionality of the disruption law, the court upheld Lorenzo's conviction in March of this year. Lorenzo appealed to the state supreme court and is now waiting to learn if the court will hear his case.
 
**It is important to remember that the disruption law has only been used twice in Tennessee--in the cases of the Chattanooga 8 and the Chattanooga 3. Both cases involved Black people who were protesting against police brutality.**
 
Lorenzo, Damon and Mikail will go on trial in a kangaroo court. They have no chance of getting a fair trial in Chattanooga or anywhere else in racist Hamilton County. This is particularly true for Lorenzo, who, along with other Black activists, has filed several successful civil rights lawsuits against the county and the city of Chattanooga. One of those lawsuits resulted in the defeat of the at-large City Commission government (in favor of districts) and the  creation of the Chattanooga City Council in 1990. For the first time since 1911, Blacks were elected to the city government--and the white power structure has yet
to recover.
 
The entire legal and political establishment of the state of Tennessee, including the American Civil Liberties Union, is against the Chattanooga 3 because they are anarchists and Black revolutionaries. Indeed, Lorenzo, Damon and Mikail have not received support from *any* of the major civil rights or legal organizations in the country!up.gif (925 bytes)
 
What can you do to help?
 
1. Write to travel agencies urging them to support the tourist boycott of Chattanooga organized by Lorenzo and a fellow black activist whose father was murdered by a Chattanooga police officer in 1983. For more information about the police killings and Boycott Chattanooga, visit the website at
http://maxine-j.tripod.com/policemurder.html.
(Note: Since the web site was created, more people have been killed, bringing the total to over 40.) The attached sample letter to travel agents includes the email addresses of D.A. Bill Cox, Mayor Jon Kinsey, and Tim Andrews, the executive director of development for the Hamilton County Chamber of Commerce. Please send a copy of your letters to us at jonina1@yahoo.com.
 
2. Participate in picket lines and protests outside the Hamilton County Courthouse during the trial, which is expected to last from Sept. 12-19. We must draw national attention to the unconstitutionality of the disruption law and the politically tainted prosecution of the Chattanooga 3. If you would like to help with the picket lines, please contact me.
 
3. Contribute to the Chattanooga 3 Legal Defense Fund. If necessary, Lorenzo, Damon and Mikail will take their case to the U.S. Supreme Court, and it will cost anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000 to hire private attorneys.(Lorenzo now has a public defender, and Damon and Mikail have court-appointed attorneys.) In the likely event that the Chattanooga 3 are convicted, $2,000 to $3,000 will also be needed for their bond. Please make your check or money order payable to BANCO (Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizers, which was founded by Lorenzo and Damon in 1999), with a note that you are donating to the legal defense fund. Mail your contribution to P.O. Box 19962, Kalamazoo, MI 49019.
 
Lorenzo Komboa Ervin, Damon McGee and Mikail Musa Muhammad are courageously standing up for the right of Black and justice-minded people in America to engage in political dissent, specifically the right to protest against police brutality. Now more than ever, e must stand up for them.
 
In struggle,
JoNina M. Abron
Founder and Chair
International Committee to Defend the Chattanooga 3
SAMPLE LETTER TO TRAVEL AGENTS
 
Dear Travel Agent:
 
As you know, Chattanooga, Tennessee, located near the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, is a popular tourist attraction in the southeastern United States, providing millions of dollars annually to the city's economy. It has come to my attention that since the early 1980s, over 40 people, most of whom were people of color, have been killed by Chattanooga police. Not one police officer has ever been prosecuted for these killings. Indeed, according to my research, the city ranked No. 1 for several years for reported acts of police brutality among U.S. cities with populations under 200,000.
 
I have learned that three black civil rights activists, Lorenzo Komboa Ervin, Damon McGee and Mikail Musa Muhammad (Ralph P. Mitchell) are scheduled to go on trial September 12 on disruption charges for protesting against police brutality and misconduct at a meeting of the Chattanooga City Council in 1998. If convicted, these men could spend up to a year in state prison for exercising
their First Amendment right of free speech.  Yet, the police officers responsible for brutality and misconduct go unpunished!  I am outraged at this blatant racism.
 
Mr. Ervin and a fellow black activist, whose father, was killed by a Chattanooga police officer in 1983, have called for a tourist boycott of the city. For further information about the police killngs and Boycott Chattanooga, visit the website at  http://maxine-j.tripod.com/policemurder.html

(I understand that since the web site was created, the total number of people killed by Chattanooga police has increased to over 40.) I urge you to support the boycott. Tell your customers not to spend their money in Chattanooga, Tennessee. A city with such racist police practices does not deserve to get rich from tourists.
 
Sincerely,
(your name)

(email to: info@diaspora-link.com, pr@astanet.com,
astasysop@astanet.com, tour@tast.tn.org,
georgina@AfricanTravelSeminars.com,
soa@robindesign.com
 
cc: tandrews@chattanooga-chamber.com,
mayor@mail.chattanooga.gov,
Bill_Cox@hcda.cps.k12.tn.us

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