published Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Freedom of speech? Whose freedom? And who pays for UTC's learning atmosphere?

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    A sign marks an entrance to the UTC campus.
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
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Talking it up at UTC

Preacher woman Angela Cummings -- claiming to be sharing Christ but actually spewing hate: "You adulterers and adulteresses... Lesbo alert, lesbians are on this campus..." -- has freedom of speech. So she has been screaming out her message on the sidewalks of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus.

A biochemistry student, Cole Montalvo, implored of her: "Hey, Ma'am: If you're trying to spread the good word, maybe you shouldn't be telling everyone they're sinners."

Unlike Cummings, Montalvo was courteous. Unlike Cummings, he was advocating a course of love, rather than one so full of darkness.

Of course, Montalvo, too, has freedom of speech, but you wouldn't know it from watching a four-minute video of the UTC encounter. During that time, and after his suggestion that Cummings might lighten up a bit, UTC campus police jumped Montalvo as he was pulling away to leave the circle of orange cones the school gave the street preacher for "security."

Four police and security officers pushed Montalvo to the ground. One officer maced him as while another officer held his hands behind him. Then security officers rolled him to his stomach and handcuffed him. The only real resistance Montalvo ever showed was to ask what he did to be arrested. He is charged with disorderly conduct, inciting to riot, obstruction of justice and resisting arrest.

What a farce! If anyone was inciting to riot, it was the street preacher. If anyone was obstructing justice -- Montalvo's right to free speech -- it was campus security. If anyone was disorderly, it was the cop who maced Montalvo as he sat flat on the pavement with his hands held behind him.

As students watching were quick to point out in angry terms, Montalvo is a student who is paying for the use of the sidewalk, the street preacher isn't, yet she has police protection and cones marking out a space just for her. She sought out university permission to spread her "gospel" on campus as Highways and Hedges Ministry, Inc. It has an email and Paypal address.

On Monday, UTC offered this for explanation: "She (Cummings) is associated with another preacher who recently prevailed against the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in a free speech lawsuit. At this time, the campus has no legal basis upon which to deny permission for the speakers to access campus," wrote new Chancellor Steve Angle in an email to students, faculty and staff.

Really? Well, perhaps Montalvo needs to get a lawyer, too. Then he can have some orange cones and maybe even carry his own mace, right?

Another Marion coach arrested

In another terrific example of teaching sportsmanship at Marion County High School, assistant coach Joe Dan Gudger, was charged Tuesday with vandalizing his own school's fieldhouse, apparently in hopes of pinning it on supporters of rival South Pittsburg High School. He also was charged with unlawful possession of alcohol on school property.

It is the second arrest in the Nov. 1 pregame, "inspire"-the-team vandalism of Marion County's facilities. The first person arrested was assistant coach Michael Schmitt. Both men also are teachers at Marion County High.

After the first arrest, county investigators pulled Schmitt's cell phone records and discovered conversations between Schmitt and other coaches discussing painting the field house and making it look like South Pittsburg supporters were the culprits.

No, these men are not adolescents. But they are apparently not good role models, either.

about Pam Sohn...

Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
soakya said...

I'll answer your question concerning who pays for UTC learning atmosphere. taxpayers, gamblers and students do.

What's your point?

November 20, 2013 at 12:52 a.m.
conservative said...

What a Drama Queen!

Why didn't you demand that Mr. Montalvo sue the police and security and the univeristy for violation of his civil rights, Ms. Sohn?

You and Mr. Cook can sure tell a story.

November 20, 2013 at 7:04 a.m.
rick1 said...

Pam, you should really read the police report before you give half thruths in you editorial. But then if you did that it interfere with your agenda.

Below is what is listed in the police report and was reported by TFP.

Montalvo was arrested for disorderly conduct by UTC Police Sgt. Willie Trueitt, who wrote in an incident report that he told Montalvo five times to get back from the perimeter before arresting him. Trueitt sprayed Montalvo once with Mace, but missed his face, according to the report. On the video, Trueitt threatens to use a Taser.

November 20, 2013 at 8:45 a.m.
lkeithlu said...

Regardless of his motivation, the student violated a police-created boundary. One can take issue with the methods (did the man pose a threat to the preacher, officers or bystanders?) but he should not have crossed that barrier.

I would hope that anyone who wants to make a spectacle of themselves on a state-owned university campus receives the same protection and freedom that this preacher did, regardless of message. We shall see.

November 20, 2013 at 8:57 a.m.
inquiringmind said...

If you watch the "preacher's" video, the police grossly over reacted, and in fact appear to have taken action on as the fellow was pulling back. Not once did he do anything abusive, he only suggested in a calm voice to the "preacher" she might consider changing her tactics. To charge the guy with anything is really an abuse of police power, especially a charge of "inciting to riot." If you think he "violated" a boundary, just look at the video. He was stationary making no move to go forward towards the "preacher" and tried to back up but was jumped by the rental cops and police.

The right action for the police would have been to avoid making a situation worse by backing off as the fellow left.

We can only hope he does get a good lawyer and sue.

November 20, 2013 at 11:14 a.m.
conservative said...

I hope you don't hold your breath till he does.

November 20, 2013 at 11:22 a.m.
LibDem said...

When I was that age, we liked to challenge authority and that may be the case here.

In any case, I'm in my eighth decade in this country and have been subjected since childhood to the annoyance of preaching. You learn to walk or at least turn away.

November 20, 2013 at 1:02 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

UTC is a public university and anyone should have access to the open grounds, but it is only common sense that there should be limits as to what a person can do on those grounds. The administration should not be powerless in this matter. It is not just a matter of exercising free speech when someone plants themselves at the busiest intersection of the campus, as she has done, and yells out offensive hate speech day in and day out. That is not just "free speech," it's called DISTURBING THE PEACE. The library and classrooms are easily within range of her bellowing voice and her "right" to play hellfire-and-brimstone street preacher should not trump the rights of students to focus on their education, which their money is paying for. If she wants to get her message across there are countless other ways she can do it. If you spend any time listening to her (various video clips on Youtube) it's obvious that she is more intent on being a martyr for Jesus and racking up spiritual brownie points for being persecuted than she is actually trying to be a good Christian with love in her heart. Street preachers are egomaniacs with a God complex anyway. They thrive on the attention and they LIKE being persecuted for their beliefs. It makes them feel more righteous and therefore more likely to get to heaven. But in fact their overblown self-righteousness makes them in actuality the least righteous and the least likely to convey a message worth listening to.

November 20, 2013 at 1:06 p.m.
huntersims said...

@Rick1.. Why read the falsified police reports when there is video evidence of the police overreaction and brutality. Open your eyes. Don't believe everything you read.

November 21, 2013 at 8:35 a.m.
Meheather said...

Here is the edited together video of the full incident, almost 7 minutes long. It makes it undeniably clear that he did nothing, especially nothing illegal.

November 21, 2013 at 4:24 p.m.
dmkays said...

IMHO, Sgt. Pruitt should be sanctioned. His actions were more that of a bully than a keeper of the peace. He went way over the top in the way he handled this non-incident! Then trumping up charges like inciting a riot when all videos of the event prove this to be an utter farce adds insult to injury.

November 22, 2013 at 12:45 p.m.
Hunter_Bluff said...

Most of the comments are just "meh" about the student being tackled by the police. Is that because she was espousing what some on here call "the Lord's Word"? I suspect is the lady was promoting gay/lesbian rights or sex education there would be a very different reaction by the same posters.

November 23, 2013 at 8:21 a.m.
lkeithlu said...

Hunter, I cannot watch any video from my internet connection, and I refuse to pass judgment on the police officers' actions unless I can see for myself.

November 23, 2013 at 8:39 a.m.
amyinsparta said...

I would suspect the woman would give up and go away if everyone she screams at would point and laugh at her. And if some same sex couples would stand around and kiss in front of her, she likely would have apoplexy and run away screaming herself, lest she become contaminated. This person needs to treated like what she is-a crazy laughing stock.

November 23, 2013 at 12:02 p.m.
Hunter_Bluff said...

Good for you Ikeithlu. An informed opinion is the only ones we should share. On the Walnut St Bridge, north side, some folks have been standing quietly with sign boards offering to speak about their religion to anyone interested. Maybe it's just me, but I have far more respect for how they are living their faith than the name calling screamers.

December 1, 2013 at 9:39 a.m.
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