Chattanooga police have taken out arrest warrants for multiple protesters who they say participated in "illegal and dangerous" activities during a Friday evening demonstration.
The protesters, including local activists Marie Mott, 32, and Cameron Williams, 35, obstructed the intersection of Market and East Main streets, police say.
The Chattanooga Police Department released a still image from a body-worn camera showing protesters blocking an emergency vehicle attempting to get to a motorcycle crash with injuries, the release states. A car and motorcycle had collided, and the motorcyclist sustained severe injuries.
Mott, Williams and two others - Grason Harvey, 22, and Lindsay Baker, 33 - each face charges of disorderly conduct and blocking a highway.
Late Sunday, the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office also announced charges involving a flag that Mott admitted on social media to removing from a county building and burning on July 9. She, Williams and Gerald Crawley, 19, face charges of theft, vandalism, reckless burning and incitement to riot in that case.
Mott and Williams have been the highest-profile organizers of a series of demonstrations against police brutality after the May 25 death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police.
"[The police department] has had numerous discussions with the protesters and officers have blocked streets in order for marches to take place as safely as possible since May 30," Chattanooga police Chief David Roddy said in a statement.
In Facebook Live footage recorded by Williams, multiple Chattanooga police officers attempted to have conversations with protesters.
"So can we get out the roadway? If not, in 20 minutes, we're going to have to arrest," one officer says.
"So you gon' arrest all of us?" Mott responds. "Y'all gon' process all of us?"
"Instead of going one block around?" Williams adds, referring to the emergency vehicle that had been blocked. "It's one block."
"You cannot block a street like y'all are doing," the officer responds, noting the tent that had been erected in the middle of the intersection of Market and Main streets.
"I'm just letting you know. If you want to make a public spectacle, and arrest every last one of us [who] are peacefully protesting," Mott responds, as other protesters say they've been blocking roads since protests started on May 30.
Several protesters have indeed been arrested for obstructing roadways when they refused to get out of the road after police ordered them to do so.
"[The police department] is lying," Williams told the Times Free Press on Sunday morning, ahead of turning himself in. "We let the fire trucks through the intersection immediately."
The vehicle that was blocked, Williams said, was one that administrators use.
It was a Hamilton County EMS lieutenant vehicle, said Hamilton County EMS spokeswoman Amy Maxwell. Lieutenants respond to calls because they receive additional training that regular paramedics don't have, especially in traumatic incidents to help with procedures that clear a patient's airway.
"If it was such a big deal, why didn't they just lock us up Friday afternoon? We stood in the street for an hour," Williams said. "They [are trying to] bully us and make a statement because we refuse to stop demanding real change."
Warrants were not signed by a magistrate until late Saturday evening after protesters had gone home.
"I am not blind to the issues being challenged," Roddy said in the news release, "but I will not allow the protesters to endanger themselves, invoke fear in other community members and impede emergency services to anyone in this city."
Williams questioned whether Roddy truly understood what the activists are protesting.
"Why isn't he having multiple conversations instead of locking us up where we cannot social distance in the middle of a pandemic?" he asked. "They don't care about Black lives. I believe they are trying to intentionally expose us to COVID-19."
Roddy met with Williams on June 8, police spokeswoman Elisa Myzal said.
"They discussed the protests, police budget and Mr. Williams' suggestions as it relates to some [department] policies," Myzal said. "Before that meeting and since then, Chief Roddy has had multiple conversations with Cameron and other protesters during the gatherings in the parks and marches."
Mott, who is also a Chattanooga City Council candidate, took to Facebook to respond to the news about the warrants being filed and say that she will turn herself in.
"You're telling me blockin' a road instills fear into the community more than seeing that an officer last year plead guilty to raping three women that you pulled over in a parking lot?" Mott questioned. "That's not instilling fear into the community? And then, not only that, officers do these egregious actions, that there's no criminal charges brought against them."
Former officer Desmond Logan resigned just minutes before his disciplinary hearing and has pleaded guilty to two counts of deprivation of rights for raping three women in his custody and using a Taser on a fourth woman. Logan remains in custody at the Bradley County Jail awaiting sentencing, which has been postponed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. He could face 10 years in prison for each count, though it will be up to a judge to decide whether the prison terms will be served at the same time or consecutively.
At the time he pleaded guilty, Roddy condemned Logan's actions, saying Logan was "not what the men and women of the Chattanooga Police Department represent."
"He is an absolute disgrace of a police officer and a human being," Roddy said. "His abominable actions tarnish the badge we all proudly wear and diminishes trust so many officers work hard to build every day."
Two other Chattanooga officers accused of using excessive force in recent years have been disciplined or are waiting for a criminal investigation to be resolved.
Officer Cody Thomas was suspended for 80 hours after he used a Taser on the wrong man, who had told Thomas multiple times that he wasn't involved.
And Officer Benjamin Piazza remains on desk duty pending the outcome of a criminal investigation after he was seen in dashboard camera footage punching and cursing a man during a traffic stop.