Charges against four Chattanooga activists related to police brutality protests in 2020 were dismissed Thursday after activists agreed to pay restitution to the state for a flag they burned.
The $80.85 payment will cover the cost of the custom Hamilton County Sheriff's Office flag burned by protesters in Miller Park.
"This is a lesson learned, to cooperate moving forward," Judge Boyd Patterson told the activists during a hearing Thursday in Hamilton County Criminal Court.
Activist Marie Mott, who later ran unsuccessfully for City Council, led the protests in response to the murder of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer in May 2020.
"The strategy could have been a lot cleaner," Mott said after Thursday's hearing. "That could change, the strategy, but the reasons for being there will never change."
A grand jury indicted Mott and three co-defendants in the case in November 2021, court records show. The co-defendants included Cameron Williams, Cedric Josey and Grason Harvey.
"I'd like to point out the wasted public resources that the Sheriff's Office and the district attorney used on prosecuting this case over two years," Williams, a rapper who goes by C-Grimey, said after the case was closed Thursday. "Time of prosecutors, judges, attorneys."
A request for comment from the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office was not immediately returned Thursday.
All four activists were charged with misdemeanors for obstructing a highway and disorderly conduct. Mott and Williams were also charged with vandalism and reckless burning. The charges stem from two separate incidents -- one in which protesters blocked an emergency vehicle and another in which Mott and others burned a flag belonging to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office. All were dismissed Thursday, attorney McCracken Poston said.
The group was first charged in July 2020. Two charges were later dropped, as the case was turned over to Criminal Court in April of the following year, according to court records. The grand jury decision was filed around seven months later. Thursday's decision comes more than a year after the grand jury's indictment.
"It was fair," said Josey, one of the defendants, after Thursday's ruling, "but it should have been done quicker."
Poston said a check for the restitution will be delivered to the District Attorney's Office on Thursday.
"On day one, I suggested, if we pay for the flag, why doesn't this be dismissed?" Poston said after the hearing. "But I think people have to get through things as a culture."
Mott and other protesters blocked the intersection of Main and Market streets during a protest, an affidavit said. An emergency vehicle responding to a motorcycle crash with injuries was blocked as a result.
In a separate incident, protesters burned a Sheriff's Office flag in Miller Park.
"There was no American flag burned," Poston said. "That was an unfortunate thing that everybody thought."