After months of spirited activism, protest organization I Can't Breathe Chattanooga has dissolved, allowing organizers to focus on the March 2021 local elections.
In a statement posted on its since-deactivated Instagram account this week, the organization announced it would be dissolving to allow founders Marie Mott and Cameron "C-Grimey" Williams to focus on other things.
"We want to thank the community for the massive love and support during this tumultuous year and summer uprisings," the statement said, asking supporters to end financial contributions. "We pray that in our brief existence we served as instruments of change, voices of light and beacons of love. We love you all and Power to The People."
Williams and Mott formed the group in response to the May 25 death of George Floyd under the knee of police in Minneapolis, running marches and protests and orchestrating collective public input to the city and county governments throughout the summer months.
Now both Williams and Mott are fighting protest-related charges in court and Williams is under investigation by his employer, the Chattanooga Public Library, for allegedly removing books by conservative authors from the collection and burning them.
"It's been a very long year for me and Grimey and for our team. And so we needed time for our families. We needed time for our mental health. We just needed time to take vacation and do the things that we need to do personally because we've gone through a lot with court, with protesting, with organizing," Mott said Saturday, confirming that the organization dissolved earlier this week to make room for new priorities. "We want to spend our energy where we can make the most impact. We don't believe — excuse my language — in half-assing anything.
"Dissolving just means that we're not going to be doing things under the I Can't Breathe CHA banner at this point in time because really the whole purpose of what we were doing was around protesting and the outcome that we needed to happen out of protesting," she added. "Organizations come and they go but that doesn't mean that you don't continue to work together, that you don't collaborate with other people in the community."
Mott said she's proud of the work the group did to connect activists from across the city, steer discussions and policy change in the city and lay the groundwork for future change under new leadership, as the city prepares to elect a new mayor and all nine council seats are up for re-election in March.
"We just didn't want it to be a situation where we were trying to exhaust ourselves pushing forward when really the energy that needs to happen right now — with not just my campaign — is making sure we get other people elected."
Mott is challenging Chattanooga Councilman Anthony Byrd for the District 8 seat on the City Council and is one of several political newcomers running for the council in the March local election. To run a successful campaign, which she believes will make a bigger impact, Mott said she had to refocus the energy going into the organization.
"That was our greatest struggle with protesting. It wasn't that we didn't have the people on our side or businesses on our side," she said, referencing weeks of protests that drew crowds of hundreds throughout May and June. "It was City Council persons telling us that divestment wasn't possible, the mayor deciding he was going to do the complete opposite of what we were saying.
"We understand that when we have great leadershp in place in the mayor's office and in City Council, it makes it where we don't have to protest. We don't have to do such large-scale organizing."
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at email@example.com or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor.