In an attempt to disrupt the anti-police brutality work in Memphis, Tenn., USA. and the city’s March 30 Anti-Klan protest, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s department in Chattanooga, Tenn. (very likely working with other law enforcement agencies in Tennessee), has issued a “fugitive” summons for U.S. black anarchist, Lorenzo Komboa Ervin. He is the author of *Anarchism and the Black Revolution *and the co-founder of the Black Autonomy Federation, whose chapter in Memphis has organized several protests against police brutality and made the national call for the upcoming Anti-Klan protest.
The summons stems from court costs the county claims that Lorenzo owes in connection with a 12-year-old misdemeanor conviction. Damon McGee, Mikail Musa Muhammad (Ralph P. Mitchell), and Lorenzo were convicted in January, 2001, for disrupting a Chattanooga (Tenn.) City Council meeting in 1998 where they went to protest against police brutality. At the time, Chattanooga had the highest number of people killed by police in U.S. cities with populations under 200.000. Damon has also received a “fugitive” summons. Mikail died in 2006. There is no statute of limitations in the U.S. on the collection of court fees and fines, and Damon and Lorenzo could be arrested at any time.
The Chattanooga 3, as they were called, were convicted for violating Tennessee’s “Disrupting Meetings Law,” which makes it illegal for anyone by “physical action or verbal utterance” to interfere with a lawful meeting. The law should be declared unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly.
At the May 19, 1998 city council meeting, the chairman of the council had agreed to allow Lorenzo to speak on behalf of the Coalition Against Police Brutality to present a proposal for community control of the police. More than 100 people packed the meeting to back the proposal. But when the time came, the city council president would not allow Lorenzo to speak. Police arrested him when he attempted to read the proposal from the speaker’s podium. Damon and Mikail, who were at the podium with Lorenzo, were also arrested.
The Chattanooga 3 went on trial in a kangaroo courtroom. For one thing, the jury pool was tainted. One juror was a neighbor of the prosecutor. Worse, a married couple was on the same jury pool! The judge refused to allow defense attorneys to use the First Amendment in arguing their cases. The conspiracy against the Chattanooga 3 became crystal clear after sheriff’s deputies allowed a black man to bring a gun into the courtroom. The man, who said he was a supporter of Osama Bin Laden, claimed that Lorenzo told him to bring the gun to the courtroom. The defendants had to remove some of the jurors prior to jury deliberations because of this prejudicial orchestrated event.
The Chattanooga 3 had support from activists around the world, who sent hundreds of emails to the Hamilton County district attorney. This international support and the fact that two days prior to sentencing, supporters held a big rally in Chattanooga that was widely publicized in the ruling class media, forced the judge to give the three activists suspended sentences. The Chattanooga 3 case was Lorenzo’s second conviction for violating the disruption meetings law. In 1994, he and another activist were convicted for protesting against police brutality across the street from a memorial service for police held in Chattanooga in 1993. In this case, the Tennessee Supreme Court refused to hear Lorenzo’s appeal.
*What You Can Do To Help:*
1. Contact Criminal Court Judge Rebecca Stern, who presided over the Chattanooga 3 trial. Email, call or fax her and demand that she withdraw the “fugitive” summonses issued for Lorenzo and Damon McGee. Send email using: http://www.hamiltontn.gov/EmailForm.aspx. Call (423)209-7500 or send a fax to her at (423)209-7501.
2. Make protests to Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond: http://www.hcsheriff.gov/feedback/feedback.php. Call the sheriff at (423)209-7000, or send a fax to (423)209-7001
3. Circulate this email widely to ABC, autonomist and left groups around the U.S.and internationally.
Peace and love,
JoNina Ervin Acting Chair Memphis Black Autonomy Federation
P.O. Box 16382 Memphis, Tennessee USA 38186-0382