City councilman Demetrus Coonrod, humbled by a Christian mediation session, utters a public apology Tuesday to Marie Mott and a former gang member who a week before had decried police aggression and the lack of opportunity in Chattanooga.
By David Tulis / 92.7 NoogaRadio
Ms. Coonrod’s apology is mild because it does not rehearse her gaffes about blacks being “complacent and lazy” and particularly repent of them. But it is the fruit of a counseling session with three local clergy members and Miss Mott, a minister’s daughter and likewise a practicing Christian. Her promise not to forgot those in the districts lets her identify with young people who, like Ms. Coonrod with her violent personal history, feel that mercy from cops and prosperity are nowhere to be found.
Ms. Coonrod apparently received public backlash following last Tuesday’s angry encounter. That one was triggered mid-June by an police arrest of a teen girl in a parked car, followed by a series of cop outbreaks against public peace and tranquility. Ms. Coonrod shift of focus from police violence to black-on-black crime did her no favors, and Facebook Live videos of Miss Mott’s ferocious address went viral.
Miss Mott, 30, makes a conciliatory response. Her having arranged for a mediation session involving the Rev. Charlotte S. Williams and Pastor Timothy Careathers helped bring healing. Muslim cleric Kevin Muhammad also took part. Miss Mott pleads for city government to take an interest in the rising generation of millennials.
Meanwhile Tuesday evening, Chattanooga joins hundreds of other towns across the U.S. by taking part in the annual National Night Out event in which police departments connect with the citizenry against whom they enforce state laws and city ordinances, sometimes with causeless rigor and often outside the scope of statute. In Chattanooga, officers at 13 locations visited and chatted over hamburgers, Coke and music.
Councilwoman tells of rising grace
“I sincerely humble myself and I apologize,” Ms. Coonrod says. “Being the second African-American female to be elected to this seat on city council, it is not becoming of my actions. And before I even ran for office, the people who were in office, in leadership positions that looked like you and I, no one extended a hand or an ear to listen, to guide me, or to mold me or to inspire me — to even be a part of the community.
“Now that I reside in that same seat, then I need to extend my hand, and make sure that I’m doing my part to make sure that you are inclusive in any conversations, and I also listen to you, as well, to make sure whatever your issues are being addressed, and that we’re also making sure that our millenials are at the table, and we are working together on solutions to make our city [liveable] for every citizen in Chattanooga.“
Mrs. Coonrod directs herself to a member of the audience, Isaiah Moore, a former gang member who’d spent time in federal prison but is now married and seeking to raise capital for a food truck business. The week before, Mr. Moore and Ms. Coonrod had argued over the administration’s programs vis a vis youth in the inner city, and she refers to her criminal record — for which she has civilly paid and religiously repented.
“Although I traveled a different path to get here,” Mrs. Coonrod says, “not the same path that my colleagues traveled on, I am often labeled *** of my past, so I know exactly what you’re going through, Isaiah,”
Mr. Moore sits next to Miss Mott on the second row, next to his wife, Keyundria.
“Even though I’ve overcome those obstacles,” Ms. Coonrod says, “I’m still reminded daily that even though I sit on the council that a lot of people feel as though I do not belong on the council, or deserve a seat at this table. So my focus is to make sure that people with those issues they know that they in fact belong, just like anybody else belong. So I ask you to please forgive me of my actions, of my choice words, and that we can unite together and work together to move this city in a different direction.”
‘A seat at the table’ for Mott
Miss Mott declares flatly she loves Ms. Coonrod.
She wishes things were different in her part of Chattanooga. She’d much rather have to worry about whether a neighbor is granted an Airbnb permit than about the “want [of] a grocery store. We just want to be able to go to a store to get our medicine. We are just talking about basic human dignity and a moral respect, regardless of how a person looks or how much money they make. We are talking about human dignity.”
Black people fought and died for the right to vote, for Miss Mott’s right to “to run for government to make sure that certain resources and certain opportunities are brought back to my community because, historically, we’ve been left out of the process,” Miss Mott says.
She declares, “We want to believe in something more than just ourselves. These issues I talk about are so much bigger than that. I don’t have all the answers. I am coming to you for your help. I am coming to you for help, your knowledge, your perspective, and a seat at the table.”
She says exercising her first amendment right to petition for redress of grievances (“to right a wrong”) will help her involve young people in local government, and will affect her children and grandchildren. “Please don’t continue to shut the millennials out of the process,” she pleads, at one point near tears.
“Please don’t continue to ignore us.”
It’s not clear Tuesday whether the changes Miss Mott seeks are more state welfare programs offered as a positive benefit according to progressive Democrat Party thinking, or a scaling back of state interventions (such as police activity) in the constitutional and libertarian school of thought. Miss Mott, however, increasingly promotes local, personal and family solutions to social problems on her popular talk show daily at 92.7 FM at 11 a.m. weekdays.
Meanwhile, cops gin up community spirit
An encouraging backdrop to the politicking over city administration is the continuing erosion of public regard for policing, which in Chattanooga consumes more than F$70 million in property and sales tax receipts a year and pours 500 sworn officers into the streets.
Departments across the country are taking part in National Night Out on Tuesday, a marketing event in which cops chat it up with people in neighborhoods and reinforce the Mayor Andy Berke’s community policing concept. A website for the national effort, enjoying its 35th year, says National Night Out is a “community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live.”
Officers in 13 locations in Chattanooga meet those members of the public who might otherwise view cops with loathing or dread. Officers wear full armor, guns and ammo magazines, says spokesman Trevor Tomas. They do nothing to redraw the picture of militarization and “escalation” that is a chief catalyst of Miss Mott’s reforming spirit.
The group says the event seeks to restore “a true sense of community” and lets the police and the policed come ”together under positive circumstances.”
The hoopla relies on sympathetic citizens to show up. “Neighborhoods host block parties, festivals, parades, cookouts and various other community events with safety demonstrations, seminars, youth events, visits from emergency personnel, exhibits and much, much more.”
Every Thursday the department holds a citizens police academy, also an outreach program to humanize police officers and suggest the residents of Chattanooga should have an affinity with officers and help them solve cases and maintain public order.
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