Organizer Justin Jones on the RUN-OVER-A-PROTESTER Bill

“If something does happen to me, bring my casket outside the Capitol.” Activist Justin Jones on the RUN-OVER-A-PROTESTOR bill now revived by Lt. Gov. McNally, Gov. Bill Lee, and the Tennessee Republican Party.

 

OPINION: The Death of Anthony Thompson Jr. Was Avoidable

Opinion by Ali Pensky of Knoxville, TN

I am not a detective or a lawyer, but as a human being, I watched the video of seventeen-year-old Anthony Thompson Junior being shot and killed in his high school’s bathroom, and I have questions. As the officers approached Anthony, he begged, “WAIT” six times. By the time he could muster up another “WAIT” the officer had already shot him to the ground, and then, proceeded to handcuff him.  

As I watched the comment section of WBIR’s Facebook Live, many people wrote something like, “What did you expect? He brought a gun to school.” And then I thought of sixteen-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant who was killed by the police, and how people claim the shooting was justified because she had a knife and was in a fight.  

Too many police have proven to America that they will not do anything to deescalate a tough situation besides shooting their guns at children, so why are we still funding them at the rate we do? 

 It seems obvious that more money should be given to social services that will help with issues such as addiction, homelessness, and mental health. It seems obvious that police across the country need sufficient bias training. So why is the idea of defunding the police so threatening to so many white people? It is because this country only actually polices some people, and those who are not controlled, and in fact benefit from the current system of policing, want the system to stay the way it is. I am a white girl from an upper-middle-class neighborhood in Knoxville who went to a private high school. If a kid I knew was accused of hitting his girlfriend, he would probably get his friends’ dad who is a lawyer to make it go away. He would not get shot in the bathroom of his school, like Anthony Thompson junior. That is white privilege. That is why the killing of Anthony Thompson junior is absolutely not justifiable. 

The question of why the DA spent an hour going over tapes of Anthony’s girlfriend accusing him of abuse, is part of a larger issue. While an accusation of domestic abuse is serious, it has nothing to do with Anthony being shot to death by a police officer in his own school’s bathroom. The question of why Anthony was portrayed as a school shooter and portrayed as having shot the officer when both accusations are false is part of a larger issueThe picture that was painted of Anthony before the bodycam footage of the shooting was even released is disturbing and manipulative. It puts systemic racism on display. 

I have no doubt that the officers in that bathroom felt they were in danger, but in what universe does the officer deserve more sympathy than the dead seventeen-year-old? We need to dismantle that universe because it appears to have become our reality.  

I will never fully understand what it means to be a part of the Austin East community. But I stand with them and I believe the death of Anthony Thompson Junior was avoidable. I do not have answers on how to dismantle this broken system or make Knoxville safe for everyone, but if you are privileged enough to do so like myself, donate to the Austin East Foundation, which aims to help AE receive the same educational opportunities as other Knox County students. Purchase something on the AE’s staff wish list on Amazon. Support one of the local restaurants that are donating their proceeds to AE, such as Hard Knox Pizza or Likewise Coffee. Go to a protest led by Constance Every. Take a stance.

The “Third Death Penalty” is NO MORE in Tennessee

“TODAY MERCY WON. People told us this was impossible, but No Exceptions Prison Collective rejected that.” Rev. Jeannie Alexander celebrates a huge win in the Senate — after 6 years of work and input from 1500 prisoners, a life sentence with parole went from 51 yrs to 25 yrs before parole eligibility.

Not only was this a win, but it was a bipartisan blowout, 26-4. Sen. Bowling (R) was the lead sponsor, co-sponsored by Senators Gilmore (D) and Roberts (R), soon to be joined by Sen. Yager (R).

 

Tennessee Bar Association RIPS Rep. Rudd and the GOP

Rep. Tim Rudd and the Republicans are trying to remove a respected judge who ruled in a way they didn’t like – to let us all vote safely in a pandemic. Because, you know, Republicans don’t like when people vote. Yesterday the Democrats gave a press conference, and the Tennessee Bar Association has now issued a statement shredding the resolution and accurately pointing out how it threatened the separation of powers this country was founded on. Read their statement below.

By Barry Kolar on Mar 2, 2021. Originally posted on the Tennessee Bar Association’s Law Blog

NASHVILLE, March 2, 2021 — Since 1881, the Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) has represented the entire spectrum of the Tennessee legal community, from plaintiff and defense attorneys to judges, government and legal services attorneys, corporate counsel, and many attorneys residing outside the State who retain an interest in the Tennessee legal profession.The TBA is a strong advocate for the profession and the development and maintenance of our justice system. This statement is not intended to be political or partisan, but instead one of extreme concern and caution related to the fundamental importance of the separation of powers and maintaining an independent judiciary in the State of Tennessee. We believe House Resolution 23 (HR 23) will have a chilling effect on the administration of justice in our State, and threatens the bedrock principle of separation of powers, which lies at the core of Tennessee’s system of government.

Article VI, Section 6 of the Tennessee Constitution provides a process for removing judges and attorneys for the state from office for cause. HR 23 appears to be the first time the legislature has used Article VI, Section 6 of the Tennessee Constitution to begin the removal process of a judge from office for cause based on rulings in a judicial proceeding. After a thorough review of HR 23 and the underlying case, the TBA has significant concerns about the resolution’s impact on the constitutional separation of powers in our three branches of government. As stated in the Preamble to Rule 10 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, “[a]n independent, fair and impartial judiciary is indispensable to our system of justice.” Judges should decide matters based on a thorough analysis and interpretation of the law without concern for the decision’s potential political implications.

Article VI, Section 6 is not a tool used as a matter of course, and we respectfully believe that the legislature should not use it in this circumstance. The TBA is concerned that HR 23, if successful, will create a precedent that any time a judge rules against the state, or on a statute, or renders a politically unpopular decision, that decision could potentially trigger legislative removal proceedings against that judge. This also results in the potential for removing a judge any time a ruling is overturned on appeal, when in fact the act of the appeal is a clear measure that the legal process is working appropriately.

Tennessee law provides for multiple avenues to hold judges accountable should that prove necessary. One such avenue, the Board of Judicial Conduct, was created by the legislature itself. The board provides an orderly and efficient method for inquiring into, among other things, the fitness of judges, a judge’s manner of performance of duty, and the judge’s commission of any act that reflects unfavorably upon the judiciary or that may adversely affect the administration of justice. The board is comprised of 16 members, eight of which are appointed by the speakers of the Senate and House, respectively.

Further, the judicial system has in place an appeals process. The state utilized the appeals process in the matters outlined in HR 23. Ultimately, the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned Chancellor Lyle’s temporary injunction, although one justice did agree with her.

The people act as another vehicle for judicial accountability. Article VI, Section 4 of the Tennessee Constitution provides that “…the Judges of the Circuit and Chancery Courts, and of other Inferior Courts, shall be elected by the qualified voters of the district or circuit to which they are to be assigned.” Chancellor Lyle, like many other judges across this state, is an elected judge. She will stand for reelection and face a decision on her continued tenure by the voters in her district. The voters in her district should exercise their judgment about whether or not she should remain in office. Reasonable minds can and will continue to disagree with judicial decisions even in cases like this one of first impression. The remedies related to those disagreements lie in the appellate process and at the voting booth.

Processes currently exist as a check on all judges, and those processes work. We strongly encourage members of the General Assembly and the citizens of this state to utilize the appeals process, make complaints to the Board of Judicial Conduct when necessary, and exercise their right to vote. We also urge the General Assembly to reconsider HR 23 and its impact on an impartial, independent judiciary.

How MNPD Responds to Drugs Versus Bombs

“I’d like to see some level of acknowledgment from Metropolitan Nashville Police Department that if it had been drugs instead of bombs that would have triggered different levels of alarm.”
 
Nashville Council Member Bob Mendes on how MNPD was tipped off about the bomber 16 months ago but did nothing.

PODCAST available on Apple Podcasts, and wherever else you like to listen.

 

Nashville Bombing as an Indictment of Metro Nashville Police Department

“Second Avenue is a crater because police treated a white 63-year-old differently than a 34-year-old Muslim…it’s an incredible indictment of MNPD.”
 
Former Federal Prosecutor Alex Little on how the bomber’s girlfriend told MNPD he had been attempting bombmaking 16 months ago but did nothing.

PODCAST available on Apple Podcasts, and wherever else you like to listen.

The Power of Restoring Voting Rights

Your favorite democracy duo is back with another electric episode featuring Desmond Meade of Florida Rights Restoration and The Equity Alliance Direct Impact Fellows: Terrance Simpson, Big Fridge, Robert Sherrill, and Daniel Westbrooks. Participants share how their personal stories of challenge and triumph have led them to be community leaders, entrepreneurs, and voting rights restoration advocates.

Charlane and Tequila are Co-Founders and Co-Executive Directors of The Equity Alliance.

Porch Politics is recorded LIVE from our porch every other Thursday at 6 pm CT. You can stream it on The Tennessee Holler or wait for it to drop as a podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever else you like to listen.

Pushing Belmont to Divest from CoreCivic

Safara Parrott of Be Better Belmont on how the ties between Belmont and CoreCivic were born out of a long history of profit and racist complicity.

FULL PODCAST available on Apple Podcasts, and wherever else you like to listen.

Kelley Henry and The Pervis Payne Case

Attorney Kelley Henry joins Pastor Kevin Riggs and Kevin Sage to discuss her work as a Death Row Attorney, specifically with the urgent Pervis Payne case.

For more information on how to help Pervis Payne’s case, click here.

FULL PODCAST available on Apple Podcasts, and wherever else you like to listen.

Rutherford County Candidates Comment on Breonna Taylor’s Case

The Murfreesboro Holler asked Rutherford County candidates to comment on the injustice of Breonna Taylor’s case. Here is what they said:

Mariah Phillips:

“Justice is not done here in this case. I pray for the family and friends of Ms. Taylor. I pray for the people of Kentucky to come together, and I pray for our entire community and the country who find too many instances where wrongful death occurs and justice is not served. If that situation was handled differently, it would have been safer for the police involved, and Breonna Taylor, who was innocent, would still have her life today. We are in dire need of criminal justice reform, and the best way to change laws is to change the lawmakers.”

 

Chase Clemons:

As we’ve seen far too many times, the officers involved with the murder of Breonna Taylor will not be held accountable. Justice demands that we do more. That starts with electing leaders that will do away with no-knock warrants, ban chokeholds, and work towards true reform of our justice system. When you go to vote, say their names – Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Mike Brown – and elect representatives that will deliver the change we desperately need.

 

Brandon Thomas:

“I know so many of the people who live in District 49, Black Tennesseans and the people who love them, are feeling this pain. They felt it when Breonna Taylor was killed, and they felt it again last night when no officers were charged for her death. I cannot say this enough – we need people in office who know what this pain feels like. We need people who have felt this pain to be at the table when decisions are being made. We need more Black voices in these legislative discussions so that we can begin to create change, by doing things like ending no-knock raids and qualified immunity. Together as a community we have to fight for an equitable justice system”

 

Matt Ferry:

In 1963, Reverend Martin Luther King wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Nearly 60 years later, that statement stings when we realize just how much work we still have to do when it comes to racial injustice. The inaction on the part of the judicial system we witnessed on Wednesday is an absolute miscarriage of justice and a stain on the fabric of our nation. 

The sooner we come to terms with the fact that the letter of the law reads differently for many folks based on lines of race and socioeconomic status, the sooner we can address the problems plaguing the United States criminal justice system. 

My heart and thoughts are with the family of Breonna Taylor as well as with those who continue to fight for justice and equality in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.