The Chattanooga Hamilton County NAACP on Tuesday issued a calls "for an immediate investigation" of an incident early Saturday morning in which three young white males were charged with throwing firecrackers and allegedly making racist remarks at East Lake Courts.
Valoria Armstrong, executive director, said, "A recent wave of disturbing events threatens to restore Chattanooga and Hamilton County to pre-civil rights era levels in terms of civility and community relations. The progress experienced by this community the last half-century is endanger of being supplanted by the harsh sentiments, acts of suppression, and divisive politics of the past.
"In order for these dangerous trends to be eradicated, and for this community to return to harmony and unanimity, there must be a full and immediate restoration of dignity, respect, and ethics by all government employees and the average citizenry alike.
"These seeds of dissension are highlighted by an incident of domestic terrorism that occurred early on Saturday morning in East Lake Courts. According to eyewitnesses testimony that has since been corroborated by several local law enforcement agencies, three men were observed driving through a black neighborhood and began directing racial epitaphs at black residents.
"In addition, they threw explosives towards black residents, at several homes, and at federal property. There was damage to both physical property and human psyche. As evidenced by the damage to the property and much of the surrounding area where these explosives fell, there was enough firepower to cause bodily harm, and it is only through a higher divine providence that it did not result in the loss of life.
"One of these three individuals was a Hamilton County Emergency Medical Services employee. Until he chose to resign, he had only been suspended two weeks with pay. He and his three accomplices have recently been charged with civil rights intimidation. However, due to the level of severity, malice, and vehemence displayed by these individuals, these penalties are insufficient and fall short of the necessary measures which must be initiated to help solve this crisis and avert any further acts such as this from occurring. This incident was not a simple instance of intimidation, it is a hate crime.
"According to the FBI, a hate crime is defined as, 'a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism, with an added element of bias.' In Section 280003, HR 3355 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, Congress has defined hate crimes as, 'a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim, or in the case of a property crime, the property that is the object of the crime, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person.'
"The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 only solidifies the notion that at no times and under any circumstances should Hate Crimes be allowed. Under these federal definitions and guidelines, this incident rises to the level of a hate crime. This event follows an incident first reported to the NAACP less than three weeks ago that occurred in Polk County. In that unfortunate circumstance, a cinder block inscribed with racial epitaphs warning the family to leave or face 'dire consequences' was thrown through the window of a home. Their only crime is that they are an interracial couple. Though an investigation in this incident is ongoing, it very well may be proved that this was also an instance where a hate crime has occurred.
"Several other acts of incivility have recently occurred within the Greater Chattanooga Community. A member of the Hamilton County Department of Education School Board recently stated in a Times Free Press article released last Sunday that 'slaves were able to learn to read and write,' which implied that current school-aged African-American children, most of whom are the descendants of slaves, will not surpass their ancestors in the arena of educational attainment.
"In addition to this circumstance, a county commissioner recently used the "N" word when describing two of his colleagues, who are black, and that serve on the board of Hamilton County Commissioners with him. All of these described events are unfortunate and set this community back decades.
"The Chattanooga Hamilton County NAACP calls for an immediate investigation of the three individuals charged with terrorizing a black neighborhood on Friday night, and hopes that they will be charged with the proper penalties one should face for such malicious acts, namely Hate Crimes Violations. The details of this case should be submitted to the TBI and Federal agencies so that it can be documented within the Annual Hates Crime Report. Our elected officials must restore a sense of respect for others and high ethical obedience back to their elected offices. Elected officials help set the tone and mood of a city and region, and likewise, all other acts that seek to return this city and region to the politics of the past should be swiftly and unequivocally swept asunder. The good that is within our region rests with you, and it is in your hands that we will make our city and region all that it is to be."
Asked about the alleged "N Word" incident involving a county commissioner, Ms. Armstrong said she had rechecked the facts and found it was not something that allegedly happened "a month and a half ago" as she first thought.
She said her "source" was referring to a recent opinion article in the Chattanooga Times Free Press claiming that a commissioner used the word at the County Courthouse in front of then-County Mayor Claude Ramsey a number of years ago. Mr. Ramsey has told friends he does not recall such an incident.