Gangs of youth in cities such as Chattanooga organize for turf protection, illicit profit from contraband, masculinity, racial identity, financial liquidity (cash), youthful thrill at danger and resistance to “the man” who has a stake in continuing warfare and enforcement action.
By David Tulis / NoogaRadio 92.7
Private gangs are increased and fed by conflict with police. Police don’t cause gangs, but nourish and enliven gangs in their close attention and harassment of gang members, which since January has intensified in Chattanooga.
Judge Barry Steelman of Hamilton County criminal court last week rejected a petition for injunction from district attorney Neal PInkston, who sought for two years to get the court to isolate these young men and prohibit them from congregating and dealing with one another.
Police and gangs are organized along similar lines. Police are a closed society, highly regimented, premised on power, masculine, aggressive and militarized in appearance and outlook — like an army of occupation keeping the fearful members of the citizenry in their place. Unlike private people and private youth clubs and gangs such as Grape Street Crips, police enjoy state sanction and so have the moral right, the virtue of doing good.
The court system is on their side. Police abuse and killings aside and the state of current law granting them legal immunity, police enjoy strong media and institutional support. Even among black clergy, members of whose race are most troubled by routine traffic harassment and policing, cops are protected by the common opinion that without them, chaos and anarchy would reign.
If indeed private neighborhood gangs are nourished by conflict with police, it is reasonable to consider fresh ways of reducing the conflict.
I propose a de-escalation or demilitarization of police as a tack to reducing the draw and influence of gangs, and saving lives. Demilitarization would fit former chief Fred Fletcher’s community policing concept, which faces review under Chief David Roddy, who has had the job for more than a year..
Community policing, however, is a mere workaround to police violence, a way of marketing the police without eliminating their threat to the populace. Community policing as an idea seeks to use the humanity of the officer to make him familiar to the people in his district, and to create trust. Demilitarization of police and the pacification of the organization would go far in reducing the threat, tension and gunplay among gangs, who view themselves in a state of war with their biggest threat — police — and among their lesser territorial private rivals.
As violent crime continues to decline across the u.s., however, the police department intends to use spying equipment to personally and individually threaten gang members.
Local economy, Law 101 and the gang member
Local economy thinking calls for demilitarization and could work toward solving the gang problem by recognizing the state-v.-people conflict and seeks to pacify young “civilians” who enter gangs for belonging, self-development, protection and identification. My conception of teaching young people to become invested in the law by claiming their rights would pacify young gang activists by strengthening members’ claims upon the existing system of law.
Gangs fill a role in the soul to belong and to be loyal, even though gang members are ungodly, self-seeking, careless of life, driven by short-term perspective and violent for their own benefit. Three gang members in May 2016 killed Bianca Horton, a woman who had witnessed a gang crime, according to the state’s capital case against three men. In a gunfight, a girl was shot through two shoulders in a dispute over men’s being disrespected. Fifty-four gang-connected young men are targeted in a state racketeering criminal prosecution.
Gangs lack grace given by God through Christ Jesus, and the extension of grace God requires His people to extend to others. By habit, greed, lust and other vices they appear inured to civilized life, other-centric activities that lead to the prosperity and wealth of others. They lack the wherewithal to make themselves market players and capitalists. They pursue a short-term perspective that Edward Banfield identified in 1970 in The Unheavenly City.
But it is possible that minority youth and actual gang members might be won over to the gospel and to more useful and productive purposes through a peace-oriented policing model and a local economy concept of becoming a stakeholder in law.
My proposal may sound fanciful and theoretical, but it has the advantage of not presupposing young gang members as enemies, but as citizens who are disenfranchised and who feel put upon by evil circumstance and poverty.
But here’s how I would suggest making gang members stakeholders in law and order. My idea takes the advice of Christian men in Chattanooga who say personal relationships and mentoring are a useful path to redeeming these young men in the eyes of city society.
As ministers and Christians propose classes in Bible, personal relationships and entrepreneurship for minority youth, so I would propose a Law 101 class for prospective members of Chattanooga-area gangs,
It would be taught by a member of the local defense bar with a charitable disposition or by a retired officer who understands constitutional government.
Appeal to law
If it were left to me, I would try to coach gang members in their dealings with police.
The first thing I would propose is a better understanding of how the law works. This would involve encounters over questions of law and liberty. The law coaching sessions would show that the people’s enslavement by the state is a natural consequence of godlessness and self-seeking against which Jesus and the prophets warn.
My law coaching courses would presuppose that in Jesus Christ there is liberty and freedom. It would say that in the mechanisms of the state — the welfare state and the police-surveillance state — there is only slavery. The conflict between police and gangs is an extension of the conflict between the police state vs. honest and good citizens against whose usually innocent and harmless members laws are “enforced.”
In this context, the honest citizen and the member of the Crips share the status of state victim.
The theological underpinnings of the gang warfare problem wouldn’t be immediately evident to these rough acquaintances, and it certainly would not be the first matter of open business. But we’d get to the point soon enough about God’s judgment, delivering as He does peoples and nations to murderers and thieves, tyrants and university-abstracted ideologues, for God’s glory.
Nitty gritty personal legal defense
Our attention would focus on getting young men to appeal to law in their dealings with cops. I would propose that these proto-gang and actual gang members understand how they’re being roughly handled lawfully — and unlawfully.
I would focus on the unlawful abuse of these individuals who are tracked and systematically harassed by the police to keep them down and keep them afraid.
High status of belligerent claimant in person
I would also analyze how gang members and prospects could seek a certain measure of freedom by knowing the law and knowing their rights under the constitution. My main argument would be to suggest that they have no rights until they defend them, and that this personal defense and an exercise of lawful rights is the proper role of the belligerent claimant in person.
I would propose that this desire for freedom is a desire which ultimately would be better met through Jesus Christ. But in the short-term, this desire for freedom gives the gang member reason to bone up on legal definitions and legal status. Many of these issues are covered elsewhere at Nooganomics.com.
Freedom in the theological sense is the freedom from sin and temptation. But practical freedom under godly and constitutional government can be obtained now by a study of probable cause, commerce, the transportation statutes, searches and seizure rules, the definition of arrest, a reading of Miranda, and the rationale behind constitutional restraint upon the state.
We’d start with traffic stops
Traffic is an activity in commerce, and the state and its agents act presumptively against every traveler as if he were involved in transportation. I would have gang members review the basic structure of the transportation law at Tenn. Code Ann. Title 55 as described in transportation administrative notice Tennessee. This document promises to become, as it gains recognition, a liberating document based on existing law that it suggests be scrupulously obeyed.
Hardly any person under arrest in Chattanooga is read his Miranda rights, though every traffic stop is an arrest (State v. Garcia, 2003; State v. Raspberry, 1982) and requires a Miranda warning, according to a Chattanooga police department manual. Most people in these stops make numerous admissions, by statement and submission of documents and proofs, handed to the officer. In law, no one is required to make any statement under arrest, and no one is required to consent to an officer’s demand for a search of car or house. The officer must produce a warrant.
Becoming freer within law
Against careless and lawless state actors, a would-be gang member would make a great video indeed demanding the cop produce a warrant or demand he articulate his probable cause or “articulable suspicion” in a late-night encounter.
Constitutional law recognizes a free man. A man who is free cannot be touched by any officer or judge. It is important for young men to understand their rights and to ascertain how to be free from police intervention, false arrest, harassment, the planting of throwaway guns and drugs, and other illegal activities common among police around the country, according to reports.
A man who understands his liberty enough to be able to defend it by being a belligerent claimant in person is one who starts having a stake in the social life and social order of his town. He need not live in fear. I cite as an example a young man who is not a member of any gang but who has been harassed repeatedly by police.
Hixson resident Hanson Melvin, 28, has been stopped 30 times by police. But he asserted his rights when falsely accused, was indicted, and exposed the officer who charge him as having perjured himself twice in his claims in the arrest report and in a presentation before the grand jury. He sued the officer and the city for his kidnapping and harassment and won a settlement in September. Sympathetic to Mr. Hanson is city council member Anthony Byrd, who has been stopped innumerable times as a Chattanoogan — “twenty, thirty, forty times, too many to count,” he said.
Finding the high ground
The prince of peace and the lion of the covenant — the LORD Jesus Christ — offers liberty from the enslavement of sin. A man who wants to be free from the harassment and tribulations of the state against him is wanting the same thing as a person seeking freedom from sin and forgiveness of sin through the power of the Holy Spirit.
In other words, young men snatched into gangs can be encouraged to want a thing similar to the soul in a man that seeking God. Peace, certainty of standing with authority, freedom from guilt, freedom from lawlessness.
Young men trained to assert their rights and restrain the lawless and careless hand of police are, in fact, taking the high ground within the law, even though at other points they may be trespassers, unapprehended malefactors or men with criminal records as described in Mr. Pinkston’s petition for injunction in criminal court that Judge Steelman dismissed.
Becoming invested in law
No doubt studying law and gaining self-confidence of one’s rights is a work demanding time and patience.
As the young minority male gains confidence in the law as his defense against arbitrary and capricious action by gangland-style policing with its bluff, threats, petty lies, legal deceit and violence, he also gains confidence in proper appeal and the use of courts in his defense. He doesn’t have to resort to violence to accomplish his defense and maintain his manhood.
He doesn’t have to resort to a gun to be a man, but can use motions, briefs and lawsuits. He starts having a stake in the system of courts, which is a basic defense of equity and the rights of life and property, even though badly corrupted and often rejecting basic equity.
Perhaps he gains a measure of freedom from police harassment. He will likely be open to broader arguments that will give him access to prosperity and the marketplace. If he takes the side of the law in street relationships vis a vis the cops, he will see he has a stake in civil order that many believe he opposes. He will see he has a stake in public peace, property ownership, restraint of violence and enforceability of contract through the courts.
He will see that in asserting substantive and procedural rights he comes to understand, he has a mutual enemy with other commoners. The mutual enemy of law-abiding Chattanoogans and helter-skelter gang members is the modern welfare and warfare state, with its police, its inflationary debasement of value, its deceptive legislatures and pro-state courts that make up a veritable judicial-industrial complex in Hamilton County
Process of identifying with civil order
I would encourage these young black men to be bold before “the man.” I would encourage them to be respectful before the man. They can practice: I would encourage them to insist on their constitutional guarantees.
If they do so, they will be like faithful Christian people who are belligerent claimants in person against despotism. These Christians homeschool when it’s illegal, they demand the right to a warrant in the case of the search. They insist on the rights and properties of the church and family as against the state. They refuse to accept vaccination “requirements.” They refuse to let a child protective services worker spend time alone with a child for an interrogation. They defy court-ordered distance limits at baby-killing centers.
The black gang member outside the gospel’s grace is using the same tools as the Christian free man. The young punk who’s reading the constitution is doing the same thing as should the family man who is preserving his heritage and his children’s future.
The message for the young gang member is the same as the message for the homeschool student taking Sale Creek, Tenn, attorney Heidi Mahlum’s Illuminedge18.com law class being advertised among homeschoolers in Chattanooga.
Know the law. Know your rights. Fear God. Fear violating our sovereign’s commandments. Seek to do justice. Seek equity and right for all. I don’t know how far Mrs. Mahlum goes in helping people assert constitutional liberty at traffic stops. But a big part of being a belligerent claimant in person is maintaining an elevated legal status and having “clean hands.” The clean hands doctrine requires NOT making claim on the fruits of statism.
If we give young men the dignity they crave and deserve, rather than harassing them, pinning them down for minor infractions, spying on him with special surveillance, illegally tapping their wireless phones, monitoring them by cameras, keeping databases on them, constantly confronting them, arresting them and associates under court injunctions, we will transform by God’s grace these young men into active defenders of the marketplace with a stake in civil order.
If they’re defenders of the marketplace they are also defenders of family, property, industry, enterprise and the fruits of Christianity. They don’t have to be practicing Christians to enjoy these things nor to promote them. But the gospel will have an easier access into the hearts of these individuals if they are in a better position geopolitically and legally.
Parallel pseudo government
My comments above are just a theory, but I believe they are approximate to my Christian convictions as a longtime former deacon of a church and a person who has a fair sense of how the human soul works.
Americans are under an oppression and that we live in a police state operating with consent of courts parallel to lawful constitutional common law government whose operations often are barely visible.
The police state’s first line of aggression is, guess what, the police. Police serve corporations and municipal governments. They are the constant reminder of the subjugation of the people who are forced to yield in practical terms their constitutional liberties. Yes, I admit that we are under police subjugation because we Chattanoogans and other Americans deserve it as a sinful and wicked people.
On the other hand, I believe also that we can be free in Christ Jesus, and if we are free in Christ Jesus we should seek to exercise our liberties wherever they may be nestled. If liberties are ensconced in the constitution, and the constitution has not been amended to delete these freedoms, then we should exercise those freedoms as if they actually existed, practically speaking. They exist on paper. Let’s make them exist in practice.
If we do not belligerently defend and assert liberty, we do not have it. We instead live in the fear of men, and not in the fear of God.
If Christians in Chattanooga and other cities can encourage young men to live in the fear of God, and not in the fear of cops and other men, God may use small successes to give root to a more godly and law-abiding society, one 18-year-old man at a time.