The stress of public life is taking a toll on Chattanooga city councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod, who complains about people showing up at her door and demanding how she vote.
“I will not live my life in fear, looking over my shoulders as if I am running from gang-bangers,” she says. “It is just not acceptable. I’m not going to tolerate it anymore.”
By David Tulis / 92.7 NoogaRadio
She says “a lot of disrespect that has taken place toward elected officials, in the chambers, and outside of the chambers.”
Mrs. Coonrod doesn’t identify a particular party or group that might have threatened her. But she asks city attorney Phil Noblett for a report on how harassment is criminalized.
Mr. Noblet cited two statutes in which threats forbidden by law, with a separate offense occurring if the threat is based on a discriminatory purpose on points of race, ethnicity or sex.
Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-308 and 309 are aimed at a person who “poses a threat to public order and safety.” A person commits an intimidation felony who “injures or threatens to injure or coerces another person with the intent to unlawfully intimidate another from the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured by the constitution or laws of the state of Tennessee.”
It is an offense to when rights protected by the federal constitution are in view, too. Other provisions touch on damaging or defacing property for the purpose of harassment or intimidation.
“So if any of these actions continue to take place,” Mrs. Coonrod says, “I will be sure to address the issues by the that decision you have made, to continue to act with that type of that type of behavior, that you will be honored with a charge.”
There is “nothing personal against anyone, but my safety has been at risk for quite some time, and I no longer will be tolerating it.”
Mrs. Coonrod’s remarks are seconded by councilman Anthony Byrd, who cites Martin Luther King as saying: “There is nothing more dangerous in the world than sincere ignorance or enthusiastic stupidity.” People often hurl statements at council members that simply are untrue, he says, no matter how earnestly believed or loudly bellowed by the speaker, Mr. Anthony says.