On Wednesday, July 15th, in response to continued protesting, the Chattanooga Police Department released a statement affirming their intentions to intervene in situations where pedestrians violate state traffic laws.
CPD cites incidents of protestors being struck by vehicles across the country, as well as local complaints and calls as reasons for the further enforcement of these laws prohibiting the obstruction of highways and streets. In their statement, CPD claims to have received 28 calls concerning the street obstructions this month, as well as complaints from local residents and businesses.
The law specifically is TN Code § 39-17-307 - Obstructing highway or other passageway:
- A person commits an offense who, without legal privilege, intentionally, knowingly or recklessly:
- Obstructs a highway, street, sidewalk, railway, waterway, elevator, aisle, or hallway to which the public, or a substantial portion of the public, has access; or any other place used for the passage of persons, vehicles or conveyances, whether the obstruction arises from the person's acts alone or from the person's acts and the acts of others; or
- Disobeys a reasonable request or order to move issued by a person known to be a law enforcement officer, a firefighter, or a person with authority to control the use of the premises to:
- Prevent obstruction of a highway or passageway; or
- Maintain public safety by dispersing those gathered in dangerous proximity to a fire, riot or other hazard.
A violation of this law is a Class C Misdemeanor, unless an emergency vehicle is obstructed from passing or performing their necessary duties, in which it is upgraded to a Class B Misdemeanor.
There have been multiple protesters and activist leaders arrested and charged with violating this law already, notably activist and city council candidate Marie Mott, and activist Cameron Williams, this is likely to continue in situations where the protests take to the streets.