Speech Free in Tennessee?

Cole Montalvo

Cole Montalvo

Cole Montalvo, 24, was arrested at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga yesterday, for resisting arrest, after attempting to reason with street-preacher, Angela Cummings.

Angela Cummings, a regular “fire and brimstone” preacher on the UTC campus, was approached by Montalvo, who rode his bike just past a pylon signifying a protective perimeter around Cummings. He stopped his bicycle and began to politely address Cummings, suggesting that, in order to reach people with her message, that perhaps she refrained from yelling at students; calling them sinners.

Immediately a security guard closed in on Montalvo, hardly allowing for the student to voice his concern. No sooner than Montalvo had began to ask why he was being asked to leave, the security guard, who had been attempting to jostle Montalvo away from the perimeter, was joined by a second guard, and police Sgt. Willie Trueitt, who quickly allowed the scene to dissolve into a messy tackle onto a brick planter, and then down on the pavement.

UTC arrestFrom this point on, Cole continued to question, without response from the guards or Sgt. Trueitt, why it was that he’d been tackled and arrested. Trueitt admits, in his arrest report, that he attempted to mace the young student, but “missed his face”. After he was cuffed, Montalvo was, eventually, lifted up by the guards and arresting officer. By this time, Cummings had acquired the audience she surely wanted, though they were booing the officer and guards, making clear their disdain for the clear violation of the students’ right to free speech. As he was escorted from the campus, Cummings took her cue, and began preaching Revelations and the lake of fire. Onlookers continued to boo.

UTC on the groundWhat were the final charges put to Montalvo?
Disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, obstruction of justice and inciting a riot. Resisting arrest makes sense: he truly did resist arrest.

But why? He was attempting to have a polite and calm discussion and was manhandled into silence.
His conduct was not disorderly – that charge belongs to the security guards and the arresting officer who should have known how to deal with the situation better.

And inciting a riot? Watch the video provided by RT and decide on the fairness of the charges yourself.

A group of UTC students has started a petition on, directed at school president Dr. Joe DiPietro. “She has not come with a message of love or peace, as Jesus taught,” the petition reads. “She insists on screaming at the top of her lungs that we are all going to hell, Westboro Baptist style. She has parked herself in one of the busiest areas of campus, directly in front of the library, Brock Hall, and Grote Hall.”

The students even mentioned that some professors have had to cancel classes because her shouting is audible through the windows and is too distracting to hold class.