A new lawsuit is alleging Mississippi sheriffs are responsible for ensuring the races and classes are segregated by using checkpoints.
A Think Progress report Monday said that Madison County is one of the most segregated places in the country and it’s allegedly kept that way by the sheriff, his deputies, and other county officials.
The class-action lawsuit claims the sheriff's department “has implemented a coordinated top-down program of methodically targeting Black individuals for suspicionless searches and seizures." Filed Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the suit seeks an injunction for what they say is "thousands of victims" in the county.
Think Progress explained that the roadblocks that the deputies set up aren't like a typical DUI stop. Instead, deputies out of uniform wait in unmarked vehicles and essentially ambush motorists. Such checkpoints only take place in areas of the county with a higher concentration of African-American residents. Those stopped are then forced to submit to allegedly unconstitutional and illegal searches and seizures while simply driving home.
The suit claims it's similar to Arizona's "show your papers" law, except there is no law that was ever passed in Mississippi that encouraged checkpoints to search cars in black areas of the state.
“[T]he roadblocks end where the white people start," said Bessie Thomas, a 50-year resident of the county. Her two churches are typically in the areas that the deputies are setting up their checkpoints. She's been one of many citizens that have been subjected to the checkpoints and joined the lawsuit.
The suit doesn't stop with complaints about roadblocks, however. It alleges the deputies frequently conduct illegal searches at homes of residents in traditionally black neighborhoods and homes and they do so without warrants. Deputies have allegedly been known to randomly harm residents while doing so.
In June 2016, resident Quinetta Manning reported half-dozen white deputies that barged into her home at 7:00 a.m. claiming they were searching for marijuana. They never found it. They then tried to get a statement from her about a neighbor. Her husband Khadafy came from the bedroom to tell his wife that she didn't have to say anything to the police. The man walks with a cane due to a nerve condition and the deputies allegedly cuffed, choked and beat him before dragging him to a police vehicle in his underwear while calling him "Mr. Cripple." Mrs. Manning captured some of the incident on her cell phone.
Mr. Manning encountered the deputies once again months after they reached out to the ACLU. This time they approached him in a parking and claimed he was "causing trouble" by "having people come around him asking questions." They then handcuffed him and charged him with driving with a suspended license.
Madison County Sheriff Randall Tucker suddenly stopped tracking the complaints from residents after taking office five years ago. They also have limited statistics on "internal policy information" that they've submitted to attorneys, Think Progress reported.
“Although only 38 percent of Madison County residents are Black, approximately 73% of arrests in Madison County between May and September of 2016 were of Black individuals,” the suit outlines.
“We already have very good data, and there’s more detail coming in discovery. We’re going to get the internal documents of the police department and the county. Sometimes in internal documents, people say things that get right to the heart of the thing,” attorney Jonathan Youngwood told Think Progress.
“We’re confident this is a county-wide problem. The data supports that. The stories support that,” he said.