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Thread: Arkansas town plagued by violence

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    Arkansas town plagued by violence and poverty to continue 24-hour curfew crackdown
    By JON GAMBRELL | Associated Press Writer
    6:42 AM EDT, August 13, 2008


    HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. (AP) _ Officers armed with military rifles have been stopping and questioning passers-by in a neighborhood plagued by violence that's been under a 24-hour curfew for a week.

    On Tuesday, the Helena-West Helena City Council voted 9-0 to allow police to expand that program into any area of the city, despite a warning from a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas that the police stops were unconstitutional.

    Police Chief Fred Fielder said the patrols have netted 32 arrests since they began last week in a 10-block neighborhood in this small town on the banks of the Mississippi River long troubled by poverty. The council said those living in the city want the random shootings and drug-fueled violence to stop, no matter what the cost.

    "Now if somebody wants to sue us, they have an option to sue, but I'm fairly certain that a judge will see it the way the way the citizens see it here," Mayor James Valley said. "The citizens deserve peace, that some infringement on constitutional rights is OK and we have not violated anything as far as the Constitution."

    The area under curfew, in what used to be a West Helena neighborhood, sits among abandoned homes and occupied residences in disrepair.

    White signs on large blue barrels warn those passing by that the area remains under curfew by order of Mayor James Valley. The order was scheduled to end at 3 p.m. Tuesday, but Valley said the city council's vote would allow police to have the same powers across Helena-West Helena.

    Among the curfew operation's arrests, 10 came from felony charges, including the arrest of two people carrying both drugs and weapons, Fielder said. The police chief said the officers in the field carry military-style M-16 or M-4 rifles, some equipped with laser sights. Other officers carry short-barrel shotguns. Many dealing crack cocaine and marijuana in the city carry pistols and AK-47 assault rifles, he said.

    "We've had people call us, expressing concern for their children," Fielder said. "They had to sleep on the floor, because of stray bullets."

    Fielder said officers had not arrested anyone for violating the curfew, only questioned people about why they were outside. Those without good answers or acting nervously get additional attention, Fielder said.

    However, such stops likely violate residents' constitutional rights to freely assemble and protections against unreasonable police searches, said Holly Dickson, a lawyer for the ACLU of Arkansas who addressed the council at its packed Tuesday meeting. Because of that, Dickson said any convictions coming from the arrests likely would be overturned.

    "The residents of these high-crime areas are already victims," she said. "They're victims of what are happening in the neighborhoods, they're victims of fear. But for them to be subject to unlawful stops and questioning ... that is not going to ultimately going to help this situation."

    The council rejected Dickson's claims, at one point questioning the Little Rock-based attorney if she'd live in a neighborhood they described as under siege by wild gunfire and gangs.

    "As far as I'm concerned, at 3 o'clock in the morning, nobody has any business being on the street, except the law," Councilman Eugene "Red" Johnson said. "Anyone out at 3 o'clock shouldn't be out on the street, unless you're going to the hospital."

    The curfew is the second under the mayor's watch since the rival cities of Helena and West Helena merged in 2006. That year, Valley set a nightly citywide curfew after a rash of burglaries and other thefts.

    Police in Hartford, Conn., began enforcing a nightly curfew for youths after recent violence, including a weekend shooting that killed a man and wounded six young people.

    Helena-West Helena, with 15,000 residents at the edge of Arkansas' eastern rice fields and farmland, is in one of the nation's poorest regions, trailing even parts of Appalachia in its standard of living.

    In the curfew area, those inside the homes in the watch area peered out of door cracks Tuesday as police cruisers passed. They closed the doors afterward.


    http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/nat...,4859329.story
    Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

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    Regular Member Sonora Rebel's Avatar
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    FzSBLACKMAGICK wrote:
    "Now if somebody wants to sue us, they have an option to sue, but I'm fairly certain that a judge will see it the way the way the citizens see it here," Mayor James Valley said. "The citizens deserve peace, that some infringement on constitutional rights is OK and we have not violated anything as far as the Constitution."
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. (Ben Franklin) Perhaps if these citizens were allowed to arm themslves... or 'armed' by the local gummint... Situations such as this would not happen. Infringement on Constitutional Rights IS violating the Constitution! Where'd these morons go to school?

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    Sonora Rebel wrote:
    FzSBLACKMAGICK wrote:
    "Now if somebody wants to sue us, they have an option to sue, but I'm fairly certain that a judge will see it the way the way the citizens see it here," Mayor James Valley said. "The citizens deserve peace, that some infringement on constitutional rights is OK and we have not violated anything as far as the Constitution."
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. (Ben Franklin) Perhaps if these citizens were allowed to arm themslves... or 'armed' by the local gummint... Situations such as this would not happen. Infringement on Constitutional Rights IS violating the Constitution! Where'd these morons go to school?
    Exactly.
    Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

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    It would seem to me that by conducting actions such as these in this Arkansas town--that the townspeople would absolutely be outraged at the conduct of their government.

    Yes sir, I can see it so clearly how taking away the rights of the people to protect/defend themselves will make society so much safer. The last thing needed is to have the police out acting like they were in Iraq.

    These actions are so clearly a violation of the Constitutional Rights that it should be as obvious as a blizzard in summer. When are the people going to wake up to what is being done to them--how many rights can the people afford to give away to feel safe?

    I would hope the FBI would become involved and get the people who approved this in that Arkansas town for violations of the citizens Constitutional rights, or maybe official oppression...

    I well remember the quote by Jefferson which I put here, but in my own words--he who would give up their freedom to obtain security, deserve neither and will lose both.

    An armed people is a safer people.

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    suntzu wrote:
    The last thing needed is to have the police out acting like they were in Iraq.
    And on that note, a friendly message from John McCain:

    (Thanks to the VCDL for this alert)
    Not sure if he said what he meant, but answering a question about his approach to combating crime, John McCain suggested that military strategies currently employed by US troops in Iraq could be applied to high crime neighborhoods here in the US. McCain called them tactics "somewhat like we use in the military...You go into neighborhoods, you clamp down, you provide a secure environment for the people that live there, and you make sure that the known criminals are kept under control."
    [flash=320,256]http://www.youtube.com/v/Md8MkPy7asQ[/flash]
    Link to the audio:
    http://tinyurl.com/559dtt

    Article:
    http://www.reason.com/blog/show/127881.html

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    Can you say George Orwells 1984?

    The police already have a military mentality--much encouragement could turn us into the George Orwell story of 1984....

    what we need is for the police to STOP acting like the military, and I would submit to stop carrying military grade automatic weapons--police walking the streets, stopping cars at will without a warrant or probable cause and carrying an M4/M16 or an MP5 with low light weapon scopes actually makes me afraid of what we are allowing ourselves to become.

    And obviously the leaders have forgotten one small thing--it is called the Constitution of the United States of America...here is one particularly important amendment which the leaders and police in this Arkansas town has obviously either forgotten, or erased from their memories....

    Amendment IV "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."



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    suntzu wrote:
    It would seem to me that by conducting actions such as these in this Arkansas town--that the townspeople would absolutely be outraged at the conduct of their government.
    One would hope. But the sad fact is that many people actually welcome such action, and advocate its wider use.


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    And you are absolutely right--the people have come to depend too much on the government to protect them, and sadly to do their thinking for them.

    Those who welcome such tactics which are more in line with the thinking and actions of Communist China would and will and do make fine communistic citizens. Such police tactics have no place in America and I would certainly hope that the people would make their voices heard far and wide and tell these people that their police state tactics are not welcome in a free country and are definitely not wanted.

    Those who would give up their freedoms to obtain security deserve neither and will lose both--Thomas Jefferson, paraphrased.

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