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Man Describes How Police in Ferguson Arrested Him for Smoking Cigarette in His Parked Car After Curfew

Police in Ferguson, Missouri, arrested seven people last night as they were enforcing a midnight curfew imposed on residents. However, none of the seven arrested were engaged in any violent activity. They were minding their own business inside their own vehicles when police approached and pulled them out of their cars.

The area, where police shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, was subjected to an escalation in police control as Governor Jay Nixon issued a state of emergency and ordered a curfew from 12 pm to 5 am. Nixon claimed this would help stop the looting of businesses.

The New York Times, as well as other media organizations reported that police arrested protesters who “defied” the curfew and that this happened in the context of smoke bombs and tear gas that was fired to disperse a small of group of people refused to end their demonstration late last night. But these seven people were not out protesting when they were arrested.

Joshua Hampton, who resides in Berkeley nearby Ferguson and was at his aunt’s home “not even a quarter of a mile from the QuikTrip,” where many of the protests have been unfolding, spoke to Firedoglake about how police in military fatigues pulled his girlfriend, her sister and him out of his car at about 2 am.

His aunt did not want him to smoke inside the house. He figured given the situation in Ferguson it might be better to be inside his car parked on his aunt’s driveway. His girlfriend, her sister and him sat in the car smoking until suddenly there were light behind his car and a “bunch of guys with guns.”

“Get out the fucking car! Get out the fucking car!” they shouted.

“It was kind of like I was scared to open [my door],” Hampton recalled. There was “maybe five or six cops.” They had a “big SWAT truck.”

“I went ahead, and I had my hands up and I put them on the window and he opened up the door and he told his friend to cover his back. Took the gun and pressed my chest with the gun,” Hampton added. Then, his sister and girlfriend got out of the car.

Another car parked in front of his aunt’s house, with people inside who he did not know, was targeted by police. Hampton recalled police grabbed a girl by her hair and “slammed her on the back of her car.”

Five people total were arrested. He was later moved to another truck with two others who had been arrested. Hampton said that, of the seven, five were blacks, one was white and one Hispanic.

At the St. Louis County police station, he was informed that he was being charged with “failure to disperse.” The police put out a “pending application warrant,” which means police could come out and arrest him for this alleged crime later. He noted that he had been at his aunt’s house to support his family as the turmoil in Ferguson continues.

Hampton asked an officer to explain what they had been doing. “We were just sitting outside to smoke a cigarette.”

“He was like so you came outside to smoke a cigarette? I was like, yeah, my aunt doesn’t allow that in the house. He said, well, you’re breaking the curfew. You’re out past twelve o’clock. I said I didn’t think that would pertain to being on my property in my driveway. I’m not standing outside of my car. I’m not standing on my porch making a big scene or a big deal or anything. He said basically you are. You should’ve been in the house.”

Hampton still wondered, what made police “come over at two o’clock in the morning if the curfew was at twelve?”

“In between, twelve and two, if I didn’t have any problems, you know if I was trying to start a situation, I’d have done it well before twelve o’clock if that was what you were trying to accuse me of doing, but, you know, when you came to my aunt’s property, I was sitting inside of my car with a cigarette in my hand,” Hampton said.
During curfew, Hampton further recounted, “When we got locked up, there was no other cars moving up and down the street. There were no other people outside. There was nothing there because it was two o’clock in the morning.”

The seven people arrested were victims of counterinsurgency tactics, which police have been employing—the same counterinsurgency tactics used by soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

According to Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE), which provided legal support to those arrested, the two people that Hampton was not arrested with were in a parked car in a parking lot.

“Police instructed them to pull out of the parking lot and go home. As they pulled out of the parking lot, police pointed a rifle at them and directed them into the street. Police told them to stop the vehicle. After they stopped, an officer shot a rubber or wooden bullet straight into the windshield, cracking it. The two people in the car then stepped out and were arrested.”

Ciera Delaney, who was outside her house and “dragged by her hair,” told MORE, “It feels like I’m not human. It feels like I’m being treated like an animal–being told when I can come, when I can go, what time I can be out in my own community outside of my own house where I pay the mortgage and bills.”

Hampton confirmed that Ferguson residents were essentially confined in their community because there were curfews in neighboring areas.

“What if I had to go to work at 2 o’clock in the morning?” Hampton suggested. “They pretty much had everything blocked to where you could not come in, you could not come out.”

Apparently, there were curfews for minors in these areas. They had to be home by 10 pm. This, however, didn’t apply to adults.

Hampton reasoned, “It’s kind of hard to tell a grown person you got a curfew at 10 o’clock and the liquor store doesn’t close until 11 or 12. How do you expect me to be somewhere and you still have businesses open?”

All of which meant anyone out between 10 pm and midnight was at risk of being harassed by police and stopped, something which Ferguson has been doing to people for a long time.

Historically, “Ferguson was a slave town,” Hampton explained. “They still have plantation houses and a majority of the police are white. Black people lived here, but it was always a white community to begin with.” It has never been a “black community,” because black people have not ever had the power.

Photo by SuperFantastic under Creative Commons license

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."