Mississippi Freedom Riders and The Laws They Rode In On

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This is the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Riders coming to Mississippi to help integrate bus stations, lunch counters, hotels, and various other public places. When the Freedom Riders arrived however, Mississippi police officers were waiting and armed with new laws with which to arrest them. These so-called “breach of peace” laws were passed in 1960 and 1961 primarily to allow officers to arrest civil rights protestors. The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the conviction of various Freedom Riders in this 1964 case.

The most disturbing part of these statutes is that most of them are still on the books and being used every day to arrest Mississippi citizens for failing to comply with police orders even when they are not breaking the law in the first place. The Mississippi Legislature did repeal one of the “breach of peace” statutes in 2009.

I cannot recount the numerous cases which I have defended over the years which started out with an officer telling someone to “shut up”, “come here”, or do something. When the person excercised his or her constitutional right to refrain from doing as the officer said, the person was arrested and charged with “failing to comply with a police officer”, “disturbing the peace”, “disorderly conduct”, and/or “resisting arrest”. The facts at trial usually show that the citizen arrested was not committing any criminal act before being told by the officer to do something. Speaking, contrary to most police officer’s opinion, is NOT a criminal offense. In fact, the Mississippi Supreme Court has even held that a citizen may even curse at a police officer but I do not recommend this course of action.

Perhaps such arrests would be curtailed if Mississippi police officers faced some sort of deterrent such as being fired or if cities were getting hit with monetary judgments for wrongful arrests. However, Mississippi state and federal courts are quick to shield officers and cities with immunity making such lawsuits an uphill battle. Instead, the citizens are content to allow police officers use their arrest powers in abusive manners. That is until either THEM or THEIR family member gets arrested.

Charles R. “Chuck” Mullins has enjoyed the serving Mississippians for over 16 years. To learn mor about Chuck, go to the Coxwell & Associates website.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.

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