Justice for members of the Cartersville 70
A $900,000 settlement in a federal civil rights lawsuit has been awarded to forty-four members of the so-called “Cartersville 70’ following an arrest on December 31, 2017.
Bartow County police arrested 70 people, including five juveniles, during a house party for allegedly possessing less than an ounce of marijuana. Everyone attending the birthday party was detained after officers said they smelled marijuana and entered the Cain Drive home that day.
Twelve days later, the charges were dropped after lawyers for the group complained that it was impossible for 70 people to possess the same alleged small amount of marijuana.
The arrest threw Georgia back into the national news headlines and the story went viral as social media talked back and forth about the insanity of the arrest of 70 people.
In 2019, many of those arrested that day on drug charges filed a federal lawsuit claiming their constitutional rights were violated when they say they were humiliated by the arrest and when they were forced to undergo strip searches at the jail, the lawsuit stated.
Those detained, some as young as 17, were ordered to remove all of their clothing in front of two or more deputies, bend over at the waist, spread their buttocks with their hands, and cough multiple times,” the lawsuit states. “Male visitors were further ordered to lift their genitals. Once the search was over, some visitors were allowed to wear the clothes they were arrested in, while others were given jail uniforms.” Some say they were denied medical services while being detained for days. Illegally shared booking photos on the county websites cost several of the party attendees their jobs.
Many questioned the work of law enforcement and also pointed to what they say was suspected racial bias because of the 65 adults arrested, 50 were Black.
The lawsuit was filed against employees of the Cartersville Police Department, Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force, and Bartow County Sheriff’s Office. After filing the lawsuit, Gerald Weber, an attorney with the Southern Center for Human Rights, said. “These people’s lives were turned completely upside down. It was a complete nightmare for them.”
One of the named plaintiffs said in a statement through her attorney, “Even though the charges were dropped years ago, it’s still affecting me mentally and emotionally.” Andrea Lopez said “I never pictured myself going through that. It’s made me more aware of prejudice in the legal system, more aware of what happens to people every day.”
Cartersville police released a one-line statement saying they will continue to honor the 4th Amendment, which protects people from unreasonable searches.
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