Earlier this month police in Cartersville, Georgia responded to a call about possible gunshots fired at a house party. The house was being rented through AirBnB to celebrate the 21st birthday of a woman named Deja Heard. According to police, when they arrived they could smell the odor of marijuana, causing them to obtain a warrant and enter the house (some party-goers insist that they entered the house without a warrant).
Once inside the house, police say they found marijuana, smoking devices, cocaine and two stolen firearms. When no one would claim responsibility for the drugs found, some 70 people who were at the party got arrested.
Police said they found less than an ounce of marijuana at a house party Saturday night & since no one claimed it, they arrested 70ppl for it. Some just got out today. Story at 5pm on Ch2 pic.twitter.com/OA2xQFdGX3
— Tyisha Fernandes (@TyishaWSB) January 2, 2018
According to some of those arrested, they spent three days in jail over the incident, suffering from ill treatment from law enforcement during that time. “I was throwing up water,” a pregnant woman who was arrested at the party said. “The whole saying ‘innocent until proven guilty’ went out the window. They told me I was an unfit person to have a baby.”
Many of the party-goers lost their jobs over the incident and some attendees are members of the military who are afraid the arrests will lead to a criminal record. The NAACP has launched an investigation into what happened that weekend and has started a GoFundMe page to help out what is being called the “Cartersville 70.”
“A good majority of these individuals are college students and members of the U.S. military who were visiting home over the holiday break, and decided to attend a party to catch up with old friends while in town,” the GoFundMe page said. “Others were working citizens who lost their jobs the second they walked into work this morning. They need your help to bring justice and light to the unjust treatment these individuals experienced leading to and during their incarceration.”
To arrest 70 people at a party when no one claims responsibility for illegal activity most of the attendees may not even be aware is happening certainly seems like an extreme solution, even if it may technically be legal under some stretched interpretation of “probable cause.”
The case has definitely generated a lot of media attention and serves to highlight one of the many ways completely innocent people can be caught up and be at the mercy of law enforcement.