© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Legal Support Group Assisting People Arrested In Ferguson

Police and protesters face off in Ferguson during the marches in August.
Stephanie Lecci
St. Louis Public Radio

There is a phone number that Ferguson protesters share: 314-862-2249.

That's the jail support number that they spread through Twitter and on fliers. Others write it on their arms in case of arrest.

The number goes to a hotline staffed around the clock by Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment. The group gives individuals rides home from jail and raises money through a website to pay bonds. So far, it has served about 210 people, according to organizer Molly Gott.

The group also coordinates lawyers to represent protesters in court. Gott said the lawyers work pro-bono or for a small fee.

Gott said bonds range from $150 to about $1000. However, some of the bonds are much higher if the person arrested has a bench warrant. Bench warrants can be issued for offenses like not paying a traffic ticket and some protesters are unaware they had them, Gott said.

“It’s generally a traffic ticket. So someone who has a traffic ticket they haven’t been able to pay, or they forgot to pay or anything like that, the municipal courts can issue a bench warrant.” Gott said.

Gott said the most common charge is failure to disperse. Some protesters also report harsh treatment during arrests.

“We’ve had people left in the back of crowded paddy wagons for hours, people who have been beat up and coming out with welts on their bodies,” Gott said.

On Sunday night, Ferguson police arrested eight people including Diamond Latchison, a Florissant resident. Latchison said she was tackled to the ground by a police officer and handcuffed with zip ties.

“This woman was being pushed, and I told a cop to not push her,” Latchison said. “He grabbed me by my right shoulder and tackled me to the ground. It was shocking, because it was so quick and so fast. It was humiliating, and it was violent.”

That night, the Organization for Black Struggle had put out a call for white allies to join the protesters on South Florissant Road. Latchison said she believes police handled white and black protesters with varying degrees of force.

“The white people that were being targeted, they were kind of carried away, while the black residents, such as myself, were tackled to the ground and thrown into the van,” Latchison said.

Among those arrested was Michael Allen, director and founder of Preservation Research Office, a historic preservation organization. He said the zip-tie handcuffs used on him and others arrested were so tight, they lost circulation until a Ferguson officer cut off the ties.

Allen said the officer used a metal instrument to cut the ties off, but cut into his flesh, making him bleed.

“He recuffed me, did not treat the wound. Put me in the wagon, bleeding all over the wagon for the next half hour,” Allen said.

The prisoners were then transported to the jail in nearby St. Ann, because the Ferguson jail is still under construction. Allen said a St. Ann officer immediately bandaged his wound upon arrival.