ABERDEEN – During citizen’s input of last week’s board of aldermen meeting, Hollywood Square owner Sierra White and Steven Harris of the Civil Rights Coalition of Jackson alleged an Aug. 29 police raid at her downtown nightclub was illegal.
“I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. I’ve been a legitimate business owner for seven years and I don’t understand why I’m being harassed by officers who work for the city and the county,” White said.
Harris alleged members of the Aberdeen Police Department and Monroe County Sheriff’s Office of raiding the club without a warrant, probable cause or authorization.
“When they entered the premises of this building, they authorized one of the officers, an African-American officer, to do their dirty work,” Harris said. “They authorized this officer to come in and shake down the business. This is unacceptable. This stinks to high Heaven. We all, as citizens of the United States of America, have rights. If a crime has not been committed and if an incident has not transpired, why did these officers come into this woman’s business and raid it?”
Aberdeen Police Chief Henry Randle said after the meeting that his department was within the scope of its duty in the case.
“The state does not allow any possession of marijuana, and we are going to do everything in our power to get it stopped. We’re not trying to close the business but at the same time, the business is going to be held accountable for their actions, even if that means that we’re going to charge some business owners for allowing certain activities at their business,” Randle said.
He said White was charged with possession of a controlled substance related to the case.
“You are responsible for your vehicle and your home. If a law enforcement officer walks inside your house and there’s a controlled substance, the law enforcement officer is going to charge the owner of the house unless somebody else acknowledges that particular controlled substance is theirs,” Randle said.
In an interview after the meeting, Monroe County Sheriff Kevin Crook said his department was dispatched at the request of the Aberdeen Police Department the night before the incident to clear the parking lot near Hollywood Square. Deputies were called again Aug. 29 to assist the APD with the understanding they would clear out the parking lot.
“We can’t enforce city ordinances but can stand by while Aberdeen does for officers’ safety. Our guys didn’t go past the door or get involved with what was going on inside the building,” he said.
Harris claimed law enforcement searched male patrons of the club and alleged officers of abusing their power.
“There will be some accountability. I’m not begging or pleading. I’m demanding there will be accountability on behalf of this business owner who was harassed,” Harris said.
Ward 2 Alderwoman Lady B. Garth informed Harris of a time limit for speakers before he closed his case.
“Last but not least, I want to motion the board to implement a policy to train these officers in the right way. Train them not to profile and blackball or harass. I don’t care who’s calling the shots. All I know is it’s very disturbing to me, and there will be some accountability. But last and not least, if y’all don’t get it right, then people from the outside will come to this city and get it right,” Harris said.
White said civil rights advocates and members of the Black Panthers were to hold peaceful protests at Hollywood Square during this past weekend.
In August, members of the Black Panthers protested in front of the Highway 25 Carwash following a fatal hit and run accident that claimed the life of Cozzetta Johnson. Members of the group were also at last week’s aldermen meeting.
After last week’s aldermen meeting, Randle said anyone interfering in police officers’ duties will be addressed and arrested.
Mayor Maurice Howard asked for Harris to trade contact information with city attorney Walter Zinn Jr. to find a resolution. As of last Thursday, Harris said the two had not been in conversation yet.
In a telephone interview last Thursday, Harris said several people took his appearance before the board out of context.
“They try to paint the picture like I was threatening the city council but no, I was actually setting the record straight. I’m here to set the record straight and anything that looks like it’s crooked needs to be set straight. I’m fighting against injustice,” he said.
He said a federal lawsuit pertaining to the incident is in the works.