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Fear and Loathing in Paragould, Arkansas

Local residents are deeply concerned about the potential for abuse by local law enforcement and the refusal of the Mayor to listen to their repeated requests for answers.

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Fear and Loathing in Paragould, Arkansas

Mark Daniels, Contributor

The novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is based on two trips to Las Vegas, Nevada, that Hunter S. Thompson took with attorney and Chicano activist Oscar Zeta Acosta in March and April 1971. The first trip spawned from an exposé Thompson was writing for Rolling Stone magazine about the Mexican-American television journalist Rubén Salazar, whom officers of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department had shot and killed with a tear gas grenade fired at close range during the National Chicano Moratorium March against the Vietnam War in 1970.

Thompson was using Acosta—a prominent Mexican-American political activist and attorney—as a central source for the story, and the two found it difficult for a brown-skinned Mexican to talk openly with a white reporter in the racially tense atmosphere of Los Angeles, California. The two needed a more comfortable place to discuss the story and decided to take advantage of a Sports Illustrated magazine offer to write photograph captions for the annual Mint 400 desert race being held in Las Vegas from 21–23 March. (Source)

Recent reports of plans by the City of Paragould (Arkansas) Police Chief and Mayor to deploy heavily armed SWAT TEAMS on the streets of Paragould, Arkansas in an effort to combat a recent increase in crime is similarly disturbing and has been met with both local and international outrage from the public.

Rita Sklar, executive director of ACLU-Arkansas, said that aspects of Paragould Police Chief Todd Stovall’s plan to have officers dressed in SWAT gear and armed with AR-15 assault rifles demanding ID from citizens in high-crime areas shows that he has “zero understanding of Constitutional rights, period.”

Meanwhile, the Paragould PD issued a statement cancelling further town hall meetings on the proposal, citing “public safety” concerns after a growing backlash about the proposal. Read Full Article

I recently interviewed several local residents who are deeply concerned about the potential for abuse (violation of rights) by local law enforcement and the refusal of the Mayor to listen to their repeated requests for answers. The local residents have requested anonymity due to the fear of retribution for speaking out.

‘What few people are talking about is the meth problem in Paragould…We are faced with an out of control Police Chief who has not only threatened to violate our Constitutional Rights…what most people don’t realize is the fact that his brother who works in the IT Department is already building a database of information on each citizen without obtaining a warrant’, stated a concerned citizen. ‘The Police Department is understaffed’…working at the same levels as 10-15 years ago…Maybe there is a mismanagement of resources at the city and county levels’.

‘We simply want answers…the recent statement of clarification posted on the Pargould Police Department’s website (http://paragouldpolice.org/press_view.php?id=82) does nothing to allay the fears stoked by the Police Chief and Mayor Mike Gaskill…the statement is mere sophistry presented to make what Stovall said appear acceptable’, according to another local resident.

Another important aspect of the recent problems plaguing Pargould is apparently rooted in racism, according to one outspoken individual. “Racism is alive and well in Paragould and the surrounding communities…We don’t want our police force used to profile our citizens”, he stated.

The Mayor’s Office and the Police Department’s Public Information Officer have refused requests for an interview. The only interviews granted to local media were with local corporate television stations who naturally failed to ask the right questions. The local corporate media, with few exceptions, tends to help local politicians cover up or gloss over their mistakes.

I contacted members of the City Council who either refused to comment or made statements such as “I don’t really know what’s going on”.

A local resident reported that “an impasse exists between both the Police Department and the City Council, as well as the Sheriff and Quorum Court…budgetary mismanagement is an issue worth exploring”.

Many residents are calling for the resignation of Police Chief Stovall and Mayor Gaskill. “If they don’t resign, we will make sure the Mayor does NOT get re-elected”, stated a Paragould resident.

Unless Mayor Gaskill schedules a meeting with the citizens of Paragould soon, they plan to organize their own town hall meetings to discuss these important issues. Political activists from the around the state and nation are also planning to schedule a Rally in Paragould to protest both the government’s plans to violate the United States Constitution and the refusal of the government officials to adequately address the concerns expressed by the citizens of Paragould and the American people, in general.

What seems to be missing from the corporate media reports, following Stovall’s inflammatory remarks, is a recent article in a local newspaper about Stovall’s use of volunteers to strengthen the number of “crime fighters” in Paragould. Apparently, the Reserve Unit, includes Stovall’s brother (IT Department) who is allegedly building a database on Paragould citizens who have NOT committed a crime. Stovall has allegedly authorized his own brother to build the database on Paragould citizens, without direct oversight from a trained member of the Police Department (CID) and most importantly, without obtaining a warrant.

Other officers in the PPD’s first reserve class include two former full-time officers, Brent Cox and Chris Rannals; Dr. Len Kemp and his son, Justin, who is training to be a nurse practitioner; and the police chief’s brother, Shane Stovall, who works as the city’s information technology manager. In that capacity, Shane Stovall already works alongside investigators to help gather evidence for cyber crimes, but as a certified reserve officer, Todd said his brother could take the time to dig deeper into those cases without having to always have a full-time officer present.

“Without having to always have a full-time officer present”? These actions are in clear violation of the fundamental rights of American citizens established by the U.S. Constitution. Of course, the American people who have remained silent, as the Federal Government has repeatedly violated the same Constitutional Rights en masse, should not be surprised that the police state is now arriving on their door steps. Local Police Departments across America have been armed to the teeth with military armor and weaponry to supposedly fight “terrorists”. It appears that the City of Paragould considers you the terrorist.

Arkansas Police Chief Claims Crime Stats are Probable Cause to Shakedown All Pedestrians for ID

Mark Daniels is an Arkansas based political activist and founder of Global Political Awakening where this article first appeared

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