CLAIRTON, PA — A teen’s evening excursion for ice cream resulted in her going to the hospital in a neck-brace, after police found her and her friends in public just a few minutes past the government-imposed curfew for minors.
The incident happened on Tuesday, July 15th, 2014, when 17-year-old Merceedez Wright and her friends decided to finish their evening with a stop for dessert.
It was just past 10:00 p.m., the hour in which the town of Clairton (pop. 6,700) had arbitrarily declared that people under the age of 18 must not be found in public under penalty of law. The ordinance (and all such curfews) directly violates the individuals’ right to travel and peaceably assemble.
The Clairton Police Department saw the young-looking group of individuals and began hassling them about being in public past the legally-enforceable bedtime. Pittsburgh’s KDKA reported what happened after police initiated contact.
[Merceedez] Wright says she and her friends started walking away, but returned to pick up a purse and cell phone that had been left behind. Officers reportedly put her friend in a cruiser, and Wright says she tried to walk away, but was stopped by an officer.
Bryon Clifford, who witnessed the incident, said, “She kept walking. He got out, started chasing her, and once I seen her running around the corner about five seconds later, I hear her screaming at the top of her lungs.”
Wright says she admits that she ran from police saying she was scared by the way the officer got out of the car.
“They both just tackled me to the ground and smushed my face into the ground, and their feet and legs, and they start pulling my hair, pushing me and stuff,” Wright added.
“I don’t think that curfew is great of a violation that someone needs assaulted,” said the girl’s mom, disturbed at the use of force.
Ms. Wright’s injuries were serious and she remains in the hospital. Her mom said that she’s experiencing problems with her lungs, among other things caused by the rough handling of the girl by police.
“I was terrified,” said Ms. Wright to KDKA. “I thought I was going to be beaten up for hours.”
The problems originated with the initial passage of the curfew by lawmakers. Such laws create a “Nanny State”; assigning police officers to play a parental role over all of society, instead of focusing on crimes with a tangible victim. This is a real an invitation for abuse and oppression of individual rights.
Ms. Wright’s story illustrates that every law — no matter how well-intentioned — may ultimately be administered using violent force. It is therefore prudent to reserve legislative action for only the most egregious of bad behaviors, to minimize government intervention in people’s lives and to avoid the creation of a Nanny State. All Americans should enjoy the freedom to peacefully go out for an ice cream cone without being harassed by government agents.
Clairton Police Department (Pennsylvania)
Phone: (412) 233-6213