NAACP, ACLU Charge"Ethnic Cleansing" in Mass Arrests of Black Residents of Tulia, Texas

Affiliate: ACLU of Texas
October 13, 2000 12:00 am

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AUSTIN, TX-- The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the NAACP of Texas today announced the filing of a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, charging racial discrimination and prosecutorial misconduct in connection with mass arrests of black residents in small-town Tulia.

"The arrests in Tulia were a gross miscarriage of justice and a blatant, racially motivated act of police and prosecutorial misconduct," said Will Harrell, Executive Director of the ACLU of Texas, at a news conference in Austin today.

In its complaint, the ACLU said that the civil rights of the small African-American community were violated during a mass arrest of approximately 1 out of 8 from that community last year. Today's lawsuit comes in the wake of a similar civil lawsuit filed by the ACLU against the Sheriff, the District Attorney and Thomas Coleman, an undercover agent, on September 29, 2000.

"Almost all of the arrestees came from Tulia's tiny black community," the complaint said. "The others were either whites or Latinos dating blacks. The Sheriff explained that while whites in Tulia did cocaine, they did it in the privacy of their own homes."

But the race of the defendants is not the only troubling aspect of the Tulia drug bust, the ACLU charged. "Agent Coleman did not wear a wire during any of the alleged transactions. No video surveillance was done, and no second officer was available to corroborate his reports. In most cases, there were no witnesses at all, other than Coleman himself," according to legal papers.

The result, Harrell said, has been "the ethnic cleansing of young male blacks from Tulia. Dozens of children have been left parentless and are being raised by other family members."

"We call upon the US Department of Justice to find a violation of the 4th, the 8th, and the 14th Amendment and on that basis, to completely defund the Panhandle Regional Narcotics Task Force," the agency that is behind the drug busts, Harrell said.

"Working in unity, the ACLU, the NAACP, and the community, will see that justice is served in Tulia."

The legal complaint is online at

A news release describing the earlier lawsuit is online at

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