Court throws out convictions in Canton protest

By Jack Elliott Jr./The Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The state Court of Appeals has raised questions about the constitutionality of a parade ordinance in Canton that was used to arrest 13 people during a 2008 protest.

The Appeals Court on Tuesday threw out the convictions of David Archie, who was among those arrested in Canton during a rally to protest alleged racial profiling by the Madison County Sheriff’s Department.

Archie was convicted in 2010 of disorderly conduct and of violating Canton’s parade ordinance. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $275. The sentenced was suspended. The sentence was upheld in Madison County Circuit Court.

Appeals Judge Larry Roberts, writing Tuesday for the court, said the ordinance was vague and did not define what was a march or assembly. He said the ordinance did not have any penalties.

Roberts said the city of Canton also failed to file a response to Archie’s appeal.

“We take Canton’s failure to file a brief as a confession of error,” Robert said.

Archie was the founder of Citizens Against Racial Profiling, which staged the protest in March 17, 2008.

Organizers had publicized the event as an initial rally at Canton’s courthouse square followed by a march of about two miles to the county jail for another rally. When organizers discovered that they didn’t have a city permit for a march, they got police permission to march from one place to the other.

Police said Archie and others began chanting and marching and were arrested.

The Appeals Court said the police chief’s contention that the ordinance gave him discretion to determine what was a march or a walk only added to the confusion.

Roberts said Canton’s ordinance does not define what is considers a march or assembly that requires a city permit. Roberts said the ordinance also fails to provide a penalty for violators.

“Based on the questions regarding the validity of the ordinance at issue, Archie’s conviction for disorderly conduct is also questionable,” Roberts said.