(NaturalNews) What is going on in Missouri these days? In recent months there were the race-related riots in Ferguson after a grand jury found a white police officer justified in shooting a large unarmed black man who was attempting to get his gun.
Then, in more recent days, paranoid hysteria struck the University of Missouri campus in Columbia, as the African-American head of the student body faked a claim that KKK members were freely roaming the school grounds.
And now we find that one Missouri town is jailing citizens for the crime of having weeds. You can’t make this stuff up.
As reported by GovtSlaves.info, officials in Pagedale – which is a suburb of St. Louis and is actually near Ferguson – have asserted the right to put residents in jail if they haven’t paid fines for extremely trivial matters like having dead vegetables, hosting barbecues, or even walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk.
In fact, the actions by Pagedale city officials have become so absurd – and, many believe, unconstitutional – that they are at the center of a federal lawsuit, with plaintiffs alleging that the fines are nothing more than a revenue generation scheme.
“Pagedale treats its residents like walking, talking ATMs, making withdrawals by issuing tickets for ridiculous things that no city has a right to dictate,” said William Mauer, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice.
Mauer is chief counsel in a federal civil suit that aims to end the city’s practice of issuing fines for trivial violations of code – like having mismatched curtains hanging in residents’ windows.
Jailed for weeds
“By targeting a set amount of revenue from fines and fees from its residents, Pagedale turns policing upside-down,” Josh House, another attorney at the institute said, as reported by GovtSlaves.info.
One of the city’s more outrageous actions occurred just recently, in August. That was when 38 property owners, including Valarie Whitner, received letters from the city threatening to tear down their homes if they continued to refuse to pay fines, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
The paper further reported in online editions:
“Whitner had $800 left to pay from a $1,810 tab and hadn’t heard any more from the city until last month. A notice in the mail said her property was one of 38 set to be torn down. No further explanation was given.”
She is just one resident caught up in Pagedale’s 500 percent increase in fines for code violations, the Post-Dispatch added.
“This is our home. When we first moved our house was on a mound of dirt. We started landscaping a little bit each year,” she said.
Whitner was issued a variety of code violations including “having chipped paint on a drain sprout and weeds growing in her vegetable garden.” The violations were only for aesthetic issues, and did not involve anyone’s health or safety.
What is really appalling about the city’s dramatic increase in fines is the justification given for them recently by Pagedale Mayor Mary Louis Carver during a hearing.
“We want to bring our property values up and make our neighborhood look nice,” Carver said, adding that “one house is all it takes” for a community to crumble.
Setting budgetary goals for fines
Well, and she also wants to raise revenue. Failing to pay fines angers city officials enough that they have even jailed people who fail to pay on time.
That is what the institute alleges. The suit says that city officials have essentially transformed code enforcement and municipal courts into a cash-generating machine that violates the U.S. Constitution and insults the integrity of residents.
“Rather than protecting and serving the public, Pagedale sets a revenue goal and then uses its code enforcement powers to achieve it,” House said.
The suit alleges that the heavy fines violate the excessive fines clause of the Eighth Amendment.
Written by J. D. Heyes
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