CARTERSVILLE, Ga. — More than 70 people charged with possession of marijuana of less than an ounce are out on bond, after police busted a lingerie-themed birthday party where they found drugs and guns.
Now, the Georgia branch of the NAACP says it plans to investigate claims of possible civil rights violations.
It all started at a party over the holiday weekend at a home in Cartersville.
According to a flyer obtained by 11Alive, the party was billed as a 21st birthday party with a lingerie/pajama theme. In the flyer, it mentions for attendees to "BYO" (Bring Your Own), with emoji symbols for champagne and leaves.
According to Cartersville Police, officers got a 911 call from someone who reported hearing gunshots around 2:30 a.m. Sunday. Police tracked the noise to a house on Cain Drive, where they found people scrambling to leave, with dozens more inside.
“(It was) a lot going on at that time. A lot for those officers to handle," said Lt. M.E. Betttikofer with the Cartersville Police Department. "Especially with the majority of the people standing out on the front porch and a ton of people that were inside the house.”
Officers say they walked up to the house to begin investigating and immediately smelled a distinct odor that they believed to be weed. Police said when officers went inside, they found marijuana in plain view. So they called the Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force, which secured a search warrant.
During their search, authorities found several small packages of what appeared to be marijuana and cocaine. They also found several smoking devices and two guns, one of which was reportedly stolen from Detroit, Michigan.
After they completed their search, authorities arrested more than 70 people, the youngest just 15 years old. All were booked into the Bartow County Jail and charged with possession of marijuana.
11Alive reached out to offer some of those arrested the chance to share their side of the story. 11Alive's Joe Henke scheduled interviews Wednesday, but no one showed up.
Since Sunday, family of those arrested have called 11Alive's newsroom questioning the arrests and calling it overkill. But the drug task force defended the dozens of arrests countering, " All subjects were placed under arrest for the possession of the suspected marijuana, which was within everyone's reach or control."
Despite that, the Georgia NAACP said it will look into allegations that the rights of those arrested were violated.
"Dozens of teenagers were arrested in the North Georgia town of Cartersville after an unrelated 911 call," they said in a statement Tweeted from their account. "Many of the teens arrested have alleged that members of law enforcement unlawfully searched the property rented for a house party, their bodies, and belongings."
A release from the Cartersville drug task force, however, said agents secured a warrant before further searching the house.
The group said it is helping those arrested, and their families, secure pretrial release in order to "protect their legal rights." The Georgia NAACP also stated that the situation could have been handled differently.
"The situation should have been handled by simple citations and release instead of arrest, given the changing cultural sentiment concerning marijuana," the group said. "It's simply not possible for 70 people to possess the same alleged small amount of marijuana."
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