Originally created 12/15/03

Forum on drug raid kicks off Jackson visit



GOOSE CREEK, S.C. -- Students told their side of the police raid on Stratford High School to a community forum that included the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Ninth-grader Carl Alexander told the crowd of about 50 who met Saturday night at a local church that a coach pulled $3 from his pocket during the raid.

"I said, 'My mother gave it to me for lunch,' " Alexander said. "He just rolled his eyes."

The raid, captured on surveillance cameras and other videotape, showed Goose Creek officers with their weapons drawn moving through a hallway lined with students on the floor. A police dog sniffed drug residue on several book bags, but no illegal narcotics were found.

Seventeen students have filed a civil suit in federal court against Goose Creek and the Berkeley County school district, alleging they were terrorized during the raid.

Jackson's four-day visit to the South Carolina coast moved to Georgetown on Sunday, where he was to meet with laid off workers from the closed Georgetown Steel plant. He said both the raid and the layoffs disproportionately affected blacks.

"If we can shed our blood on foreign soil, we can expect equal protection under the law at home," Jackson said, adding that 80 percent of the students involved in the Stratford raid were black.

Jackson criticized drug laws that have led to overcrowding in the country's penal system and which he described as unfair. "Use some process to find out who has the guns, who has the drugs, who's selling the drugs, and then bust them," Jackson said. "But don't bring in the Gestapo. The dragnet approach is unconstitutional."

Stratford parents say they hope Jackson's visit will bring attention to their children's case and will ensure that similar raids never happen again. "It's wonderful that he's taken an interest in this," said Sharon Stafford. "When we ask the U.S. attorney to investigate this, we'll get more out of that."

The Charleston area prosecutor Ralph Hoisington has asked South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster to review the raid to determine if any criminal violations occurred. Hoisington also asked SLED to share its investigation with the U.S. attorney's office and FBI to determine whether federal criminal violations occurred.