$200 Fine or 30 Days in Jail for Sagging Pants?

The city of Opelousas, Louisiana might make it a crime to sag your pants. Police Chief Donald Thompson has asked the city council to pass an ordinance similar to the one that was passed by the town of Ville Platte. The ACLU has objected to the idea, as the executive director of its Louisiana chapter has written a letter to the council explaining that freedom of expression is protected under the Fourteenth Amendment and calling on the government to demonstrate a "rational basis" for the ban. Thompson was seemingly prepared for the backlash, as he told local reporters, "I'm not afraid of the ACLU. I'm ready to go to court." 

The majority of participants, at a recent meeting on the subject, supported the ban. Councilman Marvin Richard stated that, "If [young men] pull their pants up, then they can look for a job. People will get mad with change, but they will get over it eventually." However, a local man in the audience expressed anxiety over such a law. "I don’t want to see the police harassing young men because of their clothes," he said. 

That's a relevant concern, and one that might inspire a spirited debate, considering the recent DOJ report on Ferguson police procedures has sparked a national discussion on the function of police departments in urban areas; almost 70% of Opelousas is black. A civil rights group, National Action Now, is calling for a federal investigation of the city's proposal. The group claims that Thompson is, "trying to incarcerate African-American men for the purpose of generating revenue for his jail and the city of Opelousas.” 

According to local station KATC, sagging your pants would result in as much as a $200 fine and 30 days in jail.


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