Nineteen-month old Bounkhan Phonesavanh is still in a medically induced coma following a botched drug raid conducted by Habersham County police. The raid used a controversial “no-knock” warrant, and in the process, a stun grenade was thrown in the toddler’s crib. A rally was held at the Habersham county courthouse over the weekend to protest “no-knock” warrants, and the overall war on drugs.Click “listen” to hear the radio news story
James Bell of the Georgia Taxpayers Alliance organized the rally. Bell says the rally isn’t just about the 19 month old who was injured, but also about current police tactics
“We’re seeing this militarization of our police force. And almost an urgency or a need to exercise the extreme police power, not the minimal force needed to execute warrants”.
Bell and around 80 others were at the gazebo next to the Habersham County Courthouse holding signs as cars passed by. Sharon Ravert of the Georgia chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws says the rally isn’t just about this one incident, but the entire war on drugs. She drove here from Dahlonega.
“This is so important to me because I’ve been fighting this drug war for quite a long time. We’re really just trying to educate the public and redress our grievances to our government. That’s simply it. We’re trying to educate the public on the harms of prohibition”.
In fact, most of the people at the rally came from out of town, which is something local pastor Mike Franklin resents. Franklin was part of a small group of Clarksville residents who came out to show their support for Sheriff Joey Terrell.
“We don’t think it’s appropriate to come into our rural county with their metro agenda and try to shove down our throats what their agenda is. We don’t want narcotics legalized”.
Despite some differing viewpoints, everyone WABE spoke with agreed that what happened to Bounkhan Phonesavanh was a tragedy and does warrant further review. A federal official says there’s a federal and state effort looking into the matter. A no-knock warrant was also used in the botched 2006 Atlanta raid of Kathryn Johnston which ended in her death.