Sworn Affidavit of Lafayette Surney
Regarding police & prison brutality
August 1963

Originally published in Mississippi Black Paper, 1965


I am twenty years old and a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. I have been working in Clarksdale, Mississippi, for approximately two and one half months.

On August 9, 1963, between the hours of 10 o'clock and I o'clock P.M., I was arrested in the city of Clarksdale by two unidentified police officers and charged with violating the city's anti-littering ordinance. At the time of my arrest I had in my possession some leaflets announcing a mass meeting to be held on August 9, 1963. Along with me was Harold Supriano and Terrance Hallinan, both of whom are employed by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. We were working on Adams Street in a Negro area of town. At the time of my arrest I was not passing out any of the leaflets in my possession.

After my arrest I was charged with violating the city's anti-littering ordinance and taken to the Clarksdale City Jail. While I was being booked an officer asked me if I had been in the army. I told the officer I had not been in the army; at the moment of my reply the officer who was booking me stood up and struck me with great force in the stomach, and then stated, "If you had in the army you would be able to take that."

Moments later six officers, including Police Officer ______ came in and said, "I like to beat niggers' asses." The group of officers then surrounded me and began to beat me in the stomach and elsewhere. I took this beating for a brief time; then I blacked out. One of those persons with me said they beat me for approximately ten minutes.

I was then taken to a cell in the city jail. Approximately two hours later two Coahoma County officers took me from my city jail cell and took me to the county jail after I had been handcuffed. I remained in the county jail for approximately two hours, then I was taken back to the city jail, where I was released for the sum of $201 [equal to $1600 in 2017].

I hereby authorize the NAACP and the U.S. Department of Justice to pursue and utilize any legal actions they may deem necessary to prevent the reoccurrence of such incidents to other citizens.

SIGNED: Lafayette Surney

See Struggle for the Vote Continues in Mississippi for background & more information.
See also Mississippi Freedom Movements for web links.

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