Sworn Affidavit of Peter Stoner
Regarding police & prison brutality
February-May 1964

Originally published in Mississippi Black Paper, 1965


I am a 25-year-old Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee staff worker. I have been working as a civil [rights] worker or attending college at Tougaloo since June, 1961. I was working in Hattiesburg on voter registration since January 7, 1964.

I was arrested on February 5, on false charges of disturbing the peace, profanity, and resisting arrest. Later, at the trial, contempt of court was added to the [other] charges. Judge Lenard found me guilty and I was taken to the Forrest County Work Camp on February 6, 1964, to serve a four-month sentence plus a $391 fine.

On Monday, February 17, [a] work camp [official] had a separate cell up to keep me in as punishment for not working hard enough. Just before he put me in, {UNCLEAR} a prisoner, jumped on me and knocked me down. I noticed that camp official was standing in the door watching. A______ said, [get] up, which I did to show that I was not afraid. He hit me a number of times in the {UNCLEAR} giving me a black eye and a couple of bruises. He grabbed me around the neck and attempted to gouge at my eyes with his thumbs. After a while, [the camp official] stopped the assault and locked me in the room.

On Saturday, as no one had contacted me, I called the office and told them I'd been hit. The same {UNCLEAR} was listening as we made phone calls (allowed on Saturdays) but I went ahead and told Sandy Leigh, one of the other SNCC [workers] what had happened. In the middle of the conversation [the camp official] [grabbed?] the phone and started hitting me. He knocked me against the door, knocked me down outside, and kicked me. He then locked me back up.

On Monday, April 21, Constable B______ came to the camp, told me to get my {UNCLEAR} to jackson for trial, My case had been transferred to the federal courts by my Mr. George Crockett and Mr. Ben Smith.

As B______ took me to the county jail, he attempted to [get?] me into an [argument?] by speaking derogatorily about the movement and Negroes in general. During the discussion I said that I didn't think much of a person who would arrest others just to make money and that "He was lower than many people who he arrested." B______ became quite angry and hit me across the face with the back of his hand. Neither of us spoke the rest of the way to the jail. I put in a complaint about him to the FBI when they came to see me Wednesday.

When I got to the Hinds County jail I was assigned to one of the cells about midway along the hall. Later [a prison official] apparently spoke to the trusties that were in the bull pen and I was moved to the cell furthermost from the entrance. While I was in the cell before lockup, a number of the prisoners gathered outside the door. I heard one prisoner tell others that the [prison official] had offered to have me beaten up. They knew that my address was at Tougaloo, which I had told the prison [guard?] but none of the prisoners. They also knew that I'd been with the voter registration drive in Hattiesburg, which I wasn't about to say anything about.

Soon [they?] came into the cell. A heavy obese man named {UNCLEAR}, a large muscular gray-haired man who had been in Parchman, and a young man I heard called L______, pulled me down from the bunk. They kicked me many times in the side and kidneys, hit me with their fists all over my body, except my face as they didn't want the beating to show. The gray-haired man beat me with a wide leather strap. I didn't resist the beating because there were three of them and I thought they were looking for an excuse to hurt me worse. I just took the beating without saying much.

After lights out, the prisoner referred to as D______ attempted to have homosexual relations with me. When I told him that I didn't do things like that, he attempted to beat me into submission. He took my belt and hit me with the leather strap. He hit me many times with his fist, tried to knock me down, and kicked me. I finally tussled with him, although I was sick, to keep him from beating me unconscious. He finally gave up and left me alone. An X-Ray taken on May 23 shows that I got two broken ribs from the beating. I also had many muscle bruises.

When the writ of habeas corpus was turned down, I was driven back to the prison camp. Police Officer E______ said he would investigate my beating, but I don't think he did. The guards at the camp saw my condition but wouldn't get a doctor. The next day, A.C. Butler took me to Dr, Graves. Graves said that I had no broken bones or internal injuries, and gave me four pills.

On May 21, while we were working on the McCullen Bridge, [the camp official] walked over to me and unexpectedly hit me across the face with his hands. He claimed I wasn't working fast enough. Robert Nailer, Joe Bradly Nix, Julius Harris, James Barnes, Bob {UNCLEAR}, and the other guard, Hubert Sholar, were witnesses to the fact that [the camp official] struck me without any provocation. That evening I was taken back to the {UNCLEAR} After an hour or so in the jail, [Police Officer L______ said my fine had been paid and he released me.

SIGNED: Peter Stoner

See Freedom Day in Hattiesburg for background & more information.
See also Mississippi Freedom Movements for web links.

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