Privacy SOS

From locals to state to federal agencies, government preparing to crack down on dissent in Ferguson

Local media reports that a Navy veteran and former hotel employee was fired by Chesterfield’s Drury Plaza Hotel security after he posted a photograph of DHS trucks parked in the hotel lot. The director of security at the hotel who fired Mark Paffrath for taking the photo and posting it to Facebook told the veteran that he was a "terrorist," Paffrath told reporters.

"He called me a terrorist and said I dishonorably served my country for posting those pictures and the short video. He gave me a threat that if I were to repost the pictures that I would be locked up and have DHS knocking on my door and all that other stuff," Paffrath said. He was fired even though he deleted the photos when his boss asked him to.

The hotel, which is a little over twenty miles from Ferguson, reportedly has a large contract with DHS.

Paffrath says he was also told by his superiors that he put a $150 thousand contract with the Department of Homeland Security in jeopardy for the hotel. Homeland Security would not comment on that either. Paffrath, meanwhile, thinks the whole thing was blown out of proportion.

“It’s definitely an overreaction. I feel like they could have handled it better, I mean given us a security meeting possibly and given us details they were coming. I had no clue they were even arriving here. And then I come and see these vehicles here. Obviously I’m going to take a picture, it’s not the normal thing we have 70+ homeland security vehicles there.”

Drury Hotels would only confirm Paffrath had worked there in the past and now does not.

Meanwhile, activists in Ferguson are reporting that their homes have been broken into. And even though the Klu Klux Klan has issued warnings that its members will use "lethal force" against protesters they call "terrorists," the FBI's 'intelligence' bulletin on the Ferguson demonstrations doesn't warn about white supremacist violence. Instead, the FBI advises local police to look out for "extremist protesters" who may target law enforcement. Missouri's Governor Nixon, for his part, has prepared for protests by issuing a state of emergency and calling in the National Guard.

But while the state, armed to the teeth and militarized like special forces, prepares to crush dissent with an iron fist, the real state of emergency is the attack on democracy at every level of government. Free speech and protest aren't threats to our society—they are two of the most important tools we can use to save it. Unfortunately, from the local police to the governor, and from the FBI to DHS, the government appears to fear people seeking justice. It doesn't bode well.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.