Today’s post is a republishing of an article that came out May of 2007, probably via MySpace, but likely on DANKinfo.com as well. I do feel like we have come a long way, however it is also important to note we have a long way to go. Recently Tommy Chong was “bumped” from a Bernie Sanders rally, presumably due to scheduling.
Free Speech and the Fight for Personal Freedom
All over America-Activism left in the cold.
Three weeks ago, this article was about the fiasco we encountered on 4/20 weekend in Las Vegas-a story that by now has been well publicized through the internet’s ever growing information sharing network. Then we went to the University of Oregon Street Fair, we tried to go the South Dakota Hemp Hoedown, caught up with Seattle Hempfest, and it seems to be that everywhere there is something that stands in the way of our freedom to speak a loud, clear message on the drug war. The causes range from greed to fear; the answer though is simple, we must continue to raise our voice.
In the week prior to the 4/20 in Vegas, we received packages from Marijuana Policy Project, Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, DRC-net, Emerald Empire Hempfest, November Coalition, and had printed copies of fliers for Seattle Hempfest, as well as created a customized flier for D.A.N.K, listing those who were to perform or speak at the event as well as sponsors, etc. After about two maybe three hours, we were taking down the information booth and the event was being moved to a private residence. The event had been taken away-piece by piece.
It started with no canopies, an apparent fire hazard, went to no outdoor booths, no vending at all, to no speakers, no information, no event. City officials forced this upon the Ice House stating that they would be shut down for thirty days, and face financial ruin if the event continued. Everyone was given directions for later-and sent to the parking lot of another casino, a little further from the strip. The one triumph that came on 4/20 was achieved here, when, refusing to held silent, Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris both stood up in the back of a friend’s pick up and spoke about our freedom and our fight anyway. This was a blessing and kept a lot of people around until we could go to the new venue. I have no idea how much money was lost that day, by vendors, non-profits, the Ice House, bands, speakers, Nevada NORML, and Vegas itself, but apparently there was not enough coming in for Vegas.
The University of Oregon is also enjoying the benefits of the “fire hazard” defense for shutting down non-profit and free speech vending on their campus during the Street Fair. We were pretty upset after Vegas, a lot of time was spent getting ready for the event, and we got through it by looking forward to the Street fair at the beginning of May. We were to share space with Emerald Empire Hempfest during the event. The first day we called our partners at U of O, only to find that we were not going to be able to run an info booth. When we arrived we discovered that the entire section of the event where ALL non-profits are given space (for a small fee) was not going to be allowed canopies, University officials stating a “fire hazard”. It is important to note that it never stopped raining for more than one or two hours at a time the entire time we were there for the street fair. We offered to move to different spot, even called the fire department, and were told this is a campus rule….NOT a fire department rule. So again, anyone who did not pay over $100 to the University lost all benefit of the street fair. Just like Vegas, free speech, for a price.
Many people are aware of the struggles Seattle Hempfest has experienced since the beginning of construction on the now complete Olympic Sculpture Park. . During the festival last year, the failure of the city and museum to work with organizers on safe access to the park almost resulted in disaster. SAM is still fighting, still trying to say we cannot use their access bridge, even though Seattle Hempfest is specifically mentioned in the building permit as the type of event that would be allowed to continue in the park. Supporter of SAM have almost limitless money to fight with, organizers of the event do not. Well, thank goodness Seattle is Seattle; the people there are fighting back even now. You can read more about this struggle online at: http://www.hempfest.org.
I did not attend the South Dakota event, not that we did not try. When we found out about the Hemp Hoedown we contacted organizers about getting a table to hand out information. The response I got was that even though what we are doing is right, we would not be welcome there due simply to the name of our organization. The organizer did though offer to “hand out our info” at the event, but was very clear that D.A.N.K was too strong a word for SD. I responded to the email, letting organizers know exactly what we and for what groups. I never heard from him again. We did hear that it did a great job of separating hemp from marijuana and raising awareness in the South Dakota area. We are saddened that they would not allow us to share in this task.
So how do we overcome the greed of a city like Vegas, a school like the University of Oregon, the close mindedness of Seattle’s Art Museum and the fear of perception as evidenced by our treatment by the organizers of the South Dakota event? We must act. In Vegas, there is talk of a class action law suit and a group of us are getting ready to go back and see if we are allowed to register voters there, or if we will face police interference for that. In Seattle, the organizers and core staff members of Hempfest are out sharing the information, handing out fliers, asking the public to support them, at the University of Oregon, there is a letter writing campaign underway by those non-profits who were affected by the decisions made during street fair. The situation we had with SD is still censorship and the movement is full of it. We are all after the same thing in the end. Whether you want to free cannabis for hemp, for medicine, for food, for fuel, for the economy of US farmers, for fiber, for recreational adult use, you still want access to the same plant. We need to work together or the laws will never change. Work together to save free speech, it is supposed to be free, not something we pay a fee for, not something we have to beg for…but a right for us to exercise and a choice for us to make.
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