Poor People’s Parade for Pot (5-2-15)

Demonstrators at Johnson Park. (photo from Dave Archer)

Demonstrators at Johnson Park. (photo from Dave Archer)

The second biggest international marijuana holiday, the Global Marijuana March (GMM), landed on Saturday, May 2, 2015.  Launched in the late-1990s, GMM demonstrations have taken place in hundreds of cities and countries.  Under the East Coast Cannabis Coalition (ECCC), organizers from New York City, Delaware and New Jersey cooperated in hosting rallies in their respective states.  NYC once again held one of the largest rallies on the East Coast, with nearly a thousand demonstrators participating in the “mask march” from 32nd Street to Union Square on 14th Street, where bands played on stage and demonstrators smoked in public without police harassment.  Those leading the rally included Occupy Weed Street member Solomon Seagal, who danced with others in his underwear, and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) founder Jack Cole.  For Delaware’s second annual GMM protest, over a hundred persons marched in Rehoboth Beach, while demonstrators wrote and called their local officials.  Delaware-NORML and Cannabis Bureau of Delaware endorsed the event, which was widely covered on the “Jared Morris Show” on 105.9.

Demonstrators in front of City Hall. (Photo by NJ.com)

Demonstrators in front of City Hall. (Photo by NJ.com)

ECCC members Kyle Moore, Vanessa Maria, Jo Anne Zito and NJ Weedman organized the 1st annual GMM rally in Camden, NJ.  Nearly a hundred demonstrators took part in the “Poor People’s Parade for Pot,” which pleased organizers because it was the first major marijuana rally outside of Trenton in years.  Demonstrators congregated in front of City Hall, where we spoke with police officers about our intention of smoking marijuana.  Throughout the day police were courteous to demonstrators, standing mostly from a distance, and surprised demonstrators at Johnson Park when two police cars quickly pulled up to drop off two cases of water, after one demonstrator asked for help to carry them over.

Demonstrator shaking hands with Camden police. (Photo in NJ.com)

Demonstrator shaking hands with Camden police. (Photo in NJ.com)

The day began with several speeches outside City Hall.  Ricardo Rivera gave a sympathetic account about his daughter’s fight against seizures caused by Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, which marijuana effectively reduces.  Jim Ross, an ex-heroin addict, explained how marijuana ended his reliance on heroin.  For the first time at a rally I met medical patient Jay Lassiter, who has been HIV positive for over 20 years.  Ricardo’s, Jim’s and Jay’s stories caused Greg Adomaitis to write in NJ.com: “The ceaseless seizures ended, the heroin addiction faded away, the effects of HIV numbed – all thanks not to the pharmaceutical industry, but legal cannabis.” (“Marijuana saves lives: At Camden awareness event, stories shared of medical miracles,” May 4)

Jim Ross speaking at City Hall. (Photo by NJ.com)

Jim Ross speaking at City Hall. (Photo by NJ.com)

Jo Anne Zito and Vanessa Maria carrying the East Coast Cannabis Coalition banner from City Hall. (Photo from NJ.com)

Jo Anne Zito and Vanessa Maria carrying the East Coast Cannabis Coalition banner from City Hall. (Photo from NJ.com)

NJ Weedman began the first protests in Camden in 1998, and even then police didn’t harass demonstrators.  But as Bob Dylan sang, ‘oh the times they are changing’.  Press coverage was much more sympathetic this year than when Weedman organized them almost two decades ago.  Medical benefits are no longer laughed at because people that were suffering before are no longer remaining silent.  Police officers themselves are no longer cocky that the law is on their side, because they know that the laws will soon change.  When Weedman spoke with one officer on Saturday, the officer showed him a clock counting down the time until he is officially retired, at which point he plans on smoking some green.  This is in marked contrast to a comment made by an ex-officer about Weedman’s protest in 1998: “I don’t think marijuana should be legal.” This ex-officer continued to state that he wouldn’t bother arresting demonstrators for smoking: “What’s the point? Who are they harming but themselves?”  But now we know that it is the War on Drugs that hurt people, not marijuana.  The medical benefits are no longer debated in any serious conversation.  That is why it is so difficult to listen to the king of morons, Gov. Chris Christie.

Smoking-out City Hall. (Photo by NJ.com)

Smoking-out City Hall. (Photo by NJ.com)

From Left to Right: Cindy Ruggiero, NJ Weedman, and David Okrod lighting up at City Hall. (Photo by NJ.com)

From Left to Right: Cindy Ruggiero, NJ Weedman, and David Okrod lighting up at City Hall. (Photo by NJ.com)

From there we marched around Camden and received loud applause from bystanders.  Hundreds clapped in support of speeches made by Jo Anne Zito and Vanessa Maria at Walter Rand Transportation Center, emphasizing that the medical program is too expensive and the Drug War too racist.  Several young people on bikes followed us along the way, waiting in anticipation to smoke with us in Johnson Park.  NJ Weedman received support during his speech at the jail from prisoners who were seen waving their hands in the windows.  After Jeremy Santos’ speech at the police station, potheads had to hightail it over to Johnson Park, arriving there just at 4:20, when everyone finally smoked together, while police observed across the street.

Vanessa Maria speaking at City Hall. (Photo by NJ.com)

Vanessa Maria speaking at City Hall. (Photo by NJ.com)

Despite the small size, the Poor People’s Parade for Pot was a huge success.  The 4-20 and 5-2 rallies were expected to be smaller than previous rallies because our inter-state allies were organizing in their own respective states. Philadelphia activists – N.A. Poe, Chris Goldstein, Jamie Graham and Rae Bronze – were the exception because an event wasn’t planned there, and Camden is right across the water.  NJ activists will return the favor next month by attending a Philly rally expected to be hosted by Poe and the ECCC.

N.A. Poe speaking at the Camden Prosecutor office. (Photo by NJ.com)

N.A. Poe speaking at the Camden Prosecutor office. (Photo by NJ.com)

Kyle Moore and Cindy Ruggiero smoking at City Hall. (Photo by NJ.com)

Kyle Moore and Cindy Ruggiero smoking at City Hall. (Photo by NJ.com)

In the previous year, all five marijuana demonstrations in the state took place in Trenton.  Camden’s rally was the first event designed to carry the marijuana message through all of NJ.  We hardly could have asked for a better relationship with the police, who allowed us to perform our peaceful rally without trouble.  The local people were also on board with us.  Demonstrating in cities throughout the state will help educate local people about marijuana, as well as apply pressure on numerous politicians.  When the 2016 elections come around the people will be better educated on the issue, and politicians from around the state will demand a better marijuana program so as not to be embarrassed by people smoking in front of their offices.

Jeremy Santos speaking at the police station, with Ricardo Rivera and Kyle Moore behind him. (Photo by Ken Wolski)

Jeremy Santos speaking at the police station, with Ricardo Rivera and Kyle Moore behind him. (Photo by Ken Wolski)

Advertisements
Standard

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s