NJ Weedmobile

Detective Ward received a signed warrant to raid Weedman’s business from Judge Anthony Massi on April 18, 2016.  During the raid on April 27, the Weedmobile was towed away, despite the fact that the warrant did not allow the Weemobile to be taken. Two days after the raid Detective Ward amended the warrant, according to Weedman’s lawsuit.

The Weedmobile that was confiscated during the April raid was later impounded in August 2016.  NJ’s civil forfeiture laws allowed Trenton police to confiscate his 1986 Ford E-150, which was covered in colorful images, including one of Weedman blowing smoke into the face of Uncle Sam. Weedman bought the vehicle in 2008 for $1,400 from a guy in California, and then paid an artist from California $300 cash, an ounce of weed and a bong, to graffiti the outside of it, before it was painted again in NJ in 2015. Weedman drove the Weedmobile across the country several times, saying in the Trentonian on August 15 that he was like Douglas MacArthur who rode the submarine back from the Phillipines in the general’s famous escape during WWII. Trenton police previously referred to the Weedmobile as “irritant.”  Weedman said it was now reduced to a “block of red, white and green metal.”   “They use asset forfeiture to steal your stuff,” Weedman said. “It’s crap. It’s entirely against what the Founding Fathers envisioned. The Fourth Amendment virtually doesn’t exist anymore because of the War of Drugs. I want my history back.”

On August 16, Weedman called the “Deminski and Doyle” show on 101.5 f.m. to inform them about the Weedmobile being impounded. He claimed police didn’t inform him that he had to retrieve his vehicle within 20 days or else it would be destroyed.  Later on the radio show released an online article, referring to the Weedmobile as being “almost iconic” in the Garden State, under the title: “The NJ Weedmobile is no more. Is this legal stealing?”  NJ 101.5 Tweeted a question at 2:13 P.M. on August 16: “Are New Jersey’s forfeiture laws, taking property without a conviction, fair?”  After 120 votes, 13 percent voted yes that the forfeiture laws were fair, and 87 percent voted that they were not fair.  This was supported by national research on the issue.  Institute for Justice, a D.C.-based Libertarian think-tank, released a report that rated NJ’s civil forfeiture laws a D-, one of the worst ratings in the nation. The report revealed that the county prosecutors took more than $72 million in forfeitures from 2009-2013.

Weedman said the Weedmobile wasn’t worth much financially, but meant a great deal to him sentimentally. “It’s symbolic of the harassment I’ve been receiving for the last few months,” Weedman told the Trentonian. “It was done illegally. I think it was done personally and it was done with spite in their hearts. I’m not a rapist, a robber, a murder. I just smoke weed. The law’s wrong, not me. Twenty-six states have disregarded the federal government’s marijuana laws. I find it hypocritical that the state of New Jersey is violating federal law by having dispensaries but also prosecuting me.”

On August 23, Weedman’s attorney, Heyburn, filed the civil rights lawsuit in Mercer County Civil Court, accusing the city of Trenton, TPD, police director Ernest Parrey Jr., police captain Eldemiro Gonzalez, Detective Yolanda Ward and police officer Herbert Flowers of several allegations: “a high-ranking cop took steroids; another officer had sex with an underage girl while on duty; and police go unchallenged and unpunished for fabricating information about confidential informants in order to get around probable cause.” Prosecutor Onofri was also listed in the lawsuit and was accused of covering up widespread corruption in his department. The lawsuit accused the state forfeiture laws as being unjust, involving the Weedmobile being taken.  A police spokesman and the prosecutor’s office refused to comment to the Trentonian on the situation.  This was the second lawsuit that year filed by Weedman against the city (the first was the federal lawsuit over his church being closed before 11:00 P.M.).

The lawsuit continues to bring attention to the Weedmobile.  NJ.com wrote on November 15 that Weedman’s second civil rights lawsuit for the raid moved to federal court. “In a civil rights lawsuit, you’re relying on the Constitution,” Heyburn said.  Heyburn also said that since both suits were now in federal court, he planned on amending both suits and merge the two together.  NJ.com devoted an article to Weedman on November 16, which listed his ten best tweets of that year. This included his August 16 tweet of a 2012 video, in which Weedman described how much the Weedmobile meant to him.

Weedman returned to Trenton City Council on October 6, wearing his weed necklace. In his Open Letter to City Council, Weedman said he was irked by the council’s “silence in regards to The Trenton Police Departments intentional attempt to drive me out of business. Maybe you were complicit with it?”  In addition to destroying the Weedmobile and issuing the Joint with over 30 citations, Weedman believed Captain Gonzalez “terrorized” his patrons.  MerryJane.com wrote an article on it on December 10, titled: “Police Harassment is Ruining Cannabis Activist Edward Forchion.”

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December 10, 2016, Merry Jane article. 

The Weedmobile will be remembered by the thousands, and possibly even tens of thousands people who ever shared a joint with Weedman in it. Weedman is hoping to use this fact to help raise funds for a new Weedmobile. On the website IndieGoGo he raised $40 – 1% of his request for $7,500, as of December 12. The comical part is what Weedman wrote on his fundraiser: “The Trenton NJ, Police Department Destroyed the Weedmobile – Help create a new one to spite them.”

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Not My President

The “First Counter-Inaugural” was launched by a national anti-war coalition in January 1969, in opposition to President Nixon’s policies of continuing the war in Vietnam. Workshops were held in D.C. on Saturday, January 18, 1969. On Sunday, 13,000 persons marched in the freezing weather, and then 10,000 attended the Counterinaugural Ball.  On Monday, January 20, the inaugural parade was heavily guarded as thousands of demonstrators chanted from the side of the road. Afterward, several hundred confrontational youths flipped over trashcans and broke windows here and there. (Fred Halstead, Out Now!, 1978)  The “Second Counter-Inaugural” in January 1973 against Nixon attracted 100,000 demonstrators, who received the support of liberal-dove politicians. Within the week Nixon formally signed the cease-fire agreement in Vietnam.

Hundreds of protesters poured into the streets minutes after Donald Trump was declared the 45th president of the US early Wednesday morning, November 9, 2016, blocking freeways, lighting fires and chanting, “Not our president” and “Fuck Trump.” The term “Not My President,” which was chanted across the nation by the end of the day, was borrowed from the Republicans who opposed Obama in 2008. #NotMyPresident was trending by the first day.

The protests are led mostly by Millennials who voted for Clinton, Sanders or other third party candidates, but they share their opposition against Trump. Young people immediately began protesting on college campuses and high schools in ways not seen since the 1960s (although, many young people were radicalized by BLM and the national college student protests in November 2015). When I marched in Philly on Wednesday, November 9, I noticed most of the people were very young (high school and college students mostly). Gender-wise, women overpopulated men by a good margin. The LGBTQ community had a powerful presence, and a transgender black student denounced rape culture. One chant listed the reasons for our anger: “racist, sexist, anti-gay, Donald Trump is KKK.” Our frustration over this nightmarish situation is represented by the upside-down American flags making appearances across the nation. The distressed flag made headlines a few weeks back when a veteran appeared with it at the #NODAPL camp in North Dakota. Perhaps we’re distressed because the police violence against nonviolent native Americans is about to be amplified to a nationwide level under a Trump Presidency. Talk about being distressed.

Most people who oppose the action claimed that the demonstrators were childish for refusing to accept the results, but this right-wing accusation misses the point. I speak for myself when I say that I have accepted the results of the election, but that doesn’t mean I have to accept the policies of an authoritarian figure. Donald Trump has made his positions very clear, and these positions are a direct attack on minorities and people of color. These protests indicate to the rest of the world that we are willing to start immediately in the fight against authoritarianism.  Without the protests, the only message we would be sending is that we are complicit in a Trump presidency, or that we are too fearful and depressed to fight back. Rather than have closet sessions to discuss our fear of Trump, we are instead organizing in the streets to show Trump we won’t live in fear of him. Whatever regressive policies emerge in the next four years, at least Trump will know that we are willing to fight every single one through massive resistance. The Portland Mercury wrote: “On Tuesday, the world witnessed America elect a candidate who stood for sexual assault, xenophobia, racism, and isolationism. On Wednesday, the world saw thousands of Americans reject those values.” 

The First Wave (Tuesday night, November 8/Wednesday morning, Nov. 9)

On November 9 the New York Times reported on the origins of the new wave of resistance, claiming the protests erupted “spontaneously among students who had gathered on the Berkeley campus to watch the results.”  One Berkeley student screamed after the results:”We, the rational people, are a minority now.” Due to the time difference, the largest protests happened on the West Coast in CA. Over 200 students gathered and walked into Oakland city limits as the hashtags #Berkvote and #Berkprotest broke out. At UCLA’s Westwood campus, between 500 and 2,000 people rallied after midnight. Hundreds of students in Berkeley and Oakland marched in the streets during the pre-dawn hours on Wednesday. “This is the beginning of a movement,” an Oakland student said to the L.A. Times. During the march students spray painted anti-Trump profanity on buildings, “burned Trump effigies, smashed windows of the Oakland Tribune newsroom, and set tires, trash and newspaper stands on fire in Oakland and Berkeley,” reported CNN. “When our communities are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back,” chanted demonstrators, using an already popular chant.  Demonstrators were able to shut down Highway 24 around midnight for 20 minutes, but one individual was hit by a car and was taken to the hospital.  Small protests broke out across the state in Santa Cruz, Irvine, San Francisco and San Diego.

Hundreds of young people also protested after the results in several other American cities. In Seattle, Washington, a hundred people blocked off an intersection late Tuesday night. In Portland, Oregon, hundreds of people blocked the road and delayed two light rail lines after midnight.  The radical Portland students famously lit an American flag on fire, which was replicated by other cities. Protests broke out on both coasts. On the East Coast in PA, hundreds of University of Pittsburgh students took to the streets. High school students joined college students in the morning. At Berkeley High School, about 1,500 students — “half the entire student body” — walked out of class after first period began at 8 a.m. on Wednesday. Similar protests happened in Phoenix, Arizona; Boulder, Colorado; and Des Moines, Iowa.

This resembled the spontaneous launching of the Freedom Speech Movement on Berkeley campus in the fall of 1964, which marked the beginning of the counterculture youth movement. Several students were suspended for passing out literature for the civil rights movement, after the campus prevented students from doing so, and a protest was held on top of – and around – a police vehicle for over 30 hours . Leaders recognized the lacking  freedom of speech within the civil rights movement and on college campuses. “Now the issue is free speech,” Berkeley student Mario Savio said back then. He described restricted speech as a symptom of anti-democratic jitters, and observed that the silence of both presidential candidates on the issue of Vietnam excluded students from the democratic process.

Today, in the midst of the BLM movement, campus students feel excluded from the democratic process because the victorious Republican Party stands in opposition to the majority of our views.  Millennials by and large opposed Trump and his policies. Liberal campuses today are filled with young people who statistically support civil rights, LGBTQ rights, voting rights, women rights, environmental rights and marijuana legalization more than previous generational cohorts.  Now young people are contemplating how many of these rights will be lost under a Trump administration.  Rather than giving into fear, however, young people are uniting together and taking their anger to the streets.

The Second Wave (Wednesday, Nov. 9)

Dozens of cities erupted in protests on Wednesday evening, November 9, after millions of citizens stared at the election results in total disbelief. Unlike the first night of protests, when only a few hundred people protested, the following night of protests saw tens of thousands of people hit the streets.  CNN claimed that protests occurred mostly in Democratic-based cities, but by the end of the week protests erupted in Republican geographical areas as well.  According to ABC, an estimated 124 persons were arrested on Wednesday evening, along with a small amount of damage, vandalism and injuries in certain locations.  But I counted at least 179 arrests and 11 citations that night across the country.  According to the New York Times protests emerged in at least 25 cities.

New York City held the largest rally that night, with more than 10,000 people who marched in the street and burnt a Trump effigy. At least 65 persons were arrested in NYC, and the majority of them took place outside Trump Tower.  Boston held a huge rally of nearly 10,000 demonstrators that night as well.  Five demonstrators were arrested in Chicago for trying to shut down the Trump Tower (which opened in 2009), after blocking the Tower’s parking entrance. While thousands of people began marching, the Chicago police closed down the Wabash Avenue bridge to prevent anyone from getting too close to the Tower. Chicago police openly wore Trump buttons and taunted the demonstrators about Trump’s victory. Protesters pushed against the barricade, but were pushed back by officers on horseback. In two separate instances demonstrators blocked traffic on Lake Shore Drive.

One person was arrested outside the newly-opened Trump hotel in D.C.  I marched in Philadelphia on Wednesday night with over 1,000 young people for three hours.  Attempts were made to reach the highway, but Philly bicycle police blocked every entrance, and no arrests were made.  One flag was burned, but another flag was carried upside down in a “distressed” fashion. Both tactics were popular throughout the country. Smaller protests took place in Providence, Rhode Island, and Portland, Maine.

Students burned an American flag on the campus of American University in Washington. In Seattle, thousands took to the streets for a protest called by Socialist Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant. Portland’s protests surpassed the previous night, this time reaching 2,000 persons, who blocked Interstate 5 twice and burnt American flags.Hundreds marched in Omaha, Nebraska, and two persons were arrested for obstruction and unlawful assembly.

Nearly 5,000 gathered in LA, where anti-Trump protesters shut down both sides of the 110 Freeway. Graffiti was sprayed upon the LA Times building and news vans in anti-Trump slogans. Later that night 29 people were arrested by the LAPD for shutting down the 101 Freeway.More than 7,000 persons marched in Oakland under the hashtag #Calexit, who set objects on fire and broke a few windows, leading to 30 arrests and 11 citations.  The fire department put out around 40 fires caused by demonstrators setting dumpsters and trash pile fires. Democracy Now reported that Oakland police “deployed tear gas and flashbang grenades” against the crowd. Three Oakland officers were injured and two patrol cars were burned. Twelve other law enforcement agencies came to the aid of Oakland police. In Santa Ana, CA, according to Democracy Now, “police fired rubber bullets and pepper spray” at the crowd for taking over intersections. The crowd of more than 200 persons in Santa Ana damaged four police vehicles, and 10 demonstrators were arrested. About 300 students marched San Diego, but it dwindled to only 50 demonstrators that night, and police arrested 19 of them for failure to disperse.

The Trump protests have shockingly reached southern Red states. In Richmond, Virginia, hundreds chanted, “No Trump. No KKK. No fascist USA.” Demonstrators marched onto 1-95 South, resulting in the arrest of 10 people between the ages of 20 and 26. More than 300 persons marched in Austin, Texas, and they blocked a highway in the afternoon. A small crowd of 30 persons marched on the sidewalk in Charlotte, North Carolina, and two people were arrested for marching in the street. Smaller protests took place in Miami, Florida; Athens, Georgia; and New Orleans, Louisiana.  In the city of Atlanta, Georgia, one person was arrested for walking in the street and disrupting traffic. At Western Kentucky University, pro-Trump and anti-Trump students clashed, leading to five arrests.  Thus within 24 hours of being elected president, just under 200 people were arrested across the nation to protest Trump’s victory.

Donald Trump spoke unfavorably of the demonstrations by Thursday, November 10. In less than 48 hours after the election, Trump tweeted: “Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!” That same day former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani mocked the Millennial generation:“We’re bringing up a generation of spoiled crybabies.” Yet in the early morning of Friday, November 11, Trump sent out a second and more positive tweet: “Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud!”

The fact Trump criticized our first amendment right to free speech shows that we are justified in exorcising this right. In fact, the protests already achieved a significant goal by forcing Trump to change his position for the better. He no doubt sent out the second tweet after being criticized for failing to understand the emotional roller coaster many people were going through. Within two days young people held Trump more accountable for his rhetoric than the mainstream media did for over a year.

Thursday, November 10

“For the second night in a row,” young people across the nation protested Trump, reported the Root about the actions on Thursday.  Associated Press wrote about the Thursday actions: “Around the country from New York to Chicago to California, in red states as well as blue, hundreds of demonstrators marched through streets, many for the third straight night though in somewhat smaller numbers.” The New York Times claimed protests erupted in at least 17 cities across the nation.  The Huffington Post described Thursday’s gatherings as “generally smaller in scale and less intense than Wednesday’s.” Only about 40 arrests took place Thursday evening, in contrast to Wednesday’s display of 179 arrests.

Thousands in NYC protested outside Trump Tower again with one person arrested, and hundreds more protested the Trump Tower in Chicago. Around 2,000 persons marched in support of women’s rights in Philadelphia. About 500 persons marched in Louisville, Kentucky. More than 600 persons  marched to the Ravens stadium in Baltimore, and along the way blocked some streets. Thousands marched in Minneapolis for the second night in a row, and they shut down Interstate-94 for nearly two hours. Socialist Alternative Minnesota organized 300 people to march in St. Paul.  Thousands of people marched in Madison, Wisconsin’s capital, and in Milwaukee, the state’s most populous city.

In Denver, Colorado, demonstrators briefly shut down Interstate 25.  Protests also took place in Austin, Texas; Dallas, Texas; San Marcos, Texas; and Salt Lake City, Utah.  In Greensboro, North Carolina, two demonstrators were arrested for assault toward an officer and impeding traffic. According to ABC, at least three people were arrested in the Dallas march.  In Houston that same night, police on horseback blocked a hundred demonstrators trying to march in the street, and resulted in five persons getting arrested. On Thursday morning, hundreds of Pittsburgh, CA, high school students walked out of class and marched in the street, resulting in three arrests.

In Oakland, demonstrators started small fires, broke a few windows and spray-painted anti-Trump remarks. Demonstrators shut down I-580, resulting in 11 arrests, including one person who had a Molotov cocktail. In L.A., a few hundred protesters halted traffic, threw bottles and spray-painted police vehicles. By 1 am the LAPD arrested multiple people.

That night tension grew in Portland, Oregon, where once again young people shut down the city streets, only this time with 4,000 people.”It was the third-straight night of protests in Portland,” wrote NPR.  Police said people engaged in “criminal and dangerous behavior.” A small group of activists, unaffiliated with the organizers of the march, began to destroy cars at a dealership.  Police claimed the small groups were “anarchists,” and proceeded to disperse the crowd by using “flash-bang devices” and tear gas. Apparently some people threw objects at the police, causing police to use “less lethal munitions,” such as pepper spray and rubber projectiles. Police arrested between 26 and 29 people that night. The protest gained the most fame that night after police declared it a “riot.”   After the protest the Associated Press released an article titled, “Oregon Is Epicenter as Trump Protests Surge Across Nation.”

 

 

 

The Root wrote that only those with privilege could wait and see if Trump turned out to be a nice guy : “Whoever is willing to take the risk that Trump will fail to deliver on his promises is someone who can afford to take that risk and give him the benefit of the doubt. For the rest of us, all we see is prejudice being handed power with a strong mandate.” The article concluded: “We owe Donald Trump as much regard with respect to his presidency as he’s handed us to earn it: nothing.”

Everyone I spoke with said they felt better after the march than they did earlier that day. On November 10, Michael Moore spoke with Don Lemon on CNN about the NYC rally he joined that day. Lemon asked, “how did it feel to be there?” Moore replied: “It felt great.” He described the demonstrators marching toward him like being a “wave of humanity.”

The Trump protests can be seen as the first steps in forming a new coalition movement. Now that Clinton and Sanders people are both dissatisfied with Trump, the left has an opportunity to recreate itself in a way that actually includes the majority of Americans. This also serves as an opportune time to recruit for grassroots movements that will come under fire in Trumpland.

Bernie Sanders was quoted on the Trump protests in USA Today on November 14:”We have a First Amendment. People are angry. People are upset. And they want to express their point of view that they are very frightened, in very, very strong disagreement with Mr. Trump, who has made bigotry the cornerstone of his campaign. …”I think that people are saying, ‘Mr. Trump, we have come too far in this country fighting discrimination and bigotry. We’re not going back. And if you’re going to continue that effort, you’re going to have to take us on.’ …”

 

Friday, November 11:

Protests took place in at least 14 cities on Friday. Among the cities that were scenes of Friday protests were Los Angeles; New Haven, Connecticut; Chicago; Boston; Asheville, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; Norfolk, VA; Washington; and Columbus, Ohio. There were also marches at schools in Denver and Omaha, Nebraska.

About a thousand people in NYC were hauled into “security pens” by police while protesting outside Trump Tower.  At least 11 people were arrested, one of which was for someone who tried running past the security pens to Trump Tower. Atlanta, Georgia, held its third protest in a row on Friday night, where hundreds of people were blocked by police from entering a highway. Near Georgia’s state capital an American flag was burned. In Miami, Florida, hundreds gathered at a rally at Bayfront Park, but were joined by thousands more in the street as they blocked traffic on Biscayne Blvd. They shut down I-395 and continued marching until they marched onto I-95, successfully shutting down two highways. They marched back onto I-395 to return to the park, and no arrests were made. In Orlando, Fla., over 500 people protested peacefully.

More than 3,000 persons marched in L.A. on Friday night and early into Saturday morning, resulting in the arrests of 187 adults and eight juveniles. Disney Channel star Audrey Whitby was one of those arrested. The 195 arrests marked the highest amount of arrests at a single anti-Trump protest.

Portland police arrested 17 persons Friday night, and they used flash-bang grenades to disperse the crowd. CNN reported: “On Saturday, police began tweeting photos of protesters and asking people to identify them so arrests can be made.” Prior to 1 am on Saturday morning in Portland, a protest march on the Morrison Bridge ended when a male protester was shot by a bystander who drove by the march in his car. The protester was taken to the hospital and two 18-year old men were taken into custody for suspicion of the shooting.

The following day the Washington Post reported a total of 225 arrests across the nation up to that point. On Friday night alone, according to my calculations, there were at least 223 arrests. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday combined came out to 442 arrests nationwide.

Saturday, November 12:

Protests spread internationally by Saturday. CBS reported: “On Saturday, a group of Mexicans at statue representing independence in Mexico City expressed their concerns about a possible wave of deportations. One school teacher said it would add to the ‘unrest’ that’s already in Mexico.” About 300 people protested Trump’s election outside the U.S. Embassy near the landmark Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany.  In the U.S. protests emerged in 14 cities Saturday night. On November 12, the New York Times reported that protests erupted in 52 American cities since the election. At least 94 persons were arrested Saturday, for a four-day total of 536 arrests.

“In one of the largest anti-Trump demonstrations since his election on Tuesday,” the Times wrote, tens of thousands of people marched from Union Square to Trump Towers in NYC. Police estimated 25,000 persons, but other reports indicated there were upward of 100,000 persons.  Two persons were detained for interfering with police process. By Monday morning, NYC’s Trump Tower was blocked off by pedestrians and the building was surrounded by sand trucks (similar to how Nixon surrounded the White House with buses during an anti-Vietnam protest in the 1970s). In Cincinnati anti-Trump demonstrators were joined by hundreds of people protesting a hung jury in the murder trial of a former University of Cincinnati police officer, who fatally shot a black motorist in July 2015. This showed the connection anti-Trump demonstrators could have with activist movements. Hundreds chanted “Black Lives Matter” in Miami, Florida, and they performed a sit-down in a major intersection. In Vermont over 200 persons protested at City Hall Park.

In L.A., over 8,000 persons marched through a quarter-mile-long tunnel en route to the Federal Building. Five persons were arrested in L.A. as the protest wound down early Sunday morning. Four adults were arrested on suspension of vandalism and one juvenile was arrested for battery on an officer.  Indianapolis Metro Police Department tweeted on Saturday night that two officers were injured by protesters throwing rocks. This led Indianapolis police to make seven arrests that night, after protesters shut down I-80. Over a thousand people marched on the Las Vegas strip, and seven persons were arrested for blocking traffic on Las Vegas Blvd.  In Chicago, where police set up a barricade outside of Trump Tower, demonstrators disrupted traffic in the Loop and two persons were detained.

Protests also took place in Washington; Dayton, Ohio; Cincinnati; Oklahoma City; Salt Lake City; Fresno, California; Phoenix and Temple, Arizona; Kansas City; Providence, Rhode Island; and Birmingham, Alabama. Cities like Philadelphia and Atlanta, which held large protests earlier in the week, were quiet on Saturday night, with only 30 persons coming out for the 4th straight night in Philly.  A candlelight vigil was held in DC, and afterward demonstrators marched down Pennsylvania Avenue and disrupted traffic.

On Saturday in Portland, the city’s mayor, police officials and the main action group, Portland’s Resistance, pleaded for protesters not to go out on Saturday night. About 200 persons gathered in Portland around 6 pm.  According to news reports, police announced vacate orders after protesters threw projectiles and road flares, and attacked a news crew. An anti-Trump message was also spray painted on a police vehicle.  Shortly after midnight, police used peppery spray and tear gas. An estimated 71 persons were arrested that night for blocking intersections and standing in front of the light-rail trains.  A public transit bus was used to transport those arrested, who ranged in age from 18-54.  Five people arrested were issued criminal citations, and 67 others were booked in the local jail.

Sunday, November 13:

On Sunday there were 14 cities that protested across the nation. The Wall Street Journal wrote on November 13: “Though the largest protests have occurred in blue-state metropolises such as L.A., New York, Oakland and Chicago, there have been smaller demonstrations in red-state cities, including Dallas, Phoenix and Atlanta.”

Hundreds of high school and college students rallied in Jersey City, NJ, with the support of city council members.  Just under a thousand demonstrators marched from City Hall to Independence Mall in Philly for the fifth straight day of protests in the city.  Thousands protested in Manhattan against Trump’s immigration policies. About 100 Chicago demonstrators marched Sunday night to Trump Towers. More than a hundred persons marched in Muskegon, Michigan. Hundreds marched in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but one woman was arrested for pouring water on a Trump supporter after heated arguments.

Protests also took place in Springfield, Massachusetts; Springfield, Montana; St. Louis, MO; Waikiki, Hawaii; Erie, Pennsylvania; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and New Haven, Connecticut. About 1,500 persons rallied against Trump’s immigration policies outside City Hall on Sunday morning in Austin, Texas, and then marched on the Capitol. Later that night in Austin, about 150 persons marched on Congress Avenue and blocked traffic. A scuffle broke out between several pro-Trump and anti-Trump people, but no one was harmed, especially since a Muslim woman who voted for Hillary Clinton placed her body in front of the Trump supporter to prevent him from being harmed. Six people were arrested.

In Hollywood hundreds protested outside CNN’s headquarters, after blocking two lanes on Sunset Blvd. Hundreds of students and families with children marched in San Francisco from the Golden Gate Bridge to Ocean Beach, and by nightfall hundreds of people blocked traffic at an intersection. Another 800 persons marched in Sacramento.  After several nights of radical protests in Oakland, thousands of people gathered peacefully on Sunday and “formed a human chain around the nearly 3.5-mile perimeter of Oakland’s Lake Merritt,” reported CBS, and they chanted:“We reject the president-elect.”

Willamette Week‘s opening liner on Sunday morning read: “Six consecutive nights of Portland protests against the presidency of Donald J. Trump have drawn thousands of outraged citizens, anarchists with baseball bats, a call by state Republicans to deploy the National Guard, a chiding from the Oregonian Editorial Board, and a shout-out from Dave Chappelle on Saturday Night Live.”   On Sunday the protesters received support from a city official. City Commissioner-elect Chloe Eudaly marched in a family protest on Sunday afternoon, setting himself up to be an artificial channel between protesters and City Hall. Peace was kept throughout the Portland protest, although protesters were startled by fireworks that were set off. Therefore Sunday marked the least amount of arrests since the protests broke out, with only seven persons arrested. Yet, that leads to a total of 542 arrests in a five-day period.

Conclusion

The brief protests came and went.  They died down after the first week of protests.  I attended the last significant anti-Trump protest with a thousand people in Philly on November 19. No anti-Trump protests made it to December.  Rather, the protests symbolized the state of disbelief felt by millions of Americans after the election, which galvanized young people to hit the streets and form the first anti-Trump coalition.  Millennials – especially college-educated, women and POC – led the attack on the new administration, knowing full well this was the first stage.

The spontaneous protests led to concrete results.  I already mentioned above that the protests accomplished such things as forcing Trump to send a retweet in apology of his first, nastier message. There were other concrete accomplishments, however, such as the organization Socialist Alternative, which made the call for anti-Trump protests, saw a dramatic increase of support within its ranks.

More importantly, the protests led to a call for a national Women’s March on Washington for a counter-inaugural rally on January 21, 2017. The Facebook page indicates the rally might be as large as the one in 1973, when 100,000 marched against the war. Yet the announcement of the march caused Trump’s Administration to prevent the organizers from receiving proper permits.  This is historically rare for counter-inaugural protests, but not uncommon for D.C. in general.  Permits were restricted by D.C. officials (Johnson Administration) during the October 1967 March on the Pentagon, when 100,000 people marched against the war and over 600 were arrested.  In May 1970, Nixon surrounded the White House with district buses in case the 100,000 demonstrators broke down the gate.  But the lack of permits allowed for the 2017 counter-inaugural protests possibly relays a message from the Trump Administration to the American people: dissent will not be tolerated.

 

 

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NJWeedman Fights Back in NJ Court

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Cartoon of NJWeedman up against (left to right) a Swat officer, Mercer County Angelo Onofri, Uncle Sam, and Officer Flowers.

The “Liberty Bell Temple III” in Trenton, NJ, is a religious cannabis temple run by NJWeedman, right next to Weedman’s restaurant, “NJWeedman’s Joint.”  Weedman registered the LBT-III as a cannabis Temple in June 2015.  Weedman had no problem with the police from when it opened in June 2015 until January 2016.  Trenton Police Department claimed to have started receiving complaints about Weedman’s place on January 17, 2016, about “excessive noise emanating” from his place. The same complaint was filed again on February 7.  On February 28, the TPD sent numerous officers to Weedman’s place due to complaints of fighting outside the building. Trenton police captain, Edelmiro Gonzalez, Jr., later testified that 30 persons were standing outside Weedman’s building when police arrived. However, Weedman had on tape the evidence that proved the supposed “fight” happened down the street, not at Weedman’s place like the police said.  The tape also showed that there were not 30 persons outside when police arrived, as claimed by the city.

On March 5, 2016, between 2 & 3am, about a dozen Trenton officers shut down Weedman’s temple and sent home several hundred “congregants” due to a curfew enforcement of the city’s hours-of-operation ordinance that required restaurants closed by 11pm. “They came out here like it was a shooting,” Weedman told the Trentonian. “The only thing that was missing was yellow tape.” Weedman responded that his restaurant side was closed, and congregants were in the cannabis temple celebrating midnight mass.  Police didn’t know what to make of this and closed Weedman’s place down for the night.  Weedman claimed police violated his first amendment rights by shutting down a church.  “You have freedom of assembly. That’s what we were doing last night: Assembling,” Weedman was quoted saying in the Trentonian on March 5. “I formed it as a church for a reason: I have alternative thoughts and beliefs. Marijuana is a sacrament.”   He called it a “church-state” issue: “I decided to open a church here in the city, and they are trying to hold me to their business hours. I registered as a cannabis temple. Can the city regulate my church per the business rules? I don’t think so.”

On March 9, Weedman filed a civil complaint against the city and their police department in U.S. District Court, requesting a preliminary injunction against the agency, a jury trial, and $1 million in damages.”Our temple is an alternative religious organization that keeps night hours – we cater to a late night congregation,” Weedman wrote in the complaint. “We are not a business, but a temple. We are open 24 hours.”

On April 1, the city and police department filed a motion to dismiss Weedman’s claims and his request for an injunction. The motion stated Weedman didn’t fit the requirements for injunctive relief, and it questioned the validity of the cannabis church.  The motion raised issue with Weedman representing himself. The city claimed the Temple must be represented by an individual. Weedman could only represent himself in court, and therefore he could not represent the church, which was a separate entity. Attached to the motion was a sworn Affidavit from Trenton police captain, Edelmiro Gonzalez, Jr., which set out a list of complaints about Weedman’s temple from January-March.  This included Gonzalez’s accusation that there was a fight outside Weedman’s place on February 28 and that there were over 30 persons outside.

Weedman’s pro se response motion was submitted April 6 and was received on April 7. He filed a Civil Action for “Fraud upon the court”: Motion to Vacate Defendants Brief.  Weedman charged that the affidavit signed by Officer Gonzalez was “false” and that he could prove it because he captured what really happened on February 28 on his Digital Video Recording System (DVRS).  Weedman sent a Youtube video from February 28 showing only five people outside and that the fight took place “500 feet and around the corner” from Weedman’s building. Therefore Weedman accused Gonzalez of creating a false police report, and accused Democratic Senator Lesniak’s law firm of submitting this “fraud to the court.”  On April 8, Jacqueline A. DeGregorio, TPD attorney, sent Weedman a Notice to Preserve Evidence including hard drives and storage media.

On April 19, NJWeedman was arrested at the Trenton DMV due to mixed up insurance issues and was held for several days.  On April 27, Weedman’s place was raided by the TPD in tactical gear, and Weedman was arrested with 10 other persons.  Police seized the DVRS and hard drive which contained “exculpatory evidence, evidence for the civil rights case and evidence of Captain Gonzalez’s perjury.”  He accused the TPD of carrying out the raid to steal the evidence on the videos.  At 2:00 P.M. on May 13, several police officers arrested NJWeedman at his restaurant and led him to a police vehicle outside.  He was charged with a complaint-warrant for “cyber bullying” and using “offensive language” toward a police officer at his restaurant, when he called the officer a “pedophile” on May 10.

NJWeedman wanted a speedy trial for his case. He opened a letter on May 20 from the Superior Court of Mercer County dated from May 13, instructing him to appear in court at 9 A.M. on June 8 for a pre-indictment conference.  NJ.com released an article on May 20 titled, “‘NJ Weedman’ Welcomes His Upcoming Day In Court.” Casey DeBlasio, spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office, said the case “is pending presentation to a grand jury and will proceed through the system in its normal course.”

Weedman and his attorney Heyburn filed a “Demand for a Probable Cause Hearing” on May 21 and June 3. On June 28, Weedman’s attorney filed Criminal Action “Notice of Motion to Return Property.”  Attached was an Affidavit by Weedman, who claimed he still didn’t receive the Affidavit of Probable Cause presented to the Honorable Anthony Massi at the time the search warrant was requested, and that the court did not respond to his hearing requests. He also listed all the reasons for why he wanted his DVRS equipment, claiming it held family pictures, manuscripts of unfinished books, hundreds of documents, 20 years worth of ideas and journalism, and all his legal documents.  He concluded the Affidavit by requesting a “preliminary injunction” enjoining the TPD and the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office from erasing anything from his hard drives.  On June 29, NJ.com released the article, “NJ Weedman tries to get key evidence back after police raid.”  Attorney Heybern said Weedman needed the videos for his civil rights case against the city, and said he filed a preliminary injunction to prevent police from erasing any of the evidence on the hard drives.

On Tuesday, July 12, 2016, Federal Court Judge Peter Sheridan denied the city’s April 1 motion to dismiss the suit.  This was a victory for Weedman.”We now get to perfect our arguments and pursue our rights in the federal realm,” Weedman wrote in an email Tuesday night. NJ.com wrote on July 13: “Sheridan denied the city’s primary motion to dismiss the suit, but agreed with them in regards to Forchion’s preliminary injunction request, which he denied.” Heyburn, Weedman’s attorney, told NJ.com:”Now I get to amend the complaint.”

A NJ.com article from August 5 was titled, “NJ Weedman going to court to fight 50 tickets from police.”  This discussed his upcoming “probable cause” hearing. On August 9, Weedman was indicted by a Mercer County grand jury on 11 drug charges related to the April 27 raid. NJ.com released an article that day, stating that Weedman was free on bail but expected to return to court on August 11. Also on August 9, NJ 101.5 fm radio listed the exact charges in it’s article:

  • Four counts of possession of a controlled dangerous substance
  • One count of distribution; one count of possession with the intent to distribute
  • One count of possession with the intent to distribute within 1,000 feet of a school
  • One count of distribution within 1,000 feet of a school
  • One count of maintaining a narcotics nuisance
  • One count of possession of drug paraphernalia with the intent to distribute
  • And one count of maintaining a fortified structure
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Weedman in court August 11.  Photo from NJ.com August 11.

Weedman wore a fancy purple suit to his hearing on August 11. Superior Court Judge Peter Warshaw denied Weedman’s motion to reclaim his cameras, videos and computer hard drives that were confiscated by police during the raid in April. “It’s another blow for Ed “NJ Weedman” Forchion,” began the NJ.com article on August 11. Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Stephanie Katz said at the hearing that the evidence would be returned once they were done processing all of the information. Heybern responded that Weedman was “entitled to that property,” especially since those videos could prove police were lying about the February incident. Weedman emerged from the court house along with his supporters, and defiantly smoked a mini-bong.

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NJ.com August 11.

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NJ.com August 11.

Weedman appeared at the Trenton Municipal Court on August 17, but his case wasn’t on the trial list, and it was postponed to September 28.

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August 17 Municipal Court hearing.

Weedman’s arraignment hearing was held Tuesday, August 23, before Judge Anthony Massi in Mercer County criminal court.Just as Weedman wore a fancy purple suit to court on August 11, he once again looked dapper in a “tailored gray pinstripe suit” at his arraignment on August 23.  He expanded the outfit by wearing a weed necklace around his neck, which had a nugget of marijuana attached to it.  As usual, Weedman showed up to his arraignment 17 minutes late.

He plead not guilty to the 11 drug-related charges and rejected the prosecution’s plea deal of 7 years in prison (which would have required him to serve 3 and 1/2 years before being considered for parole).Heyburn raised concerns at the hearing about the secret identity of the unknown informant. The indictment revealed that the informant purchased marijuana at Weedman’s Joint on March 15, March 22, March 30, and April 15. “There was weed there,” Weedman said. “I’d be embarrassed if there wasn’t.” Heyburn reported to the Trentonian that the prosecution’s case was “crumbling” and he swore to reveal the identity of the informant.

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Weedman, August 23, 2016.

In early September, Weedman figured out on his own who the “rat” really was. Weedman contended the rat was exposed by the police search warrant, and by the rat’s insistence on having a picture drawn of him and hung up on the wall at Weedman’s place.  “He posed for pictures right in the middle of his rat finkery,” Weedman said. The warrant showed that the informant allegedly bought $300 worth of weed in March, and that detectives spied on Weedman’s place for weeks, “secretly tailing him during all hours of the night – to a home in Hamilton and a Quick Check,” wrote the Trentonian on September 14.  “If you ask me straight up would you do seven years or let this guy get shot in the head, I’d let him get shot in the head. My concern is beating this case, by any means necessary,” Weedman said. “You can call me Marijuana X right now.” Weedman posted the picture of the rat on Facebook.  A loyalist who said that if he saw the alleged rat he would “knock his f—— teeth out.” Weedman told the man not to “punch him in the mouth on my behalf.”

The search warrant stated that the “CI was instructed to make a controlled purchase of CDS marijuana from Ed Forchion.”  Weedman called this entrapment. “The Rat can come testify about it because he committed the crime,” he said. “The police sent him on a mission to give me money. That’s classic entrapment.”  Police were posted outside of Weedman’s place to keep tabs, and recorded a conversation between the CI and the chef John about getting the CI his “medicine.” They also recorded the CI speaking with L, who left soon after and drove down the road, unknowingly losing the police who attempted to follow him. According to the warrant, on March 15 Weedman spoke with the CI and offered to sell him an ounce for $300, saying his weed was “cheaper and better than” NJ’s dispensaries. The warrant stated that the CI waited in the café until Weedman returned and made the transaction, and Weedman told the CI, “You didn’t get that from me.”

Weedman told the Trentonian that the warrant did not accurately portray the transaction, although he admitted he was walking a fine line between donation and distribution. He reportedly asked the CI to donate to the church, which he did. Weedman reported: “He was saying he was trying to get some medicine, but nobody would help him because he was white. I felt bad for him for a little bit and whatever. Now I regret it. Look what happened.”

 

 

 

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Philly DNC Arrests

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Edited photo of Kyle Moore arrested July 20, 2016, at Philly DNC HQ.

Newspapers bragged the day after the DNC that there were “zero arrests made by Philly police during DNC protests.”  There were over 100 citations issued, however, but Philly Mayor Jim Kenney emphasized the respectability of the DNC in contrast to the RNC, as most Democrats did in their speeches all week. Mayor Kenney made the DNC appear more civil by being able to claim zero arrests were made, even though nearly 5 times as many activists were issued citations in Philly than arrested in Cleveland.  In June, Mayor Jim Kenney signed legislation that reduced the penalty for so-called “nuisance crimes” like disorderly conduct and obstruction. “The bill, introduced by City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., turned the punishment for nuisance crimes from criminal summary citations into essentially tickets,” Philly Voice explained.

Activists around the nation hardly noticed the few actions happening at the RNC in Cleveland, where only a total of 23 demonstrators were arrested.  Cleveland BLM didn’t get involved in the convention, and many other activists didn’t want to waste time trying to change Trump’s positions and deal with Trump’s ad hoc redneck security.  Instead, the attention was on the DNC, where thousands of Bernie supporters were expected to attend from July 25-28.  Philly activism was much more appealing than Cleveland’s.  Philly BLM hosted one of the largest DNC rallies on July 26, but even prior to the DNC the Philly BLM organization occupied the first highway in the nation over the death of Alton Sterling on July 6, where roughly 11 demonstrators were arrested for blocking the highway.

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Philly BLM activist arrested July 6, 2016.

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11 Philly BLM activists performing highway sit-in for Alton Sterling, July 6, 2016.

Philly arrests appeared again on July 20, when six Reclaim Philadelphia activists (including me) were arrested for performing a sit-in inside the lobby of the DNC Headquarters, demanding the release of the financial records of the $60 million raised in private by the DNC Host Committee. My picture appeared in Philly.com that night with a solemn face and an American bandanna around my neck, and I was recognized from this picture by strangers at the DNC.  The July 20 arrest signaled to other activists to risk arrest at the DNC without fear. The Progressive Standard contrasted the number of arrests at the RNC to the six arrests at the DNC, under the title: “23 Protesters Arrested During Entire RNC. Six Arrested Before DNC Even Begins.”

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Photo of Kyle Moore from Philly.com

Then on Thursday, July 21, at least 10 clergy members were arrested for performing a sit-in at the Philly International Airport to protest the low wages and unfair treatment of American Airlines employees. But Philly authorities wanted to have a peaceful image, while underlining the fact that they would ensure law and order. On July 24, the day before the DNC began, my picture appeared in a Philly.com article that quoted Philly police as saying they were “absolutely ready” to secure safety at the DNC. Mayor Kenney was quoted at the press conference as well: “Our goal is not to arrest anybody.”

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Photo from Newsworks, July 22, of Philly Clergy performing sit-in at Philly International Airport for higher wages of employees.

The majority of the arrests from Monday, July 25 – Thursday, July 28, can essentially be attributed to the non-partisan group Democracy Spring, as well as to individuals who participated in Democracy Spring’s D.C. arrests from April 11-18, 2016, when over 1,300 persons were arrested to get big money out of politics, in the largest civil disobedience action in the 21st century.  Democracy Spring used its famous reputation to reignite mass arrests at the Philly DNC.  Over a dozen core members lived in a Philly house for two weeks, planning actions for each day of the DNC.  Democracy Spring held nonviolent civil disobedience training’s nearly every night of the DNC inside a Philly church.

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First nonviolent civil disobedience training at DNC.

The largest arrest at the DNC for a single action took place on Monday, July 25, when 54 people were arrested for a Democracy Spring action outside the Wells Fargo Center. Demonstrators first attempted to block a convention entrance on Broad Street with a planned sit-in, and some even attempted to hop over the police barriers, reported CNN.  When the demonstrators approached the entrance, they were met by a line of Philly police, who used their bikes to prevent anyone from entering. One Democracy Spring member arrested that day described the arrest process as such: “We sat down for nearly two hours, continuing to chant while we one-by-one jumped a three-foot tall metal barricade that had been set up.”  Demonstrators nonviolently climbed the barrier, with some even receiving help from police, and were zip-tied before being bused to the station and issued a $50 citation for “disorderly conduct.”  Democracy Now wrote that police arrested TeleSUR journalist Abby Martin as she tried to access the blocked-off area. “She says she was following the police’s instructions when an officer grabbed her, tore her dress and handcuffed her.”  Hundreds of demonstrators stood in support of those getting arrested, as seen in Democracy Spring’s live coverage.

But just like every other day at the DNC, the protests were largely ignored by the media. This point was made most clear by CNN.  As CNN was performing live coverage of the sit-in, the network abruptly cut away from the protest in order to cover the R&B group Boyz II Men.  Other networks failed to properly credit the organization Democracy Spring, or misrepresented the organization’s goals in its coverage.  A New York CBS article wrote that “more than 50 people after they tried to storm the barricades outside the Democratic convention Monday evening in a show of anger over Bernie Sanders’ treatment by party leaders, even as he urged his supporters to fall in line behind Hillary Clinton.” Too bad Democracy Spring didn’t protest over Bernie Sanders, but in fact protested big money out of politics, restoring voters rights, as well as other reforms that would restore power to the individual voters.

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Democracy Spring Sit-In to “Protect Voting Rights” on Monday, July 25.

Although news coverage was shallow and lacking on the first day, the massive arrests at least gained attention to the fact that more demonstrators were arrested on day one of the DNC than the amount arrested during the entire RNC. Cleveland Fox News 8 cheerfully reported the next day that there were “twice as many [persons] detained Monday than those arrested during the entire RNC in Cleveland.”

Arrests on Tuesday were postponed, after Democracy Spring decided to support the BLM rally that day instead.  According to Philly Magazine, four persons were actually arrested on Tuesday night around 8:30 P.M. for climbing over the security fence.  These four Bernie supporters were taken in by Secret Service, “making them the first DNC arrests.”  CBS Philly wrote that the four persons were initially provided a minor citation – just like the 54 citations the day before – but while they were detained they were subsequently arrested by Secret Service, and charged with a federal offense. Protest lawyers responded by charging that the demonstrators rights were violated. Newsworks reported the following day that the “4 DNC fence jumpers” were released.   These four arrests received more publicity than most arrests that week, probably because of the federal charges set against them by the Secret Service, and also because of the arrest of a 69-year old grandmother. Philly.com, NJ.com, Sputnik News, L.A. Times, ABC, WGN TV, Metro US Todayand many other news outlets wrote about these four arrests.

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Photo from July 27 of 4 persons being arrested. Photo by Sputnik News.

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Twitter photo reposted on Twitchy.com of 69-year old woman climbing fence on Tuesday, July 26.

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Scaling fence on Tuesday, July 26, resulting in four arrests. Photo from Philly Magazine.

On Wednesday morning, July 27, about 10 demonstrators were cited for staging a sit-in at the Comcast Center, as over 20 demonstrators cheered in support outside. The majority of individuals involved in the arrest were part of the D.C. Democracy Spring arrests in April, but this action was not affiliated with Democracy Spring.  Luigi Costello of Florida led the sit-in action, and previously worked with Democracy Spring in D.C. in April. CBS Philly quoted Costello saying he wanted the media to “stop entertaining, start investigating.”  Occupy DNC individuals carried the same message outside the building, calling MSNBC the new conservative Fox News.  Philly Voice ignored the 41 other arrests at the DNC that day, and wrote the popular themed, but misleading title: “Ten cited in Comcast Center sit-in on quiet Day 3 of DNC protests.” Overall, the Comcast sit-in received major news coverage, including by NJ.com, ABC, and Associated Press. USA Today wrote that by Wednesday afternoon, 69 citations were issued overall.

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Philly Voice cover photo of Occupy DNC individuals protesting outside of Comcast as 10 are arrested for Comcast sit-in.

On Wednesday night, activists brought the heat by staging a mass protest outside the gates of Wells Fargo Center.  At least seven activists were arrested around 10:50 P.M. by Secret Service for entering a restricted area. They were dressed in all black with their faces covered. One of those arrested was charged for approaching the eight-foot fence with “throwing knives,” according to Philly.com (it was later reported that this individual was a paramedic who carried the knives to “cut gauze and bandages,” and prosecutors did not add a weapons-related charge to the indictment).    CNNIndependent, Fushion, American Renaissance, RT News, Philly Magazine, Courier Times,  LA Times, Fox and a long list of online papers covered the rally as well, with several reporting on the potential violent weapon held by one of the persons.Once again the press picked up on this arrest more than others because of the federal charges by Secret Service and the possible threat of violence. The press by then already expected the biggest protests to occur outside the gates of the Wells Fargo Center, and set up cameras there for the show.  RT News wrote that demonstrators “clashed” with police that night, and gained more excitement for the article by posting several videos of the large sea of demonstrators and police.  These seven arrests along with the four arrests on Tuesday resulted in a total of 11 activists being arrested by Secret Service. An August 8 article by Newsworks reported that the four Bernie supporters arrested on Tuesday had their charges thrown out by the Feds, but that the other seven still faced charges of up to a year in prison.

At the front entrance of the Wells Fargo Center that same night around 9 P.M., Democracy Spring led the second largest DNC arrest, when 34 activists were arrested for a staged sit-in at the first public entrance of the Wells Fargo Center.  One gentleman arrested re-fractured several fingers after he was pushed from behind and fell to the ground. Video footage could be used to determine if he was pushed by a stranger or a police officer.  I was one of the 22 men arrested that night, and we were released that same night with a $50 citation for “blocking a highway.” The charge can possibly be thrown out since we didn’t obstruct traffic on the highway because the highway itself was shut down all week by police. But the sit-in by Democracy Spring was a last-minute action put together, after police warned organizers that jumping the fence would lead to federal trespassing and prosecution, unlike Monday’s arrests that were merely $50 citations. So only after we were threatened with actual arrests did we decide to protest out front of Wells Fargo Center.

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Democracy Spring sit-in at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday, July 27, when 34 persons were arrested.

But there was very little press coverage about the second biggest arrest the DNC.  Probably because every individual was nonviolent and because Secret Service did not need to get involved. The arrest also happened around the time President Obama spoke, and reporters merely ignored the reports the next day, just as they did with most of the Democracy Spring arrests. But then again, the 7-person arrest was widely covered, despite occurring more than an hour after Democracy Spring’s action. An article the next day by USA Today was titled: “As Obama speaks, chaos and arrests outside DNC,” but the article only spoke about the actions of the 7-person arrests, and didn’t once mention the Democracy Spring arrest from the same night. CNN briefly mentioned the 34-person arrest, but it was overshadowed by the 7-person arrest that night. A New York Times journalist merely posted a live stream video of the arrests on her Facebook.

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Photo of Democracy Spring civil disobedience action at Wells Fargo on Wednesday, July 27, when 34 persons were cited.

On Thursday, July 28, Philly activists from the DNC Action Committee, along with individuals from Democracy Spring’s April arrests, organized theater action with a staged court hearing outside the Wells Fargo Center, calling for a “citizens arrest” of Hillary Clinton due to election fraud. The press release caught the attention of The Daily Dot, Philly Magazine, and even conservative blogs.  Late Thursday night and into early Friday morning, after a thousand people voted in support of the citizens arrest outside Wells Fargo Center, three individuals vowed to get arrested in an attempt to make a citizens arrest against Hillary Clinton.  US News released an article on July 29 about the attempted citizens arrest, under the title: “Citizen’s Arrest of Hillary Clinton Fails, Ending Week of Defiant DNC Protests.” The three individuals arrested were Andy, Brian and Emily, who were all involved in Democracy Spring at DC in April. The three activists attempted to cross the line of Philly police bicycles, but were pushed back by police. Unable to break the bicycle barrier, the three of them staged a lengthy sit-in. U.S. News reported: “The activists understood from the beginning it would be them, rather than Clinton, who wound up behind bars.” Andy amused reporters and officers by explaining that he was arrested for trying to issue a citizens arrest against Hillary Clinton.

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Three persons cited on Thursday, July 28, for attempting Citizens arrest against Hillary Clinton. Photo from Philly Voice

Democracy Spring’s official protest on Thursday was an inside job at the Wells Fargo Center.  Three car loads of Democracy Spring members entered the Wells Fargo Center that night in an attempt to interrupt Hillary Clinton’s speech. Although not reported on by the media, a Facebook video showed Democracy Spring members explaining the group’s message of getting big money out of politics. Democracy Spring members were ejected from the event but not cited.

Philly.com reported that police estimates by Thursday evening showed that Philly Police issued 103 citations and that Secret Service arrested 11 persons for jumping over security fences. Nine of the eleven arrested were released Wednesday and Thursday, and the final two persons were released Friday. But this press release was issued by the police prior to the 3 arrests for the citizen’s arrest action, bringing the total to 106 citations.  “Despite Simmering Tensions, Few Arrests at Conventions this Year,” read the title of HeatStreet’s blog. At the Philly RNC in 2000, over 400 activists were arrested.

Police abuse was lower than expected, but intimidation was obvious. Most of the week the cops outnumbered activists in any one area.  Batons were out and in the hands of the officers, which is a terrifying sight for people who are trying to apply and maintain their right to free speech.  Police issued zero citations for marijuana smoking, however, which in Philly could have been a $100 ticket for anyone smoking in public.  No one was cited on Monday, when several thousand people marched from City Hall to FDR Park with a 51-foot inflatable joint, as hundreds smoked openly without incident.  Then on Tuesday, July 26, more than 30 persons smoked at Thomas Paine Plaza for the smoke-out organized by the East Coast Cannabis Coalition, and again police watched from a distance without acting.  Dozens also smoked on Thursday in another march with the inflatable joint.  I smoked at the first two events myself, and I also smoked at nearly every action that week without incident.  It’s possible that police were ordered not to make needless arrests or citations, and were possibly even restricted from citing anyone for cannabis.

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Reclaim Philly Arrest (7-20-16)

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Edited picture of Kyle Moore being arrested on July 20, 2016, with Reclaim Philly.

Six activists from Reclaim Philadelphia were arrested inside the lobby room (1900 Market Street) of the DNC Head Committee (“PHL 2016” is it’s corporate name), a nonprofit charged with fundraising for the Philly DNC. Reclaim Philly, a former Bernie Sanders group in Philly that re-shifted gears in the post-primary election period, launched a campaign against PHL 2016 by calling on the three members of the committee to resign due to the fact that the committee members refused to release the financial records of the $60 million raised for the DNC. In the spring a reporter from the Declaration, Dustin Slaughter, filed a Right-to-Know request, demanding PHL 2016 to release its financial reports.  The state’s Office of Open Records ruled in the Declaration’s favor on June 14, and ordered the city to release the financial records of PHL 2016 “within 30 days.” That meant PHL 2016 had until July 14 to release the financial records.  PHL 2016 apparently ignored the state’s ruling and announced it wouldn’t release the financial records until 60 days after the DNC, sometime in September.

The three members of PHL 2016 included former mayor and governor Ed Rendell; Daniel Hilferty, the “Republican” CEO of Independence Blue Cross; and David Cohen, executive Vice President of Comcast. A letter by Reclaim from June 22 stated about these three members: “The three figures are multimillionaire lobbyists and high-profile supporters of political positions that most Democrats abhor…Granting lobbyists privileged access to elected officials reveals the Party leadership’s hypocrisy.”  Reclaim’s letter demanded a response by July 1, or else they “intend to take direct action to follow up with each of the three host committee members.”  This was followed by an action on July 6, when 30 Reclaim Philly members (including myself) invaded the lobby room of Comcast.  We also protested outside Ballard Spahr LLP and Independence Blue Cross. At each building a 3-person delegation delivered a letter demanding the release of the committee’s financial records. Then on July 13, Reclaim hosted its second direct action by protesting outside the homes of the three committee members. The third and final action of Reclaim was set for July 20.

On Sunday, July 17, at the Reclaim meeting, eight of us vowed to risk arrest inside the lobby on Wednesday, July 20.  We gathered on Tuesday to speak logistics and we were educated about the arrest process by someone from Up Against the Law, who videotaped the arrests the next day inside the lobby. On Wednesday, July 20, nearly a hundred persons gathered inside the court yard at City Hall for the Rally & March for DNC Transparency. One Reclaim member dressed up in a Sherlock Holmes outfit and held a huge magnifying glass in a theatrical fashion to shine light on the missing public financial records.  Right before the crowd began marching toward 1900 Market Street, the eight of us who risked arrest went on ahead so as to enter the lobby without drawing attention to ourselves.

Eight of us entered the lobby and requested to see the committee members. When the security guard said they were unable to meet with us, Reclaim members began chanting to release the public records.  We ignored security’s pleas to leave, but within a few minutes two of our members were roughly pushed out of the building by older white men, one of whom was apparently the building manager.  After witnessing the deep anger of the older white men, the remaining six of us began our sit-down in front of the second set of doors.

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Sit-in at the second door.

We performed the sit-down for an hour before we were arrested.  Within that hour we were harassed and ridiculed by a group of older white men, who were never identified, but were dressed in polo shirts and were present inside the building from the moment we walked in and left only five minutes prior to our arrests.  The ridicule by these people including telling us to get showers, get jobs, telling us that our parents were ashamed of us, saying we would never make it to Hollywood over this, and even ridiculed one woman’s weight and told her not to leave the home until she bought a treadmill.  Several of us were even physically attacked by these brutes.  All six of us held hands when we began out sit-down, and at one point the building manager kicked my arm as he stepped over me.  After a while we stood up but continued to hold hands. So the building manager came up from behind and slammed his fist down against my hand and the girl’s hand that I was holding, and he then shoved me full force so that I hit the guy next to me, who fell into the wall.  This childish behavior was met by strong songs of encouragement by the six of us, who ignored our attackers and focused on the reason we were there: to restore democracy by making public the financial records of the DNC committee.

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Philadelphia Inquirer photo of the Donor List Sit-In.

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Philly Inquirer the following day.

Over a hundred demonstrators stood outside the exit door throughout the incident. Police placed the six of us in handcuffs and began walking us toward a back exit, in order to avoid walking us through the large crowd outside. But as police took us to the second exit, demonstrators on the outside quickly moved to the second exit, preventing police again from exiting the building.  This happened at a third exit as well, but police quickly took the six of us back to the second exit and loaded us into the paddy wagon without incident.

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Kyle Moore in Philly.com. Photo was taken as Kyle Moore exited the building.

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“Fears of more protest clashes mount as 6 protesters arrested at Democratic convention HQ in Philadelphia.” Newspaper line predicting an increase of radicalism set by the Donor List sit-in.

The three males and three females were transferred in separate wagons to the 9th District Philly Police Station. The six of us remained there for about half an hour to 45 minutes, and the men made small talk with several officers about sports, until the officers admitted to disliking Trump and said they were not thrilled about Clinton.  We were released with citations, but no price was set to pay, and we await to challenge the citations in court. Reclaim Philly is now trying to slowly separate itself from the image of being Bernie Sanders activists, wanting instead to be seen as a grassroots money-out-of-politics organization located in Philly.  Yet the Metro’s July 21 article was titled, “Bernie supporters arrested at DNC HQ.” Politico released the article “6 Protestors arrested at Democratic convention HQ in Philadelphia,” on July 20, and quoted host committee communications director Anna Adams-Sarthou saying the protesters’ actions “are perpetuating a negative narrative that does not exist.”

The  donor list sit-in arrests set the bar of radicalism for the Philly DNC the following week.  The solemn photo of me being arrested in Philly.com was a call for activists across the nation to risk arrest in the name of democracy and justice.  At the DNC numerous people came up to shake my hand, recognizing me from the photo.  Most were pleased that I wore the American bandanna around my neck to appeal to the masses who typically viewed demonstrators as being anti-American.  The call for action following the arrests was made clear by The Progressive Standard on July 22, which was titled: “23 Protesters Arrested During Entire RNC. Six Arrested Before DNC Even Begins.”  Newsworks  wrote about the arrests and the emergency court hearing on Thursday, July 21, where the DNC host committee refused to hand over the financial records until September.

 

 

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Philly BLM Vigil (7-15-16)

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The city of Philadelphia recently received a huge spike Black Lives Matter protests since the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castle last week.  The week has seen a nation on edge, with police and demonstrators sharing a fear of their lives, creating a mix result of demands of nonviolence by protesters and increased brutality by police against demonstrators in certain cities.  In Philly, however, protests took place for six days straight (July 6-11), with arrests only taking place on the first day of protests on July 6.

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A few days after the Dallas shooting of police officers, Conservative online news outlets warned about a potential “Day of Rage” organized in cities around the nation by Annonymous and BLM for July 15.  The Day of Rage essentially failed to materialize in any of the 36 planned cities (leading many to think it was a hoax created by authorities), including in Philadelphia.

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Instead, a “Vigil for lives lost due to police violence” was held at City Hall from 5-6:30 P.M.  Numerous speeches were given under the hot sun, but the most moving were by black mother’s who previously lost children to police shootings.  The event was organized by Together We Stand, but the Facebook event page was hosted by Paige Fernandez. Nearly 500 people came out to the rally, making it larger or about the same size as the previous week’s protests. During the protest flyers were handed out for another BLM rally that began immediately after the closing of the first rally right down the street. The rally was covered by Philly.com.  But July 15 was the last major BLM rally in Philly leading up to the DNC, where several BLM protests are expected to take place.

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Philly BLM #AltonSterling Sit-Down (7-6-16)

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Philly BLM activists marching from Macy’s, July 6.

Black Lives Matter moved its way up to national attention again following the police murder of black man Alton Sterling (37 years old) in Louisiana. He was shot by police for supposedly selling CD’s, which ghoulishly resembled the choke-hold murder of Eric Garner by police in NYC for allegedly selling loose cigarettes.  Sterling was killed July 5, 2016, the day after the 4th of July, symbolizing the lack of freedom granted to the black community in the 21st century.  The Justice Department opened up a civil rights investigation into the case. In Louisiana, just a month before Sterling was gunned down, a new Democratic governor signed a “Blue Lives Matter” who makes it the first state in the nation to make killing a police officer a “hate crime.”

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Police trying to stop activists from reaching highway.

According to the New York Times, #AltonSterling began trending on Twitter on the evening of July 5.  Protests emerged in Louisiana’s capital on the evening of July 5. On July 6 a vigil of several hundred people outside the storefront was held where Sterling was killed, while a mural of Sterling was painted along the store’s wall.  In addition to the Louisiana protests, a few BLM demonstrations were held July 6 across the nation. “From Ferguson, Missouri, to Philadelphia,” wrote CNN on July 6, “people turned out” to mourn the loss of another black life to police brutality.

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On July 6, Philadelphia hosted a BLM rally to denounce police brutality and show support for the black community in Louisiana. Philadelphia is one of the leading cities organizing protests for BLM, thanks mainly to the organization Philly Coalition for REAL Justice, which has protested the police murders of Brandon Tate Brown, Jerame Reid, Freddie Gray and many others.  At 6:00 P.M. on July 6, over a hundred activists gathered at Macy’s (1300 Market St.) in Center City.  The rally, hosted by individuals from Coalition for REAL Justice, was called: “Alton Sterling Philly Response #ShutShitDown.”

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massive Philly sit-down

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Philly sit-down.

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Like they had done in the past, the BLM leaders “occupied” the busy Center City streets by marching without permits for over an hour, and shutting down any street they pleased.  Philly Police reacted like they usually do as well: Keep traffic moving with strict enforcement, but also with a degree of politeness.  Hundreds of cops on bikes surrounded the march from both sides and from behind.  Philly.com reported that SEPTA Transit Police Chief Thomas J. Nestel tweeted the entire event. “Protest headed WB on Walnut from 12th. Peaceful expression of the 1st Amendment occurring in Philadelphia,” Nextel tweeted.

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Asa being arrested in Philly.

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Reverend Nicolas O’Rourke stated: “We have a tendency to turn our eyes and be desensitized to the issues going on.” CBS quoted him saying: “As a result, we use traditional practices of coming out standing in solidarity, lifting our voices, putting our feet to the pavement to actually make sure that it’s clear that people of color are enraged and they are not standing for it any longer.”  Rennie Robinson emotionally said, “It’s just enough. This is enough. What do we do at this point now? They’re killing us,” she said.

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Photo by NBC.

After nearly an hour of marching, we reached the off-ramp from highway I-676 onto 15th Street and were able to make our way down part of the ramp, while others climbed the barrier and blocked the on-ramp from 16th Street. According to Philly NBC 10 the sit-down was impacted the system because busy I-676 cuts through downtown Philly, connecting commuters to I-76 & I-95.  The police made a line with their bikes and blocked us from moving any further on highway I-676.  Nearly a hundred of us responded by performing nonviolent sit-downs on both sides of the middle barrier.

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Beginning the sit-down, July 6.

After about 45 minutes of being on the highway, police began preparing for arrests by calling half-a-dozen police vans to the site.  About 11 persons volunteered to get arrested and sat in a straight line in front of the cops, while the remaining demonstrators watched from the other side of the highway barrier or from the grass. They were given three warnings before arrests started. Some of those arrested cooperated with the police by walking to the vans, while others resisted by linking arms and dragging their feet.

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After the arrests several dozen demonstrators marched to the police jail where the activists were held.  Apparently those arrested were cited with “obstructing a highway,” but all of them were released from jail that night. The highway sit-down gained significant press attention, especially since so few cities have launched solidarity protests. MyJoyOnline.com  wrote about the Louisiana protests, and the July 6 “unrest in Philadelphia where about 75 people blocked a busy road.”  CBS on July 7 predicted that the unrest in BLM could expand in Philly by the time of the DNC.

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Philly.com (July 6)

NBC (July 6)

CNN (July 6)

Philly CBS (July 6)

Philly Voice  (July 6)

Fox 29 News  (July 6)

WGNO-ABC (July 6)

Morning Call (July 6)

WBRZ-2 (July 6)

Philly CBS (July 7)

Democracy Now (July 7)

BBC News (July 7)

Philly Metro (July 7)

ABC (July 7)

ABC-News (July 7)

MyJoyOnline.com (July 7)

Atlanta Daily World (July 7)

Express (July 7)

Stuff (July 7)

WBRZ-2 (July 7)

ITV News (July 7)

Blouin News (July 7)

 

 

 

 

 

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