THE GRASSTOWN SMOKE IN, STREET JAMBOREE AND POLICE RIOT OF 1971
Twenty Five Years Ago
On August 7, 1971, activist youth promoted a ‘Smoke-in and Street Jamboree’
to be held in Gastown, (nicknamed Grasstown) in reaction to ‘Operation
Dustpan’, a police operation to harass and arrest pot users and dealers in
the Gastown area. Operation Dustpan included police tactics of searching
everyone found in certain bars and clubs, making mass arrests, and trashing
youth hang-outs and centres.
At eight thirty that night there were over a hundred young people in Maple
Tree Square, playing drums, smoking pot and discussing issues surrounding
the drug war. An eight foot joint was passed around and a good time was
being had by all. By ten o’clock there was over two thousand people of all
ages blocking traffic and enjoying themselves on Water Street.
And the Pigs Went Mad!
The Chief of Police asked the crowd to disperse through a broken
loudspeaker, and then immediately sent in the riot squad. The police went
berserk and violently attacked the crowd with three foot batons, some of
them beating peaceful protesters from horseback. To avoid identification,
none of the police were wearing their badge numbers, and they also chased
reporters and broke their cameras.
The Vancouver Sun reported that police entered shops and restaurants to
chase fleeing protesters, and officers on horseback pinned people in
doorways and then lashed out at them with their sticks.
Although no charges were ever laid against any police officers, the photos
in the newspapers the next day were enough to put Operation Dustpan on
hold… for awhile.
NOW, 25 YEARS LATER, OPERATION DUSTPAN IS GOING NATIONAL
Welcome to the Drug War
The recently passed Controlled Drugs and Substances Act will permit police
to actively sell drugs, drastically increases their powers to search
Canadians and seize their possessions, and also streamlines the court
system to allow for mass arrests. This new drug law does nothing to promote
medical marijuana or industrial hemp, and in the words of the Canadian Bar
Association, ‘this bill will result in a significant increase in rates of
incarceration and in lengths of sentences.’
The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act was passed despite public opinion
and the testimony of experts, and received almost no attention in the mass
media. This draconian new law will most likely be put into effect in early
Truth or Consequences
When the bill was passed a number of lies were reported about it, like that
it would eliminate criminal records for possession or that it permits the
cultivation of industrial hemp. Both of these claims are completely untrue.
To get the same amount of attention that these lies have received, it is
necessary to have a really big party, twice the size of the one in 1971. We
have chosen to risk an obstruction charge now, on our own terms, rather
than be taken from our homes in the middle of the night later on, in the
middle of the drugwar nightmare.
A Vicious Cultural Genocide
There have been over one million marijuana related convictions in Canada
over the last 30 years, and one hundred thousand Canadians are arrested
every year for simply possessing marijuana.
This is a pogrom of extraordinary proportion, a vicious cultural genocide
in which our homes and possessions are seized, our tax dollars are spent to
demonize us on billboards and on TV, our children are turned against us, we
are regularly harassed and beaten by police, and sentenced to jail terms
which exceed those of violent criminals.
Our concern is that the prohibition of cannabis hemp marijuana is turning
our world into a police state and an environmental wasteland.
Our demand is that the Canadian Government immediately end its senseless
persecution of Cannabis Canadians. The Minister of Health must provide us
with just one defendable reason to continue cannabis prohibition, or at
least agree to a televised debate on the issue with Eugene Oscapella of the
Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy.
If the Government can’t meet this quite reasonable demand, then they will
have to remove us from the square by force, because we’ll be holding onto
each other as if we had no choice… Because we don’t!