The thirtieth annual Fourth of July Smoke-Out in Washington, DC ended with an unexpected type of fireworks this year.
The event began peacefully in Lafayette Park, a few hundred feet from the White House, at noon on a typically hot and humid July 4th. For three hours, the crowd of approximately 4,000 people heard a variety of speeches from cannabis activists, including NORML director Keith Stroup, Pot-TV’s Miriam White, drug reform policy expert Kevin Zeese, and Yippie anarchist Dana Beal.
Police were present, but did not enforce marijuana laws while the event was held at Lafayette Park. At approximately 3:30, however, the crowd began an orderly march south past the White House, eventually ending up in two large fields where event organizers provided quality musical acts and more speeches.
Unfortunately, SWAT team police began moving through the crowd. They conducted illegal searches and seizures, used coercion and fear tactics against many of the younger members of the audience, pulled dozens of people out of the parks, and arrested several people.
CANNABIS CULTURE international correspondent Pete Brady, accompanied by CC videographer Chadman, began following police, recording their intimidating actions and challenging them. Brady took the stage and pointedly told police they were not welcome at the event, and instructed audience members to shadow the police and exercise free speech. Soon, dozens of courageous youth were surrounding police at every arrest site, shouting invectives and anti-drug war slogans.
Police responded by threatening Brady and Chadman. They told the pair, along with other journalists and activists, that they would be punished for taking pictures and video of the arrests. Brady and New York activist Rob Robinson repeatedly informed police that journalists have a legal right to take pictures at public events. Police told Brady, Robinson and others that they would be harmed by police if they continued to take photos and voice their opinions about police actions.
At 8:30pm, Brady was photographing another arrest; two officers told him to stop. Brady asked the officers if there was an official US Park Service policy governing photographer’s access to photo opportunities. Suddenly, a large officer knocked Brady to the ground, and a group of officers swarmed on top of him.
A crowd of approximately 200 people, many of them throwing rocks and bottles, surrounded the police, who continued to beat Brady as he lay motionless on the ground.
Brady was dragged away, beaten again, and thrown into a paddy wagon. He was arrested and taken to DC General Hospital, and then to jail. NORML Director Keith Stroup, and Common Sense for Drug Policy Director Kevin Zeese visited the jail the next morning to help expedite Brady’s release.
Police stole Brady’s cameras, reporter’s notebooks and film. They also attacked his girlfriend and pried his tape recorder out of her hands.
Brady has broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder and a concussion.
“This is the second time I have been arrested because I am a pot journalist,” Brady said. “The first time was in 1999, when the pigs were trying to take down Steve Kubby. This time, I had no marijuana, and there are many witnesses who will testify how I was brutally assaulted by rogue cops without justification. My first priority is to heal my body. The charges that these criminals filed against me should be dropped. Then, I will work with the groups that sponsor this event to help ensure that police stay out of pot rallies from now on. I want to personally thank all who helped my partner and I during this incident.
Please contact Cannabis Culture magazine if you saw what happened are willing to provide a witness statement.”
* If you saw this incident or have further information, email us at [email protected]