On June 30, Australia’s “Freedom Ride” launched its tour, with a mission “to bring witness to the suffering and injustice created by drug prohibition policies.”
The Freedom Ride is the brainchild of long-time cannabis activist Graeme Dunstan, a founder of the Nimbin Hemp Embassy and coordinator of the 1998 and ’99 Mardi Grass. According to Dunstan, there are 7,500 full time prisoners in New South Wales jails, and about 80% are there for a drug-related offences. “The NSW Government is building jails at a faster rate than it is building universities or hospitals,” complained Dunstan.
The Freedom Ride is a convoy of colourfully painted buses, vans and vehicles led by “Peacebus.com”, which Dunstan describes as “a thoroughly muralised Toyota Coaster bus” with rainbow flags, political banners, two big speaker horns on its roof, and a massive joint bearing a dove and the words peacebus.com.
“The Freedom Ride is nothing if not eye-catching,” jokes Dunstan, describing how the convoy will be travelling “to the gates of NSW jails, and in collaboration with prisoners inside and their families outside, very publicly counting the prisoners of the War on Drugs.”
The Freedom Ride will be going to over a dozen jails during July and August, concluding in Sydney on September 9. Dunstan says they will then be holding a “Hemp Olympix” to coincide with the Olympic games, which he describes as “a couple of days of fun, games and drug law reform action.”
Dunstan, who is also director of the Australian Cannabis Law Reform Movement, was very positive about the launching of the Freedom Ride. “All the local media, TV, print and radio, supported us,” he explained. “We even got a bit of Sydney media. Peacebus.com is carried as if by a river on a tide of blessings and goodwill.”
The Freedom Ride is being broadcast via web-cam and updated over the Internet, made possible by one of the caravan vehicles, which Dunstan describes as “a Ford Falcon panel van packed with computer hardware.”
* Freedom Ride web-cam and updates: www.peacebus.com; tel (61) 02-66-890-413
* Graeme Dunstan: tel 02-92-815-100; or 04-12-609-373; email: [email protected]; website: