Florida Cannabis Action Network (CAN) activist Scott Bledsoe, who was brutalized by police last year while gathering pro-marijuana petition signatures outside Jacksonville’s football stadium, was arrested in Jacksonville on October 24, while leading a protest during a George W. Bush campaign rally.
Bledsoe has long been an outspoken opponent of Florida Governor Jeb Bush, George W’s brother. Jeb Bush’s Florida drug czar is a protege of disgraced federal drug czar Barry McCaffrey, and is running an unconstitutional drug war in Florida, which used to be a drug-friendly state. Observers say that if George W. is elected president, he will possibly tap Jeb or someone recommended by Jeb to run a Florida-style battle against pot and other substances.
Further, they warn, the Bush brothers hope to be the next American political dynasty, with George W. hoping to be president for eight years, followed by Jeb as president for another eight years. The Bush family’s connections to the CIA, oil industry, military-industrial complex, and pharmaceutical industry make this scenario extremely troubling.
Along with CAN activists Kevin Aplin, Jodi James, Kay Lee, Murli, Joe Tacl and Anne Tacl, Bledsoe has made life hell for anti-marijuana fascists throughout Florida. Bledsoe’s activism has been costly to his personal and financial health, however. He was beaten up during a bogus traffic stop last year, and lost his job because his employers don’t like activists.
Undaunted, Bledsoe and CAN continue to be an example of the kind of hardcore direct action that, if practiced more frequently, would blow the lid off marijuana prohibition and police abuses. FLA CAN has organized free speech marijuana rallies in several Florida cities, and recently won a lawsuit against the city of Gainesville, which had placed illegal restrictions on marijuana activists in 1995. CAN is now demanding monetary damages, and intends to force the city to rewrite its public gathering regulations.
Before his latest arrest, Bledsoe says, he consulted with Jacksonville City Attorney Steve Rohan, informing Rohan that he planned to conduct a free speech event protesting Bush’s rally. Assisted by medical marijuana martyr Randy Cheatham, who told me during a CAN-sponsored June Jacksonville pot rally that police had been caught illegally peeping through his home in an effort to bust him for medical marijuana, Bledsoe began setting up amplification equipment on public land near where Bush’s presidential campaign had sited its event.
Bledsoe says he was approached by a US Secret Service agent named Ed Roman, who told Bledsoe that he had entered a security area and had to leave. Bledsoe says he showed Roman a free speech order authored by the Jacksonville sheriff’s department, and also assured the agent that he was going to engage only in constitutionally-protected political speech that would pose no threat to Bush.
Roman didn’t care about civil liberties or citizens’ rights, Bledsoe said, and ordered Jacksonville sheriffs to remove Bledsoe, Cheatham, and Cheatham’s van, which was legally parked, displaying a handicapped placard, and integral to Bledsoe’s plan to set up a full public address system.
“I pointed out to Roman that there were other citizens in the same area as we were, and that they were not being asked to leave,” Bledsoe reported. “I also asked him if he was aware of free speech protections and legal rulings that permitted me to do what I was doing. He said he didn’t know and didn’t care.”
Bledsoe says that he continued to assert his rights and set up his equipment, until he was rudely accosted by Jacksonville sheriffs officers Ed Thomas and Larry Johns. The officers gave him contradictory orders, and then were joined by as many as twelve other officers who surrounded Bledsoe and Cheatham.
The cops forced Bledsoe and Cheatham to physically carry their sound amplification equipment for several blocks. Police advised Bledsoe that if he stopped to rest, he would be arrested. Bledsoe used a megaphone to inform a hostile crowd of Bush supporters that he was being harassed for engaging in legal free speech. Finally, Bledsoe was arrested, even though he was complying with the unlawful order forcing him to move from public property.
He was charged with “opposing a police officer,” and “breaching the peace.”
“This is a pattern we have seen too many times,” Bledsoe said after being released from jail. “Bush and other opponents of freedom use the police to prevent citizens from disagreeing with them and their policies. We will have to sue them, and we will win, just like we won in Gainesville and other Florida cities.”
More information on Bledsoe’s case can be obtained by calling 321-255-9790 or by visiting the CAN website at www.jug-or-not.com.