The world’s largest ever international pot protest took place on May 5, 2001, as citizens from over 130 cities worldwide celebrated cannabis culture and opposed the drug war, for the 3rd annual Million Marijuana March.
Founded and coordinated by Dana Beal of New York’s Cures Not Wars, the event has become a truly international phenomenon. From 35 people in Tucson, Arizona, to 30,000 in London, England, pot-lovers and freedom fighters from around the world came out knowing that they were joining in a global movement for ganja liberation.
Most rallies were relatively small, a few hundred people gathering to openly toke, display their signs, banners, and love of freedom. For the most part police responded well, with arrests being rare. In Cleveland, police directed traffic for the marchers to protest at the local county jail. Philadelphia organizers also reported police as polite and friendly.
In Miami, organizers claimed that not a single uniformed police officer was in sight during their event. In New Orleans, about 600 marchers went down Bourbon Street, with organizer “Ashley the Fearless” reporting “overwhelming support form everybody we passed, even from the New Orleans Police Department. They let Dana Beal’s son, Brian, drape a pro-pot banner over a patrol car at the street party that concluded the event. How beautiful is that?”
In Vancouver, BC, police escorted the protest as they marched by the courthouse, where coordinator David Malmo-Levine railed against “drug courts,” and then to the US Consulate’s office, where speeches and music continued for hours.
Two rallies held in the Czech Republic suffered some police problems. In Prague, officers tried to stop the event, claiming that both the gathering and planned music were illegal. Quick talking from event organizers convinced police to back off, and although the event was delayed two hours, over 1000 people were able to enjoy tunes and speeches from four stages. In Brno, police gave organizers a fine for having a car in the town square.
The most confrontational rally took place in New York city, where police were very hostile towards the crowd. Pot-freedom is against the agenda of NY Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, whose anti-pot crusade has resulted in New York cops making 10% of all pot busts in the country.
A crowd of about 5000 people filled five city blocks as they marched through town. Plainclothes cops pulled pot-smokers out of the crowd, putting them in plastic cuffs and hauling them away. When some people started pointing out the undercover narcs, they too were arrested and hauled off. As rally-goers protested the police actions, they were clubbed and then pepper sprayed. Police sprayed dozens of people, including two High Times editors.
According to organizer Dana Beal, police made almost 200 arrests, over 60 of them for the catch-all charge of “obstructing governmental administration.” Last year’s New York march saw over 300 arrests.
In Houston, Texas, organizer Dean Becker estimated that their two-day event attracted between 5000 and 7000 people. Although one of the biggest rallies, they had hoped for a much larger crowd, and blamed bad weather. Becker explained that attendees were able to enjoy “16 bands, 12 comedians and most importantly a drug panel featuring a question and answer session with audience members.”
In Christchurch, New Zealand, the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party attracted a few hundred people for their “J-Day” rally, including Labour MP Tim Barnett, who addressed the crowd.
In Tel Aviv, Israel, over 1000 people attended an event put on by Ale Yarok, Israel’s “Green Leaf Party.” Event organizer Boaz Wachtel said that although three undercover cops took video footage, the event was a success with a drummers circle, DJ’s, and stirring speeches.
In Paris, between 500-1000 people enjoyed an afternoon of open toking, public speeches and good vibes.
The biggest rally by far was in London, England, although postponed to June 15 due to weather. About 30,000 people gathered to enjoy speeches, international music, pot poetry, eat hemp ice cream and browse stalls of hempen goods.
The Finnish Cannabis Association reported that almost 1000 people gathered in Helsinki, with another 300 converging in Turku. Tokyo saw 400 people gather in support of pot freedom, the first ever cannabis rally in that city, and many others.
The 2002 Million Marijuana March is scheduled for May 4.
? Cures not wars: tel 212-677-7180; www.cures-not-wars/mmm
Worldwide march locations:
Australia: Adelaide, Melbourne, Nimbin. Austria: Oberwart. Brazil: Rio, Sao Paulo. Canada: Charlottetown, Edmonton, Halifax, Kelowna, Ladysmith, Montreal, Regina, Saskatoon, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Windsor. Czech Republic: Prague, Zagreb. England: Edinburgh, Hull, Liverpool, London, Norwich. Finland: Helsinki, Turku. France: Paris. Germany: Berlin, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Nuremberg, Oberlin, Frankenthal. Greece: Athens. Holland: Amsterdam. Ireland: Dublin. Israel: Tel Aviv. Italy: Milan, Palermo, Rome. Jamaica: Kingston. Japan: Tokyo. New Zealand: Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Yarmuth. Norway: Oslo. Peru: Lima. Poland: Krakow. South Africa: Capetown, Durban, Johannesburg. St Lucia: Castries. USA: Albuquerque, Anchorage, Asheville, Atlanta, Austin, Bakersfield, Batesville, Battle Creek, Boston, Boulder, Buffalo, Burlington, Carbondale, Charleston, Charlotte, Chicago, Chico, Cleveland, Columbus, Colorado Springs, Denver, Des Moines, Detroit, Dunedin, Eugene, Fairbanks, Garberville, Hilo, Homer, Houston, Huntsville, Indianapolis, Ithaca, Jefferson City, Juneau, Kansas, Kent, Lansing, Los Angeles, Macon, Madison, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Montpelier, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Norfolk, Olympia, Omaha, Orlando, Oregon, Paducah, Palm Springs, Philadelphia, Portland, Redding, Raleigh-Durham, Richmond, San Francisco, San Marcos, Santa Cruz, Springfield, St Louis, St Petersburg, Seattle, Tampa, Traverse City, Tucson, Washington DC.