On Friday, September 10th, my husband Marc Emery was sentenced to five years in US federal prison for selling cannabis seeds through the mail to Americans from Canada. Marc had agreed to a five-year sentence in his plea deal, knowing that going to trial would result in 30 years to life behind bars.
Marc promised to refrain from using civil disobedience again, even though he has been very successful with the strategy for decades and various causes, but he also told the judge and the court that cannabis prohibition is a failure that harms both of our countries and violates our constitutions. His speech to the court was impressive; the transcript will soon be received from the court and shared online so people can see exactly what was said.
The judge commented that he “received hundreds of letters and emails, most of them favorable to you… well-written, very thoughtful, making some very interesting points”. He expressed sympathy for Marc, acknowledging that five years is a very long time, and wishing Marc well. When has a judge ever wished a “criminal” well after sentencing? The prosecution tried to say it was not a politically motivated case, but Marc’s lawyer brought up the DEA press release that mentioned only his legalization efforts and never seeds, and said “on this record, no one can or should take the government seriously when it claims that this case was not politically motivated”.
The judge knows that prohibition is a failure, but he also must hand down punishment for law-breakers, as that is his job. Marc admitted that he broke the law, but did so with good intentions and to help demonstrate that prohibition is unjust and ineffective. The judge accepted Marc’s comments, and recommended that Marc be transfered to Canada to serve his sentence. However, the recommendation is not binding, so we still need our supporters to contact the Canadian and US governments and tell them to let Marc serve his sentence in Canada! Please click here to help!
Civil disobedience is the most successful method of repealing bad laws. Marc’s thirty-year history of civil disobedience — opening his bookstore illegally on Sundays, operating a garbage pick-up service during a strike, selling banned books and music, publicly using cannabis and selling seeds — has set an example for others to follow, and builds on the success of historical civil disobedience, including Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus, Gandhi collecting salt from the sea, and Canadians and Americans smuggling slaves out of the USA. Bad laws are only ever repealed when people refuse to obey them. In many ways, Marc was extremely successful. But with civil disobedience, one must accept the punishment that comes with it; thus, Marc plead guilty (he never tried to run away from what he did) and accepted the five-year sentence.
Even though Marc, as a requirement for being transfered to Canada, renounced civil disobedience because he cannot continue to break the law or counsel others to break the law, it is very clear that people who stand up against bad laws and injustice are freedom fighters of the most virtuous and courageous sort.
That brings me to Betty Krawczyk, an amazing 82-year-old peaceful, non-violent environmental activist in BC. She is appearing in court this Wednesday, September 22nd to appeal her sentence of 10 months, which she already served. In 2007, Betty campaigned against environmentally destructive highway construction on the beautiful coast of West Vancouver, where the Eagleridge Bluffs were blown apart to build a wider highway in expectation of the Olympics. She never hurt anyone, and simply camped out and blocked machinery, but was hauled off and imprisoned for ten months. Now, Betty is back in court.
Update, Monday September 20th: A reporter friend of mine clarified for me what’s happening in Betty’s case:
“Betty has already served the 10-month sentence imposed by Justice Brown for her fifth contempt conviction in 2007. She’s appealing, not the Crown. The cases show what has happened to offenders facing a similar number of contempt citations to underscore the legal gravity of her offence. The appeal court would not replace a 10-month sentence with life imprisonment.”
With that in mind, I have modified this blog post to remove the accusations against the government, as they are not actively seeking to lock Betty up for life. – Jodie
Marc ran for mayor of Vancouver in 2008 and came in fourth-place behind Betty, so we have met her before and know she is a kind, gentle soul who only gets angry when talking about the horrific acts of government and corporations against the environment and freedom. Her courageous acts of civil disobedience have inspired many people, for many years, and she deserves support. Please join me at the Criminal and Appeals Court in downtown Vancouver on Wednesday to stand beside Betty and demand that she not be imprisoned for her relentless, peaceful activism!
Betty Krawczyk court appearance and rally
September 22, 2010
Criminal and Appeals Court, 800 Smithe St.
Rally at 9:30am on the back steps of the courthouse (Howe and Robson Streets)
Court at 10:00am
Click here for the Facebook event page and more information
You can read more about Betty and her case at her blog here.
No Prison for Peaceful Protest!