On Sept. 18, 2010 myself and 20 other dedicated drug policy reform activists from Alabama and Georgia retraced the steps of the historic Civil Rights March up Dexter Ave. to the Alabama State Capitol Building to protest the imprisonment of Canadian Marc Emery in the US Federal penitentiary for selling marijuana seeds over the internet…..from CANADA.
This may be one of the best pictures….ever.
We had a very positive encounter with a Montgomery police officer along the way. I was filming and my camera developed some technical problems. While I was attempting to resolve them the marchers continued on up Dexter Ave. When I get the camera fixed I look up to find they had all crossed the street and surrounded a Montgomery Police car, which was parked outside a drug store. I thought, “Oh hell, why are they doing that?” I tend to try and avoid police encounters at all costs and here the group was possibly about to provoke the wrath of one.
The car was unoccupied. When the officer saw them he came out of the store and began talking to them. Everyone had their cameras snapping pictures in case anything happened. But, the officer was very nice. He inquired about what we were doing and why. I was on the opposite side of the street so I didn’t catch what all he said to the group.
After a couple minutes everyone crossed back over to where I was and we continued on. the police officer started to leave but instead made a U-turn and pulled up beside me. I walked over to his car and asked him if he needed to see our permit. He said that wouldn’t be necessary. Then he asked me why we were doing the Free Marc Emery rally in that particular location. I explained to him that we chose the location for the historical significance and because one of Marc’s hero’s for peaceful, non-violent, civil disobedience and demonstration against bad laws is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I explained who Marc was and quipped that “Apparently we don’t have enough non-violent drug offenders in American prisons so we’ve had to start importing them.” He giggled…which is always a good sign.
Then the officer said, “Yeah, but why here? I mean people are asking me why are people protesting in Montgomery, Alabama for a Canadian? Shouldn’t the protest be against the Canadian government for extraditing him? What should I tell them?”
Chris Butts was standing with me and he told officer that it was a world wide rally happening in cities all over the globe. The officer looked surprised. Then the officer asked if marijuana wasn’t outlawed around the same time as hemp because of the competition with synthetics like plastic. I told him that was part of it and that today our biggest foes to changing the law are usually the giant pharmaceutical companies. I almost added, “And the prison industrial complex which keeps guys like you employed.” But, I didn’t because he was being nice and seemed on the surface to have no problem with marijuana or marijuana consumers and because he could have come out swinging his billy club at those who had surrounded his car earlier….but he didn’t. He displayed a genuine curiosity about what we were doing, attempted to share some of his own knowledge on the issue and he was very friendly. As he pulled away he said, “I will hang out down here in this area today and make sure no other officers bother you.”
Now, how often does that happen? It isn’t often that I get to have positive encounters with police officers. When it happens it restores my faith in them a little bit. It makes me feel good when I can walk away from an encounter with the police with a smile on my face, my blood pressure in the normal range, and my hands not in handcuffs. It reinforces that not all of them are bad. That is a good feeling.
So, many thanks to the officer who was so friendly to us and gave us the chance to share in some mutual respect and knowledge exchange.
Many thanks are also in order to everyone who took time out of their weekend to travel to Montgomery and join the march. We had 5 people from north Alabama who drove well over 100 miles each way to be there. Three of them were newcomers who now plan to become involved in the medical marijuana movement here. Four of the attendees came all the way from Atlanta, Georgia. They said they were unable to find a rally there and wanted to be part of one somewhere. That’s amazing. It isn’t often that something is happening in Montgomery and nothing is happening in Atlanta. I think everyone but me drove over 100 miles each way to attend the march. That’s dedication.
A special thanks to Chris Butts who provided the awesome signage and my ride to Montgomery. Without Chris and DJ I would not have made it yesterday due to problems with my truck. They drove a long way out of their way to make sure I could get there. Thanks to Ron Crumpton who brought me home.
And as always thanks to everyone else who came out in the dreadful heat on a college football game day and joined us in protesting the political imprisonment of my close friend and mentor Marc Emery.
I love you guys!
NOTE: Sorry for all the heavy breathing. It was hotter than hell and that was a big hill and I smoke too damn much 🙂
Here are some more pictures from yesterday.