Our campaign to hand out FREE MARC EMERY waterbottles and information at the Rally To Restore Sanity and/or Fear was a huge success thanks to the hard work of a small but dedicated group of volunteers. This blog will show you what can be accomplished when just a few people work together, and hopefully inspire you to invent your own campaign against the failed drug war.
Preparations Leading up to the Rally
The Week leading up to Oct. 30: I had posters made at a copy store by splitting the image files into a 16-panel (16 11” x 17” pages) document and then tediously trimmed with an exact-o-knife and cutting board the white edges off and then taped the panels together – this huge poster cost the price of 16 color copies and 1 roll of clear packaging tape!
We organized the printing of the www.PixelDreams.com designed post-cards and waterbottle stickers to be printed down in West Virginia where our West Virginia University SSDP volunteer, Matt, was able to pick up the labels and water. He then had his friends strip and re-label the 2,016 waters at his house!
We reserved a U-Haul for him (also in WV) and arranged for the rental and mileage, gas, and toll money, as well as the needed Sam’s Club Membership and the water order and payment. There were 63 cases of 32 16.9 fl oz bottles – it was an entire pallet worth and took two trips with a volunteer’s pick-up to haul it back to the house.
Road Trip Begins / Our Video-Blog ‘MarcCantSpark’ / Red Bull Vending Machines
Friday Oct. 29th: I was up at 6am sharp and off to work by 7:30am. Worked late, got home around 6:00pm. Packed with Keith, ate, filled up and hit the road by 8:00pm from Rhode Island heading down 95 South to Washington DC. We used our cell phones to upload videos to YouTube while on the road – Keith thought up MarcCantSpark for the YouTube Channel’s name.
Another friend helped with acquiring the web address www.MarcCantSpark.com and used his wonderful creative talents to make it much more exciting than the video blog actually turned out….it just got sillier the later it got.
By the way: Red Bull Vending Machines along the highway here on the East Coast REALLY DO EXIST … Keith, my ever-dependable co-pilot, was always looking for signs of drowsy-driving and insisted on rest and refuelling before going on.
We traveled from Rhode Island to Connecticut, to New York, to New Jersey, to Delaware, to Pennsylvania, to Maryland, and then on to DC. We traversed 7 States, plus the District of Columbia – 420 miles in 8 ½ hrs with two tanks of gasoline.
Marc Calls us on the Road / Rendezvous with the U-Haul in D.C. / Headquarters Start-up
We had the great honor of receiving a collect phone call from the Famous Marc Emery himself around 11:30pm in Connecticut, and we told him how things were going and what our plans were once we arrived. He reinforced some tips: “Remember: tell them to TAKE ONE, people take orders, if you ask them if they want one, they will always say no.”
Marc Emery is such a leader, whether from Cannabis Culture’s HQ in Vancouver or from a Federal Penitentiary in the USA. He wished us safe travels and said he’d call again Saturday to see how it went. We uploaded a video blog right afterwards, being so excited to have talked with the Prince of Pot himself!
While I drove, Keith worked on the Hemp Wicks to hand out at the Rally. We bought a roll of it for $25.00 at our local head shop, Ethnic Concepts on Wickenden Street in Providence. He’d cut a 3-4 foot length of it and wrap it into a bundle with a label. They were homemade return address sticky-labels designed and printed from a computer with the Free Marc logo, and read “SPARK FOR MARC!” and “www.FREEMARC.ca” on them. We had our volunteers hand them out at our water stations to supporters.
Saturday Oct. 30th: we met up in DC at a McDonald’s Parking lot with our WVU SSDP volunteers, Matt and Jamayla. They had the U-Haul loaded and ready to go into town. I eagerly had Matt open the hatch of the U-Haul so I could photograph a pallet’s worth of water for an amazing logistical and political feat that would hopefully be an inspiration to all by the time I could reflect on its impact. I worked on the early morning phone calls to the volunteers that had contacted me throughout the week and arranged to meet them at Metro Center Station around 7:30am. Text Messages, Google Chat, email, and phone calls all from the palm of my hand at 6:30am thanks to a Smartphone…more on THAT dependency later…
We were all sleepy and hungry so we headed out for a breakfast joint open at 5:30 in the morning … we found a little hole in the wall 24-hour diner with an Obama Mural painted on the side of it (and a Hitler moustache scribbled on it…) called Steak ‘n’ Eggs. We ate, Sparked for Marc in the parking lot, chatted with the help taking out the trash from the diner, then headed into town. We plastered our 16-panel FREE MARC Poster onto the U-Haul – The Marc-Mobile was rolling!
We followed Matt and Jamayla because he knew the city very well from living and working there before. It was still early on a Saturday, so we thankfully found parking meter spots right in front of the Metro Center Station on the 12th and G Street Corner! We parked, unloaded quickly and started getting things going right away. My phone went off constantly all morning until so many people were in the city that we lost all cell service for many hours. We had our volunteers meet us at the Metro Center.
The Volunteers Pull Through / Water Station Drop-Spots / Police Interest
Our first volunteer bright and early was Jacob. Matt quickly had him ride shot-gun in the U-Haul to the Smithsonian Museum Station on the National Mall. They unloaded two large towers of the 32-case waters, the Post-Cards, the Hemp-Wicks and then got politely kicked out by a vendor selling water nearby. (I’m surprised yet grateful this was the only time it happened!) So he moved a few blocks down and stayed there with no problems and still plenty of foot traffic. Meanwhile Matt had returned with the U-Haul to load up MY car’s trunk with more water for the next water station and volunteer.
Our next volunteer, Heather, showed up at Jacob’s station and helped out with the waters and fliers and headed into the crowds with the Post-Cards and her friends when the March to Keep Fear Alive started.
Our 3rd Volunteer showed up around 8:00 am, Nick, and he was dressed as an exuberant Uncle Sam ready to don his Free Marc tee and get right work. He had so much enthusiasm and energy despite it being so early and chilly in the morning, it perked ME right up! People were now pouring out of the Metro Center station to walk the 2 blocks to the National Mall for the Rallies.
Keith was questioned by a Police Officer on bicycle.
“What do you have going on here today?” he asked. “Oh well we’re here today for Marc Emery a political activist imprisoned here in the US – we are giving away FREE water to raise awareness.”
“That’s the word I wanted to hear,” he answered, meaning “FREE”, and Keith asked, “Would YOU like a Free Marc Water?” and he politely said no thanks and took off.
It was great to see the Street Vendors setting up shop alongside us and asking who Marc was and why this had happened to him. Street vendors talk to folks all day, they can be a great source for word-of-mouth telling of Marc’s story. As an immigrant himself, the vendor I spoke with empathized with the fact that Marc was taken from his own country and forced to serve time in a foreign one. He agreed that there is no justification for this. Everyone – whether you believe in what Marc stands for or not – should realize the absurdity and atrocity that has taken place by this extradition and 5-year sentence. Marc is now serving time for having and using his political voice for drug-policy change. By the way: Marc didn’t have to pour millions into OUR [United States] marijuana law-reform movement – he chose to – and is a martyr in a cell for that like so many others right now, thanks to prohibition.
Another volunteer, Jeff, showed up next, so we packed up the Saturn again, now plastered with FREE MARC posters covering both sides’ rear doors, and headed out to a new water station; We found a perfect spot right on Jefferson (appropriate) and dropped about a dozen cases and Post-Cards and taped a Free Marc Poster to the utility box on the sidewalk. Jeff is a seasoned marijuana activist and participated at the July 4 Freedom March in DC; “FREE WATER! FREE WATER HERE! FREE MARC EMERY – FREE WATER!” he shouted loud and clear and got a crowd in seconds. I snapped some shots, jumped back in the car and fought the heavy traffic back to the Headquarters at Metro Center.
Trevor was our next volunteer and he brought along his two friends, Nico and Syd to help. We gave them their shirts and put them to work right away; Trevor works for a printing shop and was able to get permission to use all the left-over paper stock from past orders to print out Free Marc double sided handbills! He brought them along to the water station. We rolled out, headed for another densely-populated spot on the Mall and decided that H Street at the White House end was perfect. I put on my hazard lights and pulled over to the curb to let Trevor out and unload. A DC Police Cruiser pulled up behind me and over his loud speaker called “MOVE YOUR VEHICLE NOW – MOVE YOUR VEHICLE NOW!” so we managed to unload 2 or 3 cases and I was forced to roll-out. Trevor rocked it, despite undercover and uniformed officers watching his every move from then on. He bumped into a group from Vancouver, BC, and they expressed their gratitude that folks here in the states were fighting for Marc Emery, their Prince of Pot.
Meanwhile I was rolling out from Trevor’s spot with coffee for the other crews and fresh supplies. The DC Police Cruiser followed me down 13 all the way to the National Monument and then got stuck at a red light as I turned left onto Jefferson. Jeff had already given away all the waters, donned his werewolf FREE MARC t-shirt wearing costume and headed into the crowds with his backpack loaded with Free Marc Post-Cards to hand out. I pulled over, grabbed the trash, grabbed the poster, and headed on to Jacob and Heather’s station at the Smithsonian to load him up again with supplies and give Jacob a hot coffee to stay warm. Jacob said his favorite part was watching people’s reactions when they tried to give him money for the water and he refused saying they were free for Marc. He said most folks he talked to that day were responsive to Marc’s case, and eagerly asked questions about Marc and our water campaign.
The March to the National Mall / Prison for Pot RANT / Torontoist Journalists
I headed back to the HQ at about 11:00am and the trains were so backed up that folks were pouring out of Metro Center Station to get out of the overcrowded subways. Our HQ was busy like a hive, and we were down to 2 cases by 11:30am. Once the water was gone, we loaded up with Post-Cards, Posters, and T-Shirts, and marched into the National Mall to rendezvous with the crowds gathering for the event.
Nico and Syd held the fort at Metro Center, and made sure that any other volunteers trickling in got their shirts and post-cards and posters to hand out to amongst the massive crowds. Nico and Syd ROCKED ALL DAY! I’m telling you – they showed up so early, and yet stayed till the cows came home passing out SO MANY Free Marc Post-Cards, and delegating the volunteers into the crowds. They even helped me roll my car from one side of the street to the other side’s curb when my battery died from its hazard lights…and yes, the car was ticketed multiple times for the crappy parking job. They requested it be towed – all while we were busy downtown so I had no idea!
We marched down to the National Mall from 12th St. and the crowd just got more and more thick the further we marched. We chanted and handed out Post-Cards, paused at good traffic areas to talk and pass them out, and then when interest waned we’d grab our posters and march on to a new spot. We were looking for TV cameras but I couldn’t even find a Port-a-John the entire day.
The crowds were UNREAL. It ended up getting so thick that we were ass-cheek to elbow and stuck in a sea of people unable to move. We wormed our way north a block carrying signs over our heads and double-tasking with Post-Cards in the other hand. It’s amazing how ambidextrous one is forced to be in these types of situations. I managed to hang my son’s old Easter Pail off my purse, allowing a hand to constantly reach down into the bucket and hand out to people passing me. Keith would reach in the pail behind me and do the same thing. He had the tact to stick them in people’s bags passing by.
We talked to so many people I can’t recount them all, but like I said earlier, the main reaction was empathy, then disgrace, then wanting to ask more. There was a couple with a 6-year-old at one of the spots along our march that asked many questions and then patiently explained it to their son. It reminded me of the frank and honest conversations I have with my own 6-year-old about prohibition.
We were scouted out by the Yahoo Ask America team to do our Marc Emery “Rant” on their AskAmerica.Yahoo.com “soap-box” with their megaphone. (It can be seen on our YouTube Channel “MarcCantSpark” albeit sideways because there was some miscommunication on how to film with the cell phone.) So I followed the staffer to their news van, waited my turn and did my Prison for Pot rant!
We sat and rested there for a while and spoke to folks that listened to my speech and passed out the Post-Cards to the crowds gathered at the news-van.
We then headed back to the Metro Center station to wrap up our day. On our way back to the car and U-Haul, out of 215,000 people, we managed to bump into three Journalists from Torontoist.com! They asked where we were from, took down our names and interviewed us about our Free Marc campaign! The news article can be found here.
We gave them each a Post-Card, got free Torontoist pins, wrote their names down, and marched on. We chanted, answered people’s questions, passed out Material, took photographs, and made it back to the cars by about 4:00pm. Nico and Syd were still rocking the Metro Center Station with their posters and Post-Cards, wearing their T-Shirts with pride, and hitting up every passer-by!
A Rally for All Rallies / Packing up and Heading Out / Another Call from the Prince of Pot
THIS rally was a Rally for all Rallies. I saw some of the funniest signs and slogans I’ve ever seen, and the mood of the crowd was joyful, silly, and free-spirited. I saw lots of “Legalize Pot” signs, “Yes on 19” signs, and one that read “Retired CIA Analysts for Sensible Drug Policy” being touted by a man in his 60’s with a big pot-leaf on it. I saw “Legalize Everything” signs and “Just Say Now” signs, and the random “God Hates Snuggies” sign or “WHY AM HERE?”. It was amazing, and I am so grateful I can now say we were there! (I seriously would like to see this become an annual event.)
We packed up, cleaned up, thanked out volunteers, took the tickets off my car, and decided to chance cranking the car despite the dead battery – low and behold the Ganja Gods smiled on us and the old Jalopy started right up! We fought the heavy traffic and pedestrians out of the center of the city to a quiet park and parked our car to rest. We still hadn’t slept since Thursday night!
Marc called us while we were resting and we told him all about the busy amazing day and the joy in his voice immediately solidified our effort in my heart. We told him about our MarcCantSpark site and the video blog and how 14 people volunteered for us all day. We told him about the posters on the U-Haul and the sea of Marc Posters and T-Shirt wearing volunteers who worked HARD for his cause all day. He was so grateful and so excited. We arranged with him to send the photos and news articles to him at his detention center right away so he could see how wonderful and amazing it was!
We slept at the park for an hour. Then Keith woke me up around 6:30pm to head out of the city and find a place to sleep. I was very tired, seeing double, getting behind parked cars thinking they were in traffic, Keith saw the signs of my exhaustion and insisted we stop in a quiet dark parking lot to sleep. We got on the highway and it was totally jammed. Everyone must have went out for dinner after the rally and decided to go home all the same time. It was horrible; my car was overheating; I was so tired; we struggled to the Greenbelt MD exit ramp and pulled off into a CVS parking lot. We got some chips and dip and soda, ate to our delight, and drove on for a dark spot to sleep.
We made another video blog before going to bed, Sparked for Marc again, and drifted off to sleep; Keith in the passenger seat brought down flat and me in the back seat with our son’s bed’s comforter to keep warm. The night passed quickly and other than a couple times Keith woke up cold (I am a notorious blanket-stealer in bed), we slept fine. We woke up at 5:30 am and headed out for breakfast and fuel. We stopped at a gas station in Maryland and got the Sunday edition of the Washington Post. The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear had made the front page. I sent the article to Marc after reading it with excitement and delight and an overwhelming sense of purpose and satisfaction. We made great time driving back, didn’t get any traffic jams other than at a couple toll booths, and rocked our “GOOGLE MARC EMERY” sign in our rear window for the 8-state, 420 mile trip home. We stopped to pee off the highway and left Free Marc pickets in the ground alongside the interstate before heading on.
Thanks and Props / Persistence and Diligence / Impressions and Reflections
I want to thank Marc for having this amazing idea and for pushing me and Jodie to pull it off. I want to thank PIXELDREAMS for designing the wonderful Free Marc Waterbottle Stickers and the Free-Marc Post-Cards self-addressed to the US Dept. of Justice. I want to thank Jodie for helping with the cash needed to pull this off. I want to thank Dana Larsen for coming to the rescue when we were down to the wire for paying for the printing of the Stickers and the Post-Cards. They would not have been paid for and printed in time without his quick action and generosity and TRUST. I want to thank Matt and Jamayla, our West Virginia University Law Students-slash-Anarchists (go figure) that stepped up to the task and made sure everything was ready and paid for and loaded and transported to DC in good time. I want to thank his WVU SSDP volunteers, Jamayla, Anthony, and Jhesse, from Morgantown, West Virginia for their hard work. I want to thank my Husband of 11 years, Keith, for all his love and support. I want to thank Steve, a seasoned D.C. resident who helped me with the logistics of the city and the train stations there. I want to especially thank our volunteers: Panama, Heather, Jeff, Jacob, Trevor, Nico, Syd, Oliver, Brian, Nick, and one girl dressed as a devil (you know who you are!) for all their amazing work and efforts in making Marc’s dream a reality.
It’s now been a week since the rally and it is finally starting to sink in as to the magnitude of this accomplishment. Overall I was reaffirmed of my belief in the amazing will-power to gather and fight for a cause we Americans are capable of. We had volunteers from Ottawa, Canada, Austin, Texas, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, West Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Georgia, Florida, Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., and Maryland, plus Keith and I from little old Rhode Island. This campaign was organized, planned, coordinated, and paid for within two weeks of October 30. It was coordinated and communicated and led between Jodie in Vancouver, Matt in West Virginia, Marc from Prison (unit he was transferred and our communication was cut-off) and Keith and I in Rhode Island.
This whole campaign started with a pen hitting a paper, and writing Marc a letter. My husband and I were watching the Colbert Report when the March to Keep Fear Alive was first announced, and my husband said, “We should go and hand out Free Marc fliers!” so I casually mentioned the idea to Marc in one of my letters. Look what came about from that choice to write a letter with a simple idea. We are capable of this. We just need our hearts in the right place. Everything else follows from there – as long as our drive is persistent, our communication consistent, and our goals crystal clear.
I have only more enthusiasm and drive after this event. I won’t stop until Marc is home with Jodie for Christmas again. I hope we can all share that goal and fight for it in our own creative ways. We all can make a difference, one drop in the pond at a time, and this rally was proof of what can be accomplished when people work together. Complete strangers, now friends forever, linked by a Canadian who fought for and is being punished for what we all believe: Marijuana Prohibition Must End! Free Marc Emery!