The Grasstown Police Riot Remembered. . .
On August 7, 1996 over a thousand people gathered in Maple Tree Square,
at the intersection of Water, Carrall and Powell Streets in Vancouver’s
Gastown, to commemorate the Grasstown Police Riot of 1971 and protest
the viciously prohibitionist Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Traffic at the busy intersection was effectively blocked off from when
the event began at 2pm to its end at about 10pm. Police rerouted traffic
around the area while live bands shared amplifier time with Chief
Protagonist David Malmo-Levine, along with speakers such as Ed
Rosenthal and Marc Emery, as well as many of those in attendance
who took advantage of the open microphone to express their experiences with
marijuana prohibition and their thoughts on the drug war.
The event went off without any negative incidents, and was a happily madcap
blend of improvised organization and gentle confrontation. Police kept
their distance and were generally friendly but disapproving.
Vancouver Police Propagandist Anne Drennan was surrounded by
microphones yet again and pestered with questions about what the police were
going to do about all the pot-smoking and flagrant having of fun. She
explained that if all the reporters and cameramen would just leave the area
she could have the protestors removed in ten minutes with minimal
property damage. Alas, it was not to be, and so two dozen cops had a good
day earning overtime while listening to music and eyeing the beautiful
The whole thing received significant media attention, and amazingly
enough some of it actually mentioned the Controlled Drugs and Substances
Act to explain the protest. It was all a nice change from ’71, when
the cops beat peaceful protestors from horseback and smashed
reporters’ cameras. These days they watch politely film us a distance
until we’ve all gone home, and then they charge in and beat us!
For more information about the Grasstown Police Riot see Cannabis Canada #5.
Contact David Malmo-Levine at (604) 253-6357, or email