Attendees hear speeches from medical marijuana patients, activists, supporters, politicians, even police officers. Then at 4:20, there is a beautiful cloud of civilly disobedient marijuana smoke in the air above Independence Mall at 5th and Market Streets. Once that’s over, the organizers and volunteers stick around, clean up the area, and peacefully disburse into the city of Philadelphia. View the Facebook event page for Smoke Down Prohibition IX which takes place this Saturday, September 21 here.
The rally has been held every month since December 2012, and there was a great amount of tolerance exhibited by law enforcement all the way through our April 20 event which drew a crowd of 450-500 peaceful demonstrators who all lit up in a moment of cannabis reflection at 4:20pm.
That all changed on May 18, 2013 at Smoke Down Prohibition 5.
When organizers showed up to Peoples’ Plaza on May 18, there was what can only be referred to as a “Freedom Cage” around the concrete slab that is designated as a “First Amendment area” and a big stage towards the back of the slab that wasn’t requested by organizers. There were also an astounding number of Federal Park Service Rangers, Department of Homeland Security uniformed officers, Philadelphia Police, SEPTA Transit Police, and one officer from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. See what happened in this YouTube video.
During our June rally, there was an even larger police presence that included US Park Rangers in full riot gear… All of this for peaceful marijuana legalization protesters who only want to bring to light the absurdity of marijuana laws. There had never been an altercation with police, nor had anyone ever given them a reason to think that an altercation was even a possibility. A Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Philly NORML member, blogger, and photographer, Ed Roper showed that the Park Service spent over $21,000 in overtime and travel expenses for that event. You can view the FOIA here.
After the June rally, organizers decided that change was in order.
A few of the organizers and supporters held a Donut Summit that was arranged with police agencies on social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. This was definitely an effective tactic as police involvement decreased in July, so they decided to do it monthly, and police presence has steadily decreased and their tactics when approaching someone with a joint in their mouth have changed from tackle and subdue to, “excuse me, is that marijuana? Please come with me”.
The organizers of Donut Summit will continue to meet with the police to see if real change can happen in Philadelphia. We’ve already made some change in how the police deal with the protesters, and more change is in the works. They realize the waste of money and resources that goes into this when they could be out fighting real crime, so they really have to figure out what their “end game” is, because WE AREN’T GOING AWAY!
Make sure to come out to 5th and Market in Philadelphia on Saturday, September 21, 2013 at 3:00. Bring a rolled joint or blunt, it’s going to be a good one!