Activism Against the US Drug Gulag Grows
11/07/02 - Alternet (Web)
- Website: http://www.alternet.org
Author: Kevin Zeese, President of Common Sense for Drug Policy
Journey for Justice Comes to Washington, DC
"If George W. Bush is good enough for the White House,
my brother is good enough for my house!" proclaimed Nora Callahan of the November Coalition
at the Journey for Justice demonstration at the White House.
She was urging the release of her brother who is serving a 27-year
drug offense sentence of which he has served 14 years.
Approximately 50 demonstrators highlighted the racism and
hypocrisy of the drug war by placing 20 cardboard cutouts in
front of the White House. Four of the figurines were of Presidents
Bush and Clinton, Vice President Gore and Speaker Gingrich -
highlighting their past drug use. Six figurines described the
stories of twelve children of politicians who got caught and
received gentle treatment by the justice system. And ten of the
figurines were a life-sized bar graph of the prison population
- six black, two brown and two white with facts and figures about
the drug gulag. The dark colors of the real prison population
contrasted with the all-white make-up of the elites who avoid
the drug war treatment despite their drug use. Photos, reports
and press of the DC demonstration and others stops along the
Journey for Justice are available at The
Journey for Justice Archive.
Speakers at the
DC demonstration included families of drug war prisoners from
Oregon, West Virginia, Washington State, North Carolina and Washington,
DC - all urging the President to give clemency to their family
members as well as urging new laws to reduce the mass incarceration
of non-violent drug offenders. Family members were joined by
leaders of national drug policy reform organizations who urged
an end to mass incarceration of drug offenders.
The demonstrators chanted: "What do we do when communities
fail? Build schools, not jails!" and "1-2-3-4 we don't
want your racist war!"
The Journey for Justice is a four-year project the November
Coalition designed to build a broader, more vocal and more effective
grass roots movement to end the incarceration of non-violent
drug offenders. The Four Year Journey began on October 14 with
a series of events in Ann Arbor and Detroit. At each stop along
the way they participate in community forums at universities,
churches and community centers; hold prison camp meetings outside
of prisons with families and organize demonstrations at courthouses,
police stations and prisons.
The Journey comes at an increasing time of frustration for
family members of people ensnared in the US's Drug Gulag. The
Republican President and his Attorney General have given little
hope of sentencing reform. At the grass roots level the frustration
is beginning to boil.
At the Journey for Justice in New York City, Randy Credico
of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice noted that
over 80 percent of the public in New York agrees that the Rockefeller
drug laws need to be reformed, every candidate for governor supports
reform or repeal of the Rockefeller drug laws and candidate Tom
Golisano made the laws a centerpiece of his campaign with a massive
advertising blitz - yet there is no legislative movement for
ending drug war injustice in NY.
Credico announced that they were going to start a new campaign
to encourage jury nullification - urging jurors to refuse to
convict in drug cases despite evidence of guilt because of the
injustice of the Rockefeller drug laws. In my comments I noted
that a similar effort was being considered in California in reaction
to medical marijuana prosecutions.
Credico's call for jury nullification contrasted at the Fordham
Forum with the views of a drug court judge who proclaimed - it
is not his job to change the law - just enforce it. The audience
winced at this statement and questioners noted that his "just
enforcing the law" approach reminded them of those in other
eras of oppression who claimed they were "just following
Reform activists are getting more aggressive in response to
drug war injustice. At a meeting of over 100 people in Connecticut
- primarily African Americans all who had been directly or indirectly
scarred by the drug war - a young black girl about 15 years old
stood up and said, "My brother is in prison for drugs; I
was isolated and ashamed, but neither anymore." Another
African American man asked: "What exactly should we do?"
Chuck Armsbury, Nora Callahan's partner on the Journey and
in life, explained the importance of the people in the room getting
together regularly to plan activities and reach out to other
community members. He urged - "make it real, educate, activate
and change your community."
The politics of the drug war is dominated not be the views
of the people - but rather by those who profit from the war on
drugs - private prisons who reap financial gain from warehousing
people, profit-centered coercive treatment programs that rely
on courts to send them clients, helicopter and arms manufactures
selling their wares to the Colombian drug war - the Journey for
Justice is an effort to activate enough people to make sure that
the concerns of citizens directly effected by the drug war are
In Connecticut the marchers, some seventy strong, were a mix
of young, old, students, teachers, preachers, and politicians.
In Philadelphia, after a forum at the Temple Law School two groups
of students forming reform organizations joined together to form
a strong chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. At every
stop along the Journey activists are building their schools and
becoming more effective activists. By building the Journey for
four years - the impact of a new grass roots base will become
more and more noticeable.
At the start of the Journey, Rep. John Conyers, the ranking
Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, proclaimed: "If the
victims of the drug war stand united they will form a political
constituency that could end the drug war." The Journey for
Justice is working to ensure that the people stand united - put
aside race and class issues that divide them and work together
for an end to the injustice of the war on drugs.
If you would like to get involved in the Journey for Justice,
you can volunteer
online here.They are currently planning a southeastern-Florida-Texas
journey for the beginning of next year and will be coming to
your part of the country in the future.