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Rallying Once More (Rainbow Farm), 13 Nov 2002 - South Bend Tribune (MI)

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Report from Cass County, MI and Rainbow Farm

By Melody Karr, Michigan Cannabis Action Network-11/17/02

On November 12, in Cass County, Michigan CAN joined Hillsdale County NORML, November Coalition, and other friends of Rainbow Farm to remember the sacrifice made by Tom and Rollie and to demonstrate once more to the surrounding community that we will not forget.

At noon on the 12th, about two dozen of us gathered at the corner of Route 60 and White Temple Road, on the debris-strewn property known commonly as the M-60 protest site. Although most were long-time Farm veterans, at least two had never been there. Here I met Nora and Chuck of November Coalition in person for the first time, and recounted our experiences from the siege, trying to give them a sense of the emotions. Although a water tower now stands on the protest site, not much else has changed; and as we held our signs in the bitter wind, we pointed out the empty school across the highway where the Authorities had set their command post, and recalled the eerie feeling of vulnerability we had while sleeping in the open on this small scrap of earth, watching helicopters, dozens of police vehicles, shiny new FBI SUVs, tanks and SWAT teams descend on our compatriots at Rainbow Farm.

Chuck noted the high percentage of positive gestures and honks from passersby, particularly truckers, in response to our signs and banners. This was consistent with what we had experienced last year during and immediately after the siege. M-60 is a major east-west trucking route, and we had seen many drivers pick up their CB mikes and begin to spread the word as they passed us. Even during the short time we stood there on Tuesday, several local citizens took the time to stop and share their support and their memories of Tom and Rollie as neighbors. This too echoed last year's experience. These men were widely recognized as caring and generous members of the community.

After 45 minutes to an hour, we formed a slow, headlights-and-flashers-on procession and drove past the sites of last year's police barricades, to the gates of Rainbow Farm. We walked the grounds, pointing out a number of key locations to Chuck and Nora, then gathered on the old stage-the only significant structure left standing. Nora shared her memories of the Farm, and how Tom and Rollie were among the earliest supporters of November Coalition's goal to go beyond simply decriminalizing cannabis and end the Drug War altogether. Each of the two dozen or so attendees had the opportunity to speak his/her peace, and we closed the circle with a prayer and a moment of silence.

But back on the Farm, standing on the stage, surrounded by others who loved them, others who witnessed the violence that was visited on this peaceful refuge, I am repeatedly knocked breathless by the undeniable reality -- both of the beauty and justice of our cause and culture, and of the brutality which has met this dream here and elsewhere. I love this place and these people, but being here with them is almost more than I can bear. It hammers me with the terrible responsibility to do something, to never stop fighting the fight, even with the charred evidence of reprisal all around.

From the Farm, we traveled to the center of Cassopolis, to demonstrate in front of the courthouse where last year's hearings took place. We marched slowly back and forth with our signs for about two hours, again receiving honks and positive salutes -- the best, for me, were the many enthusiastic peace signs from kids. The intensity of so many of the gestures gave me the definite impression that there are those in the community who are no more ready to let this go than we are.

In the past, we have had very few problems with the local police, other than their slight difficulty in understanding the concept of "there is no one in charge." They have occasionally asked us to move a few feet this way or that, and on Labor Day they were kind enough to remind us (as a precautionary measure) that smoking cannabis and public urination are illegal; and we have always remained respectfully within the boundaries of the law. During the majority of demonstrations in which I've participated at this location -- in fact, I'd go so far as to say, every one other than this -- we have stood still with our signs for the most part. This has never been an issue.

This time, however, we were approached almost immediately by an officer who came from the fire department across the street, and told that we would have to keep moving. He seemed a bit agitated, but he retired as we complied. At one point, one of our group stopped on the corner to light a cigarette, and flashed a couple peace signs into traffic as he did so. Immediately the officer hotfooted it back across the street, very agitated by now, ranting something about how we could all (including himself) get lawyers and see what happened then.

Near dark, we disbanded and met again at the Super 8 Motel in Three Rivers, where the director of Hillsdale County NORML had rented a conference room for an evening potluck and time of sharing. Everyone who had participated throughout the day attended, as did a few others. We played videos of the Farm, warmed ourselves around some hot food after a long day in the cold, and had some heavy conversations.

Those of us who remained finished the evening by drinking sodas in Subway and talking strategy. Chuck and Nora seemed genuinely taken aback at the level of emotion still evident in the community, and expressed a desire to include Cass County stops whenever they pass this way. We discussed the possibility of a tour of Michigan colleges next year, and the idea that some of us have been kicking around, of traveling throughout the UP, trying to spark interest and connect with the activists that are already up there. We said our good-byes and parted too soon, since all had miles to go in the morning; and I look forward already to the next time we meet.

Thanks to:

  • The November Coalition for their ongoing work for drug peace, and continuing coverage of Rainbow Farm.
  • Trena and Bill of Hillsdale County NORML for booking the room and always walking that walk.
  • Reverend Steve for being the transportation coordinator for our northern contingent.
  • The best little couch-and-coffee in southwestern Michigan (you know who you are).
  • Everyone who froze their butts off, and all who were there in spirit.
  • All the little peace-sign-waving kids,

and

Tom and Rollie, for bringing us all together.

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