by Nora Callahan, Executive Director, the November Coalition
It was Debbie Helm's line, but it was so good back on September 27, 1999 on the capitol steps in Texas that the Austin American-Statesman newspaper quoted her in the article headlined, Protesters Ask For Help From Bush On Drug Cases.
I thought back then, that the line, that sentiment ought to be shared at the White House steps, wherever George W. Bush stepped, as long as he was out in front of us. The hypocrisy of the drug war must end, and with it the injustice. So I shared Debbie Helms line again in front of the White House before the police shut down the megaphone. Now that it's off my chest, we all ought to take Deb's line to heart. The hypocrisy has to end. "The drug war does more harm than good" is an early slogan of the Drug Policy Foundation.
Our group has been sharing each others 'lines' for almost six years, and this year more loved ones and other members began speaking in public forums. To name a few, Cait Callen prepared and delivered a presentation at the Harm Reduction Coalition conference in Seattle in December. Deb Dedmon of Las Vegas prepared and presented at the Conference of Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Marijuana Policy Project in Anaheim, California in mid-November. I'm very proud of them.
John Chase and Jodi James met with new November Coalition volunteers at the December conference in Nashville: Let My People Go. Religious Leaders for a Just and Compassionate Drug Policy hosted this conference, representing a group of religious leaders both clergy and religious academics who believe that the war on drugs' unmerciful and stringent drug laws against users, abusers and sellers have resulted in cruel and unusual punishment.
Rachel Morton, Sharon North and others continued organizing vigils, traveling to Sacramento June 6th in opposition to the federal raids on medical marijuana gardens approved last decade by voters. Volunteer organizers are busy laying plans for the Southern Journey for Justice that begins in January 2003. In Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Southern California volunteers are building an emerging schedule for the spring journey. We are on the move, have a beat, and we are growing.
We journey to inspire each other, meet face to face and strengthen resolve for this struggle. We share our 'lines' with each other, the public and media, reaching thousands of people who would never hear our simple, honest request for justice and a system of earned, early release on the federal level if we were silent.
Representative Dan Burton (R-IN) is beginning to ask interesting questions, Michigan mandatory sentencing has been reformed, New York state has a growing coalition of activists aligning with churches, as does the drug reform movement nationwide. Amnesty International and other leading human rights groups decry the inhumanity of the drug war. With states' budgets in crisis, more and more citizens and leaders are recognizing that prisons and punitive drug policy is a cost of injustice we can't afford -fiscally or morally. We are not alone, nor have we been forgotten.
We are beginning to identify congressional support for early release, and have included another copy of the Petition with this issue. Please make copies and gather signatures of support! You will also find sample letters here. Retype or hand write it and send a copy to your Congressional Representative and your two Senators in January and each month - send another letter. Urge everyone you know to do the same. Send us copies of your replies; this is very important.
These pages should express to our persevering members, a wrap-up of year 2002 and presentation of our first Journey for Justice reports. We look forward to hearing your comments, and meeting many more of you in our upcoming travels.
This holiday season my deepest appreciation is extended to
our members for supporting this collective work. On behalf of
the prisoners of the drug war-thank you to the many concerned
citizens that recognize injustice of the drug war, and join us
in common struggle. May the year 2003 bring us freedom and justice!
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