Nora Callahan and Al Lewis denounce drug war on WBAI radio
November Coalition regional leader John Chase of Florida recorded the following live radio conversation between Nora Callahan and 91-year-old Al Lewis (known by many as Grampa Munster in the 1960s television series). The show was live from a Manhattan theater on Saturday, April 27th. After some fiery opening remarks on current affairs, Lewis turned attention to the drug war and November Coalition's mission. Capitalized words show emphasis by the speaker.
Al Lewis: Nora what can we DO?
Nora: Well, the drug war's pretty old now. In the middle '80s the federal government did away with a judge's discretion, which gave all power to prosecutors, and which laid a lot of groundwork for what we see today. It's being asked of Americans to watch your neighbor. WATCH YOUR NEIGHBOR!!
Al Lewis: Heh,heh,heh.
Nora: The drug war has eroded all of our civil rights steadily for over thirty years- consistently. We now have in many communities, communities particularly hard hit by drug war prosecutions, a system and culture of betrayal. Sometimes in cities when I'm speaking, a young person will yell out from the audience, "Tell on three, go free!"
What happens? What November Coalition wants our members and other fellow Americans who are standing with us to oppose this so-called war on drugs - it's really just a war on people - to do is to expose the fact that one of the most important things to our society - one of the most important "weaves" is TRUST, and reliance on each other. And in community after community, particularly the poorest, and we know who those are-the black and brown people - - they're tearing it apart because the only way to save your HIDE if you're caught, or a friend is caught, is to rat on a FRIEND, tell on a FRIEND, roll over on . . your . . MOTHER.
And this has to stop, because of what is happening to what once made us great. When I was a child I got WHIPPED for tattling. Now it is the only way to save you from a 40- year-to-life sentence and people . . . will . . . say . . . ANYTHING, because the federal government gets a conviction 97% of the time.
People are going to prison who are INNOCENT because their lawyer set them down and said, "Hey listen, darlin' you go to trial, your gonna do 30 years. You need to just say you did it and do 10."
People call us all the time and we have to tell them, "I'm sorry we have no legal staff, we can't give you legal advice." And they say, "What am I going to do? They're saying that if we don't sign over our property and not fight this forfeiture, they're going to take our home, everything we've worked for." And I tell them, "Well, do you have foster homes to care for your children? What's more important, your home or your children?" And they pack up a few belongings and hit the road. We want our members to start talking about this terrible system of betrayal.
You know, I heard all this when I was a kid and this kind of technique, tell on your neighbor, rolling on a friend, spying on everyone you know . . . callin' the "AUTHORITIES" when there's "SUSPICIOUS activity." That was all tied with another nebulous term called "communism." It's OUR system now . . our system now . . . and we've got to take a hard look at that. And we have folks like Ashcroft and our own President who says you're either for us or against us. This country's greatness is its people, its people working and struggling together, and NOW those who dissent are called unpatriotic. Naw, no no no no. The patriots in this country from day one have been those who dissent, and if you don't, and you're not watching the government, and if you're all saluting and saying "yes sir, no sir", we KNOW where that leads. All of that has been tried before; the Third Reich most particularly comes to mind.
[At this point a member of the audience began yelling and advanced to the stage. After that quieted down, someone else in the audience asked how to get copies of Razor Wire for the audience and for radio listeners. Nora told him that her husband was in the audience with extra copies for anyone who wanted one. Then she told how to contact TNC by phone and website. She then seized the opportunity to finish her talk. . . as follows:]
Nora: Our new project is asking for significant and dramatic increase in federal good time eligibility, something that was taken away. Prisoners in the federal system and New York state need a way through exemplary behavior and rehabilitation to be able to one day come home. The day ANY prisoner walks into prison they need to start working on the day they get to return to their families.
So we have a petition. We're asking for that, and we hope to have a bill in Congress real soon; so if you'll help us support that effort, we'd appreciate it greatly.
Available as RealAudio at www.wbai.org
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