Drug War Vigil Report

Cleveland, Ohio

By Kelly Ali, Regional & Vigil Leader

I want everyone to know how my vigils are going and some things I have done to implement them where I live in Cleveland, Ohio.

Our vigil started on November 5,1999. We have them scheduled for each Friday from 4:30 PM to 6 p.m. The vigil takes place in front of "Terminal Tower" in downtown Cleveland. It is a shopping mall and also the entrance to our public transportation system where foot traffic abounds. No permit is needed. Terminal Tower is kitty corner to the federal courthouse and up the street from the "Justice Center" which holds the city and county jails, police department headquarters, public defenders' office, and courthouse.

Our first vigil drew four people, but our latest had seven attending. One of the participants joined because of information she received from us the week before. I have two people holding up the banner on which I have attached a drug war poster on each end. They also pass out flyers. I have one person collecting signatures for FAMM in support of the Rep. Maxine Waters bill to reform mandatory drug sentencing. This is very effective because people are waiting for the bus, and we have time to talk to them. The rest of us spread out and distribute information. I try to move among everyone to be available for answering questions. The information I pass out consists of the blue vigil flyers, the cream information flyer, the green drug war tabloids, and an occasional Razor Wire. I also took the Drug War Fact Book written by Kendra Wright and Paul Lewin and copied each page. On the top of the page I wrote DRUG WAR FACTS followed by a page from the book and underneath that I have my contact information. Facts cannot be disputed.

I went to an office supply store with self-copy service to have a poster of a drug war prisoner laminated. The clerk asked some questions, and I gave him a copy of The Razor Wire and the prisoner stories tabloid. A week later I went to make copies of the flyers, and when it came time to pay for them he told me the copies were on him. I thanked him, and he said I could come once a week and a copy at no charge on white paper. Each week they donate 500 copies of the flyers and 1000 copies of Drug War Facts (2 fact sheets per page, which I then cut in half so I have 2 flyers). When I asked him why he would do this for me, he told me he wasn't just doing it for me; he is "doing it for all of his friends that have gotten a raw deal from the system."

I encourage everyone to start leading or attending drug war vigils. This is a great way to educate the public to the injustice. If people don't know, there will never be change.