Taking it to the streets

By Tom Murlowski, Associate Director, November Coalition

February 15, 2000 was a national day of shame for this country. On that day, two million human souls lived in cages in the land of the free. Over four million more were on parole or probation, laboring under the constant threat of imprisonment. Most were in this dire predicament because of the monstrosity we've come to call the war on drugs. A night spent in the wrong company, a foolish mistake, or a desperate attempt at some quick cash and their lives were consumed by an unstoppable criminal justice juggernaut.

On February 15, 2000 men and women of courage and conviction took to the streets to plead for reason in the war on drugs. A new solidarity was formed from many disparate reform-minded groups. Many of us have watched as our family and friends became casualties of the drug war, and soon knew we must channel our rage into positive action. We chose to bring our message of hope directly to the people; so we collected in groups outside of jails, prisons, city halls and courthouses, and showed the faces of the prisoners of the drug war to America.

The public response to our National VIGILizing was exhilarating. We handed out thousands of pieces of literature to concerned citizens. Most people were astonished that the United States has the dubious distinction of 'World's Leading Jailer'. Many more were horrified to learn how our precious liberties have been steadily eroded under the guise of the drug war.

Our efforts were featured on the front page of the Los Angeles Times, and appeared in Newsweek Magazine. National Public Radio featured our events. We were covered by numerous local newspapers, TV and radio stations. Even the BBC Scotland, London radio and The Guardian newspaper from Great Britain reported our vigils. (See article here.)

The drug war and the resulting prison-industrial complex have become firmly entrenched in our society, worth tens of billions of dollars annually in our decadent economy.

All we have on our side is truth and compassion. Our work is far from over, but the walls have started to groan.