VIGILS, VIGILS, VIGILS
Gainesville vigil a good day
By John Chase, TNC regional leader
It started at noon
on a cold overcast windy day and ended just after dark. My purpose
to was to obtain as many signatures for the Jubilee Justice petition
as I could. I got about 250, which I will copy and mail the originals
There was a wide range of signers - from a young criminal defense
attorney who had just moved back to Gainesville, to a middle-aged
woman who motioned to the posters of the prisoners, saying "My
husband never made it that far; he committed suicide on August
17th". One persistent visitor to my display was a young
journalism student who was given a 'spot story' assignment on
Friday PM, due Monday AM, and was reporting the hempfest. She
told me she'd email me a copy of what she turns in.
Lots of people stopped to talk, but most just stood to read the
stories on the posters. I had built a octagonal frame of PVC
pipe which sat on a card table and held sixteen 11" x 17"
posters. It was centrally located with room around the table
to walk around and read the stories. Some pointed and talked
to their friends about particular ones. After a few minutes they
would pick up a pen and sign.
Most important is that without the persistence of Kevin Aplin
and Scott Bledsoe, this hempfest would not have occurred. The
Gainesville City Commission had first denied the permit, then
lost on appeal, probably spending $200,000 of Gainesville taxpayers'
money in the process. We had the usual number of undercover agents
mixing with the crowd and many, mostly tight-lipped Gainesville
police on its outskirts. Nothing happened.
Seemed like many of the signers hardly had two quarters to rub
together. There were quite a few students and some middle-class,
middle-aged people. Not as many Afro-Americans at the hempfest
as I'd have liked, but there were some.
My son and two of his friends, all from Gainesville, helped me
for a while. After they left, the posters just stood and sold
themselves. I hardly had to do anything except keep the paper
and pens organized. In a way it was amazing, but in another way,
these people - the ones who signed - understood as well as any
of us that the American Drug War has done nothing to reduce drug
abuse and everything to abuse citizens.
I wrapped up about an hour after dark, took a nap at my son's
place and left for home at midnight, flying alone along the empty
highways of a part of old Florida most tourists never see. Sunday
was a good day.
Kelly in Cleveland
My name is Kelly
Ali. In July of 1998 my world fell apart. My husband was arrested
two days before our daughter's 3rd birthday. When his bond was
denied and I was told that he was possibly facing life in prison,
I searched desperately for some help. That is when I came across
The November Coalition on the Internet. I thought that my husband's
case was rare. The only "evidence" was the testimony
of a convicted felon. I went to "The Wall", only to
read that there were hundreds of people that were telling the
same exact story that I was living at the time. I was determined
not to let my husband become another victim of the system.
I took on a night job so that I could be in trial with him during
the day. Every spare second I was researching cases. I was going
to save him. For a month I slept maybe 2-3 hours a night. The
jury read the verdict not guilty, guilty, not guilty, guilty.
I had failed! I worked so hard and I had failed. I went back
to the website, I called Nora (director of The November Coalition),
I cried. They had beat me, and I had nothing left to fight with.
I was tired.
Nora told me what she had experienced, what she was trying to
do and how she
was trying to do it. Before long I began to feel like I could
fight again. Working with a group of people gave me hope. Alone
maybe I couldn't bring my husband home, but as a group perhaps
we could change laws so that we could once again be a family.
There is strength in numbers, and I began to feel strong again.
I changed how I fought, but not what I was fighting for, and
that was for justice.
Since my involvement with TNC, I have held vigils in an effort
to raise awareness of the drug laws, I've set up display booths
featuring prisoner laminates at community events to put a face
to the victims of the drug war. Most recently I put together
a 2001 calendar that is being distributed to Congress, a constant
reminder that the drug war is a failure and that there are many
people serving time that does not fit the crime.
I know that if people work together for a common cause, then
changes can and will be made. On December 22,2000 President Clinton
released 2 women serving mandatory federal time for drug offences.
I knew then that things were changing and that all of the time,
effort and tears have been worth it.
I wish everyone peace and freedom in 2001. Happy New Year. -
Puget Sound vigil
Although it had rained for the prior two days, we were blessed
with no rain and an abundance of sunshine. Around 20 people showed
up, and two gentlemen, after seeing what we were doing, joined
us. Because of the upcoming anniversary of the WTO fiasco, there
were police everywhere, but they couldn't have been nicer to
us. Two of them stood nearby for awhile and read the literature
we were handing out and talked about the drug war. Off the record
they both agreed with our position.
We were situated in a 'high traffic' area and were consequently
able to talk to dozens of people. Unfortunately, few seemed to
realize the toll the drug war is taking, but that's why we do
what we do, isn't it?
This was my first vigil as coordinator, and I think it went off
rather well. I saw some areas that we could improve on, but I'm
very proud of having this awesome responsibility and fully intend
on keeping this position as long as they'll have me.
Kevin Black, Vigil Coordinator, The Hemp Coalition Officer, NORML
of South Puget Sound
Richmond, Virginia Vigil
The Saturday, December 30th 2000 Vigil to end the drug war
in Richmond came off just fine.
There were nine of us in front of the Richmond City Jail for
one hour last night in bone chilling conditions. We unsuccessfully
tried to get a small flame to stay alive. Holding a banner (that
says there is no justice in the war on drugs) and keeping literature
from blowing around was challenging in the surprisingly stiff
We passed literature out to people driving by and some folks
Eight of us had been at previous vigils and there was one new
This Vigil has been held on the last Saturday of each month since
Virginians Against Drug Violence