Back-to-back February protests in Florida

By John Chase, TNC Regional Leader

On Friday, February 23rd, The November Coalition joined with many other reform organizations in Tallahassee for the protest of Jeb Bush's 3rd Annual Drug Summit. Actually it started Thursday afternoon with a press conference Toni Latino had arranged for these organizations. I also spent a few minutes with my representative to urge him to support liberalization.

Jodi James and one other activist were invited inside to attend the Summit. Jodi told me later that Jeb had told the gathering he'd stop every boat coming up the Miami River if that was what it took to stop drugs coming into South Florida.

When I got home I sent Gov Bush part of Assistant U.S. Attorney General Mabel Walker Willebrandt's 1929 book Inside Prohibition. The part I sent him was Chapter 17,"Routing Rum Row", in which she bragged how she'd stopped the flow of liquor into Miami in 1928 and driven the price of liquor up from $35/case to $125/case. This indirectly led to a rash of blindings and deaths from adulterated liquor as bootleggers met demand by mixing in wood alcohol and other solvents. It was the beginning of the end of Prohibition. I then got a reply from Florida's drug czar James McDonough explaining how "Operation Riverwalk" was needed to stop the flow of drugs entering through the Miami River. He did not explain why it will work now when it didn't work back then.

Most of us - and about 100 students from FSU and Florida A&M - marched a mile to arrive in front of the Old Capitol Building at the head of the Appalachee Parkway. It's a beautiful spot for a protest: good visibility, traffic stopping for traffic lights, horn-blowing, waving, a University town with lots of support for drug reform. There's a wide sidewalk at the Capitol - plenty of room for my two card tables each with a kiosk holding 8 posters of prisoners' names/stories/photos. and some pedestrian traffic.

Most of the action was with the traffic at the curb. I had our TNC There is No Justice in The Drug War banner on display and handed out Razor Wires and tabloids for students to hand out to motorists. I left about 4 p.m. to drive south to spend the night with an old high school buddy at Horseshoe Beach. By then I'd given away all my tabloids and Razor Wires and intended to drive home Saturday morning.

Saturday morning I realized I could detour to Tampa and take in the Hempfest scheduled to start at noon. If only I'd kept some literature, at least some tabloids, but it didn't matter. As I pulled into the parking lot in Tampa I ran into Patti Montgomery and Brian coming with FAMM literature. So we joined forces - my TNC posters and their FAMM literature to handout. There was lots of interest there, and I got home before dark, another good weekend, with Sunday to rest these old bones.