Demonstration Calls for an End to the "Drug War"

Eric R. Smith
Jay Sand (

Chicago, Saturday August 24, 2pm-4:30pm

Even if the whole world was not watching as the Chicago Police Department
escorted roughly 500 "Stop the Drug War" demonstrators through the streets
of the city this afternoon, thousands of bystanders were. Business people
in light summer suits, camera-clicking tourists and especially delegates
to the Democratic National Convention just checking into downtown hotels
in preparation for Monday's convention kickoff, could not help but turn
their heads as the mass of hooting, hollering protesters danced through
the streets chanting "There is no war on drugs, there is a war on us!"

Some of the marchers wore Abbie Hoffman-style American flag shirts, others
tye-dye hippie garb, ripshod punk dress or even "normal" jeans and tee
shirts.  Many carried multi-colored signs and banners reading "Stop the
Drug War" and "Cures Not Wars." All were present to oppose the U.S.
Government's current policy on mind-altering substances and promote
positive policy alternatives.

Much of the protest focused on promoting the study and eventual FDA
approval of Ibogaine, an African Rainforest drug that has been found in
non-clinical trials to effectively "cure" hard drug addiction. 
Cures Not Wars, a New York-based organization that decries the U.S.
government's "War on Drugs" as a "war on drug users,"  organized the
march, along with marijuana legalization activists from the National
Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML). It was the official kickoff
event of the Festival of Life, a week-long "Convention for the People"
featuring music, food and a hefty dose of "radical" politics. 

The march originated in Grant Park, a long, thin strip of public green
separating Chicago's downtown from Lake Michigan, home base of the
Festival of Life.  An entourage of Chicago Police cleared a path as the
marchers meandered down streets past the Chicago Hilton where one major
confrontation occured between police and demonstrators during the 1968
Democratic National Convention.  Police blocked off all access to the
Hilton.  The marchers continued to the Metropolitan Correctional Center
where protesters held a brief solidarity rally with "the prisoners of the
drug war,"  before stopping at the Metcalfe Federal Building for a rally.
Speaking from a multi-colored, decked-out flatbed truck, peace advocate
David Dellinger called those in jail on drug crimes "political prisoners"
and activist Joel "Mr. Joel" Sanders cried, "I advocate the relegalization
of marijuana to get the government off our backs."  The marchers then
headed down Michigan Avenue to the delight of a river of gawking
bystanders.  Some waved, showing support.  Others took literature from
protesters and read it curiously; "I've never even heard of Ibogaine,"
said one tourist from St. Louis as a demonstrator explained the issue to
her.  Others laughed uncomfortably; one joked "Why do they want us to
legalize Rogaine?"  Throughout, the roar of fighter jets from a nearby air
and water show could be heard in the background, occasionally overwhelming
the chants and speeches. David Dellinger joked that the fly-over
drown-outs were intentional. 

According to Jesse Silverman of Cures Not Wars, the purpose of the
organization is to promote policies that will "minimize the people killed
by drug addiction" through "harm reduction" policies rather than
prohibition. Cures Not Wars' primarily focuses on spreading information
about ibogaine to both government officials and grassroots organizers, but
it also supports the legalization of marijuana for medical use and
promotes needle exchange programs. The group calls for separation of
"soft" drugs such as marijuana from "hard" drugs such as heroin and crack
in both the legal sphere and in public parlance.  Ultimately, according to
Silverman, Cures Not Wars supports decriminalization of hard drugs so that
addicts will not fear legal reprisal if they seek treatment.  The group
also supports legalization of marijuana: "Pot is pot," says Silverman,
"drugs are drugs and you should be scared of drugs."

Doug Greene of Cures Not Wars says that the group organized this rally
during the Democratic Convention to protest President Clinton's
continuation of the "War on Drugs" and the threefold increase of drug
arrests during his administration. Essentially, Greene states, the
anti-drug war protest is a call for peace--peace on the streets and peace
in the lives of those who choose to use drugs.  "We are the anti-war
movement," he says. 

For more information contact Cures Not Wars at (312) 486-8085 or (212)
677-7180,, or 
.  For information about the Festival of Life call the Festival of Life
Committe at (312) 296-2442. 

This news alert issued by CounterMedia, a coalition of political organizations, media groups and individuals dedicated to providing alternative coverage of the Democratic National Convention and community struggle in Chicago.
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