Eric R. Smith Jay Sand (email@example.com) 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, firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.cures-not-wars.org . 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.
1573 N. Milwaukee Ave., Box 517
312-670-9673 EMail: email@example.com
The Other Chicago http://www.cpsr.cs.uchicago.edu/other-chicago/
CounterMedia web page http://www.cpsr.cs.uchicago.edu/countermedia/