“C’mon guys. We know our rights. We want to exercise those rights. That’s why we are here.”
That was Adam Eidinger, law enforcement’s thorn-in-the-side activist who has worked to legalize marijuana for 15 years in D.C., pleading with the D.C. metro cops and U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Park police to bring a 50 foot inflatable joint into one of the most secure spaces in the world. “Let us in. There is nothing to fear,” he announced standing alongside his portable mic/speaker cart.
Eidinger was at the edge of the White House plaza, a square block area in front of the White House where tourists congregate, leading a dozen or so supporters protesting the inaction on the part of President Obama to reschedule cannabis. The police knew him – he had been arrested many times exercising his right to free assembly in the city. The mayor and the city council knew him – he was the guy behind the initiative that got marijuana legalized in the district. He was arrogant, but polite. Smart-ass, but well-spoken. He stirred things up, made change happen.
Now he wanted more. He wanted Obama to do more on marijuana legalization like he promised to do. At least reschedule it. So Eidinger figured it was time for citizen action.
But now, just as the protest began as scheduled at 2 p.m. on this overcast Saturday, Eidinger and his followers were in a standoff against a veritable human barrier of dozens of law enforcement. Eidinger and his wagon were allowed in. But not the inflatable joint with the message “Obama Reschedule Cannabis Now!” printed on its side.
For a minute, or maybe a few minutes, it looked like this determined group facing a bunch of grim-faced White House law enforcement was doomed to fail. You could almost sense that there would be tear gas in the air, scuffling and yelling and an ugly demonstration of citizens being denied their rights.
But none of that happened. Supporters conceded, deflated the joint and rolled it in to where Eidinger was positioned right in front of the White House. A growing crowd of 300 then settled in listening to speeches that dug deeper into why descheduling was due.
A young father told how his epileptic child was saved by cannabis. An 11-year Marine Corps. vet told how cannabis got him off 40 meds he was taking for his PTSD.
A Republican who worked in the Reagan administration said smoking pot was a right. “To lock people up doing something organic is fucking stupid,” she said.
A Maryland Libertarian candidate for senate asked people to sign a contract he brought with him stating that, if elected, he would write a bill that would legalize all drugs, end the war on drugs, defund the DEA and more. “If I don’t sponsor or co-sponsor that legislation in my first year in office, each of you who signs this contract will get $100 from me.”
Two hours later, when the speeches ended, Eidinger announced the countdown to the act of civil disobedience at 4:20 p.m. He cautioned that there may be arrests. He gave out a phone number to call to get bailed out.
Then, about 50 people of the assembled crowd lit up joints and passed them around. Every smoker blew smoke toward the White House.
The sun came out as if on cue and suddenly, this protest, and this featured moment of civil disobedience, became an achievement of destiny. “President Obama, you can’t ignore us anymore,” Eidinger said before he lit up.
Secret Service stood back and watched. DC police, ten of them in single file, walked directly into the smoking crowd and kept on walking. No hassles. Two arrests reported, each fined $25 and released.
Twenty minutes later and it was all over.
This protest will be remembered in American cannabis history as an example of what democracy looks like. It was well-orchestrated street theater in the work of social revolution. And… it felt right. “Message sent. Feels very good,” Eidinger said as he led supporters away.
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