PHILADELPHIA, PA — What began as a peaceful protest against marijuana prohibition in Philadelphia Saturday ended with the violent arrest of several prominent activists, including event organizers, as the crowd chanted “No victim, no crime” in support.
Among those arrested were prominent marijuana activists Adam Kokesh, Don Dezarn, and organizer N.A Poe.
The event, Smoke Down Prohibition V, has been a monthly gathering at Independence Hall sponsored by the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (Philly NORML) and the Panic Hour. The events, which had previously gone without incident, feature music, speakers, giveaways and trivia, are intended to be a peaceful demonstration taking a stand “in opposition a failed, racist drug war” while “ushering in a future without marijuana prohibition.”
The events have always ended with a civil disobedience protest in which most of those in attendance light up at 4:20 pm.
Unlike the previous four “Smoke Down Prohibition” events, as the crowd lit up, the United States Park Rangers and Philadelphia Police cracked down, focusing on organizers and speakers who had just called from the stage for attendees to lock arms and form a circle of solidarity around the stage.
At least six people, possibly as many as ten, were arrested in the minutes that followed. A video of the event shows police officers shoving through the crowd and violently restraining activists.
Among those arrested were N.A Poe, who is one of the primary organizers of the event, Adam Kokesh, who has been a regular speaker at the Smoke Down Prohibition events and was speaking at the time of his arrest, and Don Dezarn, who is currently the Libertarian Party of New Jersey’s candidate for the New Jersey State Senate in the 14th Legislative District.
Both Poe and Kokesh are currently being held at the United States Federal Detention facility in Philadelphia. Dezarn was issued a citation by Park Rangers and released.
Others arrested were issued citations or detained and released by the United States Park Rangers, who have primary jurisdiction at the Independence National Historical Park.
Witnesses say that unlike previous Smoke Down Prohibition events, there was a large police presence — some say there were as many as 50 police cars parked nearby. In addition, the “Free Speech Area” where the monthly demonstrations occur was surrounded by police barricades, with the exception of a few entry/exit points. Along the barricades were signs posted stating that “the possession and/or use of controlled substances is prohibited.”
UPDATE 5/20/13 2:14 P.M. EDT: Poe and Kokesh were both charged with a federal felony “assaulting,resisting, and impeding an officer in course of duty.” Both have been held for detention hearings Thursday at 1:30 P.M.