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November 2005
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We have to take back our country

In the current Drug War Chronicle, editor David Borden is looking for the soundbites that make it easier to quickly make the case for ending the drug war. You can never express it all in a single soundbite, but there are lots of soundbites that can be effective (based on the situation and the audience — things like “The drug war puts both drug sales and profits in the hands of criminals.” (Another variant of that for a slightly more open audience is “The drug war puts drug sales, drug safety, and drug profits in the hands of criminals.”)
David got his inspiration from the recent Drug Policy Alliance conference. Maybe even a particular session that Drug WarRant visitor Larry attended. Larry wrote me a very nice email:

Last week I went to the 2005 International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Long Beach, California. One of the meetings was “Making the case for legalization” intended to address how to quickly make the case for ending prohibition if you had one minute in an elevator or five minutes on a radio show, etc.

I was a little disappointed with the session because it didn’t specifically address that issue as directly as I hoped. (Jacob Sullum, though, had some interesting thoughts about the benefits of drug use and the importance of making the case that way.)

In reviewing your website again today, I found the wonderful FAQ page with “I am (x), why should I support drug policy reform?” I think the time would have been more effectively spent if the participants had just printed out that page and read it out loud.

Thanks, Larry. There are very effective arguments in those pages. Glad to see they’ve found an audience.
Today, however, I feel like using a different kind of soundbite. Maybe one with expletives. Some would call it alarmist or even hyperbole, but I’d say:

We need to end the drug war because it is destroying our country and our freedom.

I know I have a lot of readers from other countries. I hope they’ll bear with me for this moment. I am a patriot. I believe in my country, its constitution, and the principles of freedom which are supposed to be paramount. I will not (and may not) stand by idly when those principles are being trashed by elements of our government:
“bullet” Today’s item #1: From The Agitator (of course) comes an update on the Troy Davis case. Troy is one of those on my Drug War Victims page. He was killed in 1999, but the lawsuit is just getting started, and the information that is emerging is horrific.
First, go back to the event itself. As Radley notes:

The first judge denied Sargeant Andy Wallace a middle-of-the-night seach warrant, ruling that an anonymous informant with no track record wasn’t enough to justify a paramilitary early morning raid. No big deal. Sargeant Andy Wallace merely moved on to a more compliant judge, and got his warrant.

The SWAT team surrounded the home, then clumsily attempted to break down the back door with a battering ram. Didn’t work. But it did wake Troy Davis. A second team of cops decided to come through the front door. By then, Troy Davis had come out with a gun to defend his home (at least according to cops at the scene — Davis’ family isn’t so sure). The SWAT team put a bullet in his chest, and another in his stomach. He was pronounced dead at the scene. According to all parties at the scene, his last words were, “I didn’t know. I didn’t know.” Cops found some GHB, three marijuana plants, and some marijuana stored in plastic bags.

A year earlier:

…two of the team’s members told superiors they were concerned that lax standards for the unit could leave it vulnerable to lawsuits.

And now:

North Richland Hills’ top officials at the time have testified in pretrial depositions that they don’t know how police procedures were updated and monitored. And their responses indicate that procedures were never examined after the 1999 drug raid led to the shooting death of Troy Davis.

Read all of Radley’s piece. It’s shocking and does not fit the America in which I believe.
“bullet” Today’s item #2: From TChris at TalkLeft is this report in the Baltimore Sun.

… Baltimore police are aggressively stopping and frisking people, a tactic employed with little oversight from senior commanders and virtually no tracking of its effectiveness, a Sun review has found.

Department officials credit the strategy with helping to reduce homicides and violent crime in areas where people often ask for more police. But residents being targeted say they are unjustly harassed and detained. Defense lawyers and legal experts say they worry that the approach runs afoul of constitutional protections against illegal search and seizures. […]

“We get calls all the time from [officers] saying ‘I just can’t keep this pace up. … People are tired of me pulling up and harassing them,'” said Roussey, the police union president. “It’s all about numbers, and it doesn’t matter how you get them.” […]

Natalie Finegar, the chief attorney at Central Booking for the Office of the Public Defender, said her clients have been reporting an increasing trend of being harassed by police.

“We’re hearing a consistent story from our clients, of what their experience was like,” Finegar said. “They will tell you that ‘that officer searches me every week,’ that they’re out there doing it on a regular basis. It is an everyday occurrence to them, and people are not shocked by it.” [emphasis added]

America?

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