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The War on Drugs and the streets of our cities

The world is talking about Baltimore right now — another battleground between police and citizens who have lost respect for each other in large part due to the war on drugs.

Freddie Gray a victim of America’s longest war

Overall, the record on Freddie Gray reveals a young man who had frequent encounters with police as they carried out local operations in America’s longest war: the war on drugs.[…]

So, generally speaking, Gray was a low-level, nonviolent offender.

Some people will say his record is irrelevant to the central issues — how he died while in the custody of Baltimore police, and why the police pursued him on April 12 to begin with — and I agree.

But I mention his record because his encounters with the law stemmed from the enforcement of our drug laws.

Such encounters occur constantly throughout the country.[…]

Still, even with that change, we have the war on drugs. It goes on, day after day, constantly creating needless encounters between police and people like Freddie Gray.

A tweet from Sanho Tree last night…

I’m just trying to imagine what police/community relations might be like today if there’d never been a war on drugs.

police

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49 comments to The War on Drugs and the streets of our cities

  • Daniel Williams

    Saw Neill Franklin on CNN last night, talking about the riots. Didn’t watch it all, but it didn’t seem like he would be menrioning the elephant in the room: drug prohibition.

  • Servetus

    The Baltimore riots remind me of Victor Serge’s description of the September, 1924, rebellion against the Russian Reds occurring in Soviet Georgia:

    “I learned of the background of the tragedy, a people in ferment, their national pride outraged, provocation by the Cheka to unmask rebellious tendencies and then liquidate them. The imprisoned members…receiving information of the preparation for a revolt, beg to be released for a few days so they can avert irreparable disaster, even offering to take poison before they set out; they are kept inside, powerless, and later shot….” — Memoirs of a Revolutionary (2012) Translator: Peter Sedgwick with George Paizis; New York: New York Review of Books Classics), p. 208.

    Few policies unmask rebellious tendencies as efficiently as the provocations offered by criminalizing recreational drugs. Liquidations of non-conformists, rebels, and revolutionaries—not health—is a motive in drug prohibitions, as is the justification of an authoritarian police state predesigned to intensify a state-manufactured moral panic. Political oppression, in the form of armed invasions of citizens’ private lives, is thus guaranteed.

  • DonDig

    I wonder what the threshold is for folks to dig deep enough to realize where most all of this came from, and what it will take for people to look below the surface and put two and two together.

    Policing (and criminals) became lethally adversarial through prohibition and the drug war. Now the police seem to take that approach in all matters, including someone walking away (in a non-threatening way) from a traffic citation recently.

    Why won’t the dissatisfaction abate here? Until people realize the drug war connection, and while the underpinnings of the problem remain unchanged, I imagine we’re in for a continuing wild ride.

    Sad really.

    P.S. Beautifully said above by Servetus BTW.
    I read somewhere recently that the police in the UK have not killed anyone in the last six months or so, (maybe much longer), and they have not fired a bullet in that time either. Wish that was us.

    • DonDig

      I guess it’s our american exceptionalism that makes us so stupid in this regard.

      • primus

        The stupidest, laziest citizens of Europe and Africa came together to create the US. When they declared their intention to have a country of their own with the right to bear arms, many of the smartest ones, called the United Empire Loyalists, moved to Canada, leaving behind the distilled stupidity of two continents. Proof? The Germans put the US into space, the Canadians and Brits put the US on the moon. All the US did was pay for it.

        • thelbert

          i’ve always wondered why i was so stupid and lazy, but you have solved the mystery for me, thanks primus.

        • Fuck the What?

          P-dude. That moon landing was FAKE. You guys got ripped off. That’s a source of national pride for you guys? Ouch.

        • DdC

          One problem I have with the fake moon landing isn’t that there aren’t some seemingly plausible questions brushed aside. It’s the idea that the USSR would ever let it go down. They had to have been tracking every inch of the launch and landing. During the height of the cold war I can’t fathom they would concede if it was fake. They would have much more to gain exposing the scam. The scam came when Rayguns acted as if he wanted an end to it. Too much money. Russian hippies and Bonnie Raite and Jackson Browne marching on Red Square during Gorby was the beginning of the end. Rock and Roll ended the cold war.

          The Kennedy Klan had so many enemies, it seemed more like when rather than if. The two reality based scams still lingering outside of most circles are the Watergate and Al Capone red herrings. A two bit hotel break in gaining nothing much but headlines and hype to keep the multi trillion dollar Controlled Substance Act hidden and fast tracked through congress. While lumping in Hemp and Medicinal not included in the recently over turned Marihuana Tax Act. Ruled unconstitutional, so changing the name doesn’t seem legit. Rejecting the Shafer Commission doesn’t seem appropriate for such harm it has caused.

          Yet no one on either side seems to find it curious. As sir hilary said, too much money in prohibition to end it. A multi trillion dollar product even the conspiratists avoid. Gossip and grants to find more gossip to keep my blue jeans a schedule#1 narcotic. Keeps kids having 300 seizures over a few because of the message it might send to healthy kids. Prison profits diverting tax dollars from hungry kids that aren’t getting the message when their parents are locked up and their home is forfeited. Or siblings shot as plea bargain snitches. Babies taken from parents for saving the babies life.

          More side effects on over the counter pills, let alone the recalled FDA approved drugs with horrible debilitating side effects. Yet Ganja potentially could maybe in the future possibly lead to something. None of the medical schools have an Endocannabinoid Science Department and cops have limited IQ’s and taught it absolutely has no medicinal value. Yet both are summoned as exerpts to write policy. When faced with reality of witnesses seeing sick kids feel better. They call for more research. Research they banned in 1974 after discovering it shrank brain tumors and this is all public record and no one gives a flying fuck.

          They compromise on sanity just to get a bill passed. They appease and please and beg liars elected to govern the means to perpetuate the prohibition. Stigma propaganda and censorship has its way of covering up common sense and silencing questions. Best to barter for incremental balderdash than remove what has no earthly business being included as a controlled substance. btw UFO’s exist and all originated on earth.

          We waste resources exploring outer space. Searching for more crude oil to tanker back to fuel and foul our lungs. Science is determined by funding. Corporate funding doesn’t discover cures or preventions when only treatment profits. Science should be exploring the vast space of what is in-between the atoms. The microspace of quarks or cannabinoid transmitters and receptors preventing or curing diseases. Using more of the brain to what only imagination can foresee. Just not profits for fat pharma. Last cure was Polio and it pissed off the Cattlemen and USSteel manufactures of leg braces. Raygun Bush era they shelved solar panels until the patent ran out. They patent synthetic cannabinoids and sprays while life sentences are doled out in Missouri and the South wants death sentences. Okies and New Jersey share reefer madhatters.

          Government subsidizes or spends tax dollars researching more gossip to perpetuate their positions as prohibitionists. Or if push comes to shove lower it to a schedule 2 keeping the monopoly with fat pharma and supplied by ElSohly’s Mississippi Schwag Farm. Leaving Hemp and Homegrown prohibited. As for the other even less discussed. The reality of the 18th amendment prohibiting manufacture and distribution of booze, but not drinking. The Calvina Sabets Woman’s Christian Leagues were financed by Rockefeller crude oil. Hearst headlines against the demon rum and fast tracking prohibition all reversed itself after Rocky’s gasoline and diesel stations were in place a decade later.

          Prohibition outlawed the farmer from the age old distilling their own heat and tractor fuel. Fords Model T ran on ethanol or crude oil. All shelved after prohibition. as was his fiber body car after the 37 MTA. The headlines and history has everyone knowing of the Untouchables and Elliott Ness and the Mafia, especially Al Capon. Then again when the electric trollies were bought up and maintenance budgets slashed for “efficiency”. Causing more down time and missed schedules. Leaving the crude oil buses to take over and smog up the place. Again with Enron buying up CA power plants, slashing maintenance budgets. More down time, brown outs then grey outs arno’s in.

          Cannabis prohibition is a trillion dollar flim flam. But it creates profits. Just like sick people, drunks crashing into others and war. Profits have replaced necessity as the mother of invention. Some inventions are shelved if they take profits treating something. The incentive for private maxcap prisons is more prisoners to justify the tax dollars spent, not on empty cells. Meaning a minimum wage worker is worth more behind bars than free. Dumbed down kids grow into ignorant adults and the beat goes on. Meaning they vote for self protection from hobgoblins without much thought as to the real time consequences. Polluting the river takes a lower priority than a job polluting the river. In spite of the sickness to the workers family living downstream of the job. We are feeding the beast that is devouring us. Ganja and Hemp grown locally can supply necessities and jobs for communities, bypassing Wall St MalWarts and the Military Prison Industrial complex. If Obama removes it as a scheduled substance and science is made the base for any regulation of products. Or not.

          Al Capone and Watergate
          http://endingcannabisprohibition.yuku.com/sreply/422

  • Mallam

    I’m just trying to imagine what police/community relations might be like today if there’d never been a war on drugs.

    More or less the same, I’d imagine. The point is white supremacy, and white plunder. The War on Drugs is a method/means to that end.

    The other issue is that society — and white America in particular — has decided that this is how policing should be done. And in general, as the lack of accountability for killer cops shows, even with video evidence, they’re perfectly ok with that.

    If not the drugs, it’d be the speeding tickets, the fines, etc. As billmon noted on twitter last night:

    Problem with focusing solely on police violence (like: Conor Friedersdorf) is it glides over the economic violence that conditions it. Libertarian (I controlled myself & left off the g) focus on cops is understandable, and it is what #BlackLivesMatter is proximately about but the cops did not destroy the black industrial working class, or finance the slumlords, or redline poor neighborhoods. Police brutality isn’t the only reason that #BlackLivesMatter. And not being unlawfully killed is a pretty minimal standard for “mattering.” The near-complete economic abandonment of urban America since the U.S. unconditionally surrendered in “the War on Poverty”. The labeling of every social program as “welfare” (and the racialization of that word) — the criminal justice system didn’t do these things. The cops, courts and prisons were given the job of controlling & containing what the other elements of the system refused to deal with. Ending the “war” on drugs, reining in the Prison Industrial Complex, reforming the cops — these are all worth doing. But for glibertarians (oops), they’re an ideologically safe substitute for a real urban policy. And so the policy “debate” becomes limited to: “Black men: Should we let the cops kill them or not?” Which is fucking sick. Or: “Should America have an incarcaration rate that’s 10 times higher than the rest of developed world? Or just 5 times higher.” Again, sick. If we’re going 2 insist the criminal justice system stop treating the poor like they’re inmates who happen to be temporarily out of prison we have to make neighborhoods like West Baltimore less like open-air prisons to begin with. Because expecting to be able to reform the criminal justice system while leaving places like W. Baltimore the way they are now is a fantasy.

    • Hope

      “Because expecting to be able to reform the criminal justice system while leaving places like W. Baltimore the way they are now is a fantasy.”

      Mallam, would you elaborate?

    • O.B.Server

      re: “Black men: Should we let the cops kill them or not?”

      I must have missed that one.

      Where do libertarians say that?

      • Windy

        We do NOT say that. We live by the non-aggression principle, we do NOT support aggression against anyone except in self-defense and we abhor the aggression government engages in against us (the populace that pays their salary) and the rest of the world. And it really pisses me off when some socialist/progressive calls us glibertarians and speaks about us in ways that are not even close to truthful. I hate it just as much when social conservatives put us down for being libertines. They are BOTH wrong and most of those saying those things KNOW they are telling lies.

  • DdC

    Corruption is never stopped by blue lines of silence…
    The corruption is sanctioned in the drug war.
    http://endingcannabisprohibition.yuku.com/sreply/983

  • strayan

    What specifically was the crime here? What particular threat did Freddie Gray pose? Why is mere eye contact and then running worthy of detention at the hands of the state? Why is Freddie Gray dead?

    The people now calling for nonviolence are not prepared to answer these questions. Many of them are charged with enforcing the very policies that led to Gray’s death, and yet they can offer no rational justification for Gray’s death and so they appeal for calm. But there was no official appeal for calm when Gray was being arrested. There was no appeal for calm when Jerriel Lyles was assaulted. (“The blow was so heavy. My eyes swelled up. Blood was dripping down my nose and out my eye.”) There was no claim for nonviolence on behalf of Venus Green. (“Bitch, you ain’t no better than any of the other old black bitches I have locked up.”) There was no plea for peace on behalf of Starr Brown. (“They slammed me down on my face,” Brown added, her voice cracking. “The skin was gone on my face.”)

    When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is “correct” or “wise,” any more than a forest fire can be “correct” or “wise.” Wisdom isn’t the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the community.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/04/nonviolence-as-compliance/391640/

  • Mike

    Yes have noticed that when Neil Franklin Executive Director of LEAP is on he never has
    the LEAP logo attached to his name.

    I see Pete has LEAP blog on the right side of page.

    Found this on that site.

    http://copssaylegalize.blogspot.com/2015/04/press-release-livestream-of-major-neill.html

  • Will

    Hillary Clinton To Call For ‘End To The Era Of Mass Incarceration’ In Major Speech

    http://tinyurl.com/lckl2u4

    First, end mass arrest. And we all know what that means…

    No, Hillary, you don’t get credit for trying to sound topical.

  • claygooding

    The hypocrisy is in plain sight when you look at us today,,14 years later and not one major opium bust,,not one major trafficker,,not one bank charged with laundering the trillions of dollars in raw opium and law enforcement is killing Americans for a gram of marijuana or the possibility that they may have a gram.

    That is not a war on drugs,,it is a war on the poor.

  • NorCalNative

    The war on SNARK?

    Folks, giving a thumbs down to fake moon landing is pretty funny stuff.

    I also killed JFK and want ya’ll to join the Flat Earth Society.

    • “The stupidest, laziest citizens of Europe and Africa came together to create the US”

      is what prompted my thumbs down – and I hardly ever thumbdown couchmates

      • NorCalNative

        allan, I was referring to the down-thumbs to my comment titled “Fuck The What.”

        Thanks to you I’ve got this damn song stuck in my head I just can’t get rid of. Every time I’m in the “Garden” I hear the song “Sarah.” Don’t you just hate that when you can’t shake a tune from you’re noggin?

      • primus

        While it may be uncomfortable to contemplate, fact remains that most of the Europeans who first colonized the US were pushed to move there by the leaders of the European countries, mainly because they were troublemakers, non productive etc. The slaves they bought from the Arab slave traders were mostly sold to the slavers by the chiefs of the tribe, often because they were troublemakers, non productive etc. IOW the ‘source material’ was the worst available. Proof of Yankee stupidity? It’s all around you. The drug war we all despise is one such. As Forest says, ‘Stupid is as stupid does’. Until another hypothesis is found which adequately explains this obvious fact, I will stick to mine.

        • Asian

          Sure, because the US is the only country in the world with a drug war. The rest of the world sits around toking up around campfires all day singing kum bah jah. Don’t listen to rumours of pot being sold legally in some US states while people are getting executed in places like Indonesia for drug crimes. It’s rumours spread by the Bilderberg space lizards, the same people who faked the moon landing!

        • claygooding

          Half the people that wrote the Declaration of Independence were smugglers,anarchists,traitors and terrorists,,until they won.

        • Matthew Meyer

          “Troublemaker” is a pejorative allonym, not an objective label.

        • Duncan20903

          .
          .

          clay, half? The British would have hung every single one of those 56 old white men had they been apprehended. They knew it too.

          We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.

          Benjamin Franklin at the signing of the Declaration of Independence

          (Did Mr. Franklin do anything other than make up pithy sayings that people like to repeat?)

          It’s very nice to live in a Country founded by people who refused to comply with unjust laws when faced with people who think that people are sent to jail simply for breaking the law.
          http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/30/opinions/riggs-marijuana-amnesty/

        • primus

          Asian: The US is TOTALLY responsible for the UN single conventions, for arm-twisting the rest of the world to sign on or risk losing uncle Sammy’s money. As such, the drug war is their baby. If not for their pressure, the drug war would never have begun. Each region of the world would be handling things the way they want, the way that works for them. No way that wouldn’t be better than what we have.

  • Servetus

    Blaming victims such as drug addicts for their addiction is a standard practice in many societies, one that can lead to the imprisonment or forced detention of the addict in a rehab clinic run by neo-Nazis or religious crackpots. However, victim blaming isn’t just the bane of the drug addicted, or women who have been raped. Dr. Kent Harbor, a Rutgers University-Newark psychology professor, explains:

    “Victim-blaming is pervasive,” says Harber. “It is experienced by sufferers of deadly illnesses, crippling accidents, natural disasters, physical assault, economic hardship; indeed, nearly all bad events. For victims, this blaming is profoundly hurtful and it can wound as deeply as the injury itself.”

    Previous research has explained why observers blame victims, notes Harber. “It helps blamers retain faith in a just, fair, and controllable world where bad things mainly happen to bad (or inept, or unwise) people.”

    Dr. Harbor has a solution. He notes that people “blame victims much less if they express, in writing, the disturbing thoughts and feelings that victims’ ordeals arouse in them. However, witnesses who suppress these feelings, and who keep their distress locked inside, do blame victims.

    The next step will be to get teetotaling prohibitionists such as Kevin Sabet to list on paper all those icky feelings he has about drug addicts and drug consumers, the people whom he says he cares about so much, yet he’s willing to see society throw them into a cage, or summarily execute them on the streets of Baltimore.

  • David Simon:
    Freddie Gray, the drug war, and the decline of “real policing.”
    http://tinyurl.com/krs2rfn

    … “I’ve just described for you the culture of the Baltimore police department amid the deluge of the drug war, where actual investigation goes unrewarded and where rounding up bodies for street dealing, drug possession, loitering such – the easiest and most self-evident arrests a cop can make – is nonetheless the path to enlightenment and promotion and some additional pay. That’s what the drug war built” …

    … “if a Baltimore State’s Attorney told all his assistant state’s attorneys today, from this moment on, we are not signing overtime slips for court pay for possession, for simple loitering in a drug-free zone, for loitering, for failure to obey, we’re not signing slips for that: Nobody gets paid for that bullshit, go out and do real police work. If that were to happen, then all at once, the standards for what constitutes a worthy arrest in Baltimore would significantly improve. Take away the actual incentive to do bad or useless police work, which is what the drug war has become.”

    … “We end the drug war. I know I sound like a broken record, but we end the fucking drug war. The drug war gives everybody permission to do anything.”

    • came by to post that very thing, thanks TC

    • Sub

      “So you fail to reward the cop who actually does police work. But worse, it’s time to make new sergeants or lieutenants, and so you look at the computer and say: Who’s doing the most work? And they say, man, this guy had 80 arrests last month, and this other guy’s only got one. Who do you think gets made sergeant? And then who trains the next generation of cops in how not to do police work? I’ve just described for you the culture of the Baltimore police department amid the deluge of the drug war, where actual investigation goes unrewarded and where rounding up bodies for street dealing, drug possession, loitering such – the easiest and most self-evident arrests a cop can make – is nonetheless the path to enlightenment and promotion and some additional pay. That’s what the drug war built, and that’s what Martin O’Malley affirmed when he sent so much of inner city Baltimore into the police wagons on a regular basis.”

    • claygooding

      The violence will start ending as soon as the grants from the war on drugs ends,,moving those grants to violent crimes and crimes with victims,,such as cyber crimes and con games,,it would force law enforcement too hire higher IQ applicants and stop the trolling for anyone that smells like a joint.

  • Servetus

    President Ollanta Humala of Peru is all over the world news because he’s thinking of backing legislation to resume shooting down alleged drug planes flying over Peruvian airspace. If the legislation passes “it could hurt anti-narcotics work with the U.S. as well as aid money, as the U.S. banned funding tied to shooting down planes after a Peruvian military jet shot at a plane carrying missionaries that included an American woman and her baby in 2001.”

    President Humala is engaging in political posturing, with no regard to the political consequences of his actions. His pomposity comes at a time when people are being executed in Indonesia and Baltimore for drug related crimes. This makes him a creep. It also makes Humala much like every president of Peru who’s preceded him.

    Peruvians I’ve known have complained to me that they’ve never had a president in Peru who wasn’t worthless and corrupt, Fujimori, etc., and these were people who knew the government elite personally. It’s sad, really; a joke to many Peruvians, though. The Sendero Luminoso were unable to do anything more about the government than shut down Lima’s electrical power for two or three days at a time. As guerilla’s, they actually became boring after a while. We owe it to Peru to end the drug war and restore indigenous people’s rights to coca consumption. It’s the least we in the US can do.

  • The drug war has got all the bases covered.

    – Why Firing a Bad Cop Is Damn Near Impossible –
    A brief history of the “law enforcement bill of rights”
    by Mike Riggs (2012) http://tinyurl.com/9oc966j

    “Benevolent associations in Maryland successfully pushed for the passage of a police bill of rights in 1972.” …

    … “such laws discourage discipline and make it nearly impossible for the public to hold bad cops accountable.”

    “Unlike a member of the public, the officer gets a “cooling off” period before he has to respond to any questions.
    Unlike a member of the public, the officer under investigation is privy to the names of his complainants and their testimony against him before he is ever interrogated.
    Unlike a member of the public, the officer under investigation is to be interrogated “at a reasonable hour,” with a union member present.
    Unlike a member of the public, the officer can only be questioned by one person during his interrogation. Unlike a member of the public, the officer can be interrogated only “for reasonable periods,” which “shall be timed to allow for such personal necessities and rest periods as are reasonably necessary.”
    Unlike a member of the public, the officer under investigation cannot be “threatened with disciplinary action” at any point during his interrogation. If he is threatened with punishment, whatever he says following the threat cannot be used against him.”

    … “under nearly every law enforcement bill of rights, the following additional privileges are granted to officers:
    Their departments cannot publicly acknowledge that the officer is under investigation; if the officer is cleared of wrongdoing or the charges are dropped, the department may not publicly acknowledge that the investigation ever took place, or reveal the nature of the complaint. The officer cannot be questioned or investigated by “non-government agents,” which means no civilian review boards. If the officer is suspended as a result of the investigation, he must continue to receive full pay and benefits until his case is resolved. In most states, the charging department must subsidize the accused officer’s legal defense.”

    “A violation of any of the above rights can result in dismissal—not of the officer, but of the charges against him.”

    • jean valjean

      Where are all the anti-unionist right-wingers when you need them? Never heard a peep out of Scott Walker or the Walmart board on the subject of police “benevolent associations”.

  • Irie

    (blink, blink, rub eyes again, gasp) Even I have a hard time believing this one!

    “A majority of Americans support legalizing recreational marijuana, a Fox News poll revealed Monday (yes, THAT Fox News!)”
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/27/marijuana-fox-news_n_7154158.html?utm_hp_ref=denver&ir=Denver

  • Mr_Alex

    I decided to troll calvina fay and kevin sabet over the weekend, driving em psychotic was fun

  • hahahahahaha suck itass