Over 2000 march on Fort Worth courthouse, literally smoke it out, media a no-show
This past Saturday, people flocked to downtown Fort Worth to take part in a global marijuana march. Over 2,000 people showed and openly smoked in protest, but equally as interesting is the fact that it seems not a single major traditional news outlet deemed the event newsworthy.
An all day event put on by DFW NORML featuring many bands and speakers, some of whom are running for office in Texas, the festivities kicked off at noon.
A huge turnout was expected, especially considering that the non-profit organization raised $2,000 to erect a billboard to promote the event on IH-20. Organizers hoped to clear at least 1,000 people and were shooting for 2,000. Around 500 showed up for the 2013 march.
There was a diversity of vendors in a park-styled area located next to Mambo’s on Houston St. who were selling a number of things ranging from merchandise such as clothing and hemp products, to food and drinks. There was a glass blowing booth and the Libertarian Party had a booth as well. DFW NORML operated a booth as well, clustered in with all of the other vendors and attendees which were overlooked by the stage where performances and speeches were held.
By 1:00 p.m. estimates of the crowd size was around 250. As the day progressed, more and more people arrived to take part in what seemed like a festival you might find in Colorado or Washington.
Most events such as this are considered family friendly, so it’s not uncommon for some people to bring their children out to them. It may surprise people to hear though that there were upwards of 20 to 30 young children in attendance ranging in age from five to 12.
In fact, there were people of all ages, color, and cultures, even quite a few elderly folks. And while the cannabis movement is traditionally thought to be male dominated, there was a near half and half mix of males and females. War veterans were a dominant group as well.
Police were present during the event, though they kept their distance from across the street, looking on from their cruisers. At no time did they harass anyone or even walk through the lot where the party was taking place. Zero arrests were made, which is miraculous considering what was to come.
By 2:00 p.m. the crowd had grown by about 100 or so, reaching between 350 and 400 people. Speakers and bands came and went, including Libertarian Party candidate Jamie Balagia, a former narcotics officer turned defense lawyer who is running for Texas Attorney General. He gave quite possibly the shortest speech ever given by a politician to such a large crowd, and when asked about it, he remarked “why BS them around?”
People were steadily streaming into the event and by 3:00 p.m. around 500 were enjoying the festivities; but at this rate, would attendance reach the 1,000 mark that organizers had hoped for?
So far, Executive Director of DFW NORML Shaun McAlister had given a few interviews to independent media and there was word that a reporter from Texas Monthly was somewhere on the premises, but there was no local traditional media to be found. No reporters, no film, no photographers; was the local media intent on not covering such a large gathering and protest?
CBS covered the march in 2013 when it was a much smaller affair. Surely this year’s event was much more worthy.
The march was scheduled to start at 4:20 p.m. and McAlister was preparing to deliver a speech which would spark the flame that would launch a protest never before seen in Fort Worth.
Just before 4:00 p.m. several hundred people came pouring into the area. Crowd size swelled to over a thousand. The billboard had said the march would begin at 4:20, perhaps people had just been waiting for it to begin.
It was now that McAlister stepped up to the microphone and addressed the crowd. What was to follow would be a riveting, emotional speech so powerful in an appeal for changing cannabis laws for the better in order to make the world a better place and end the suffering of those caught up in the war on marijuana. A speech so moving that the crowd was shouting and cheering, revved up to make the trek to the courthouse.
He told the crowd of his time spent working as director of the organization, that after speaking with thousands of citizens, medical professionals, law enforcement officers, attorneys, teachers, and everyone in between about need for sensible marijuana policy in Texas, there has been and continues to be a strong agreement on that point.
The audience cheered continuously, especially when McAlister advocated for the smallest of steps in no longer requiring jail time for personal possession of small amounts.
“I believe that responsible cannabis consumers should not be discriminated against any more than a beer drinker or tobacco smoker,” McAlister stated, adding “and we certainly should not have to risk losing our jobs, children, or assets every time we consume this substance which has proven to be safer than alcohol, tobacco, and even prescription drugs!”
He continued, “I believe that our hemp heritage has been stolen from us! People have been using cannabis as medicine in this country since the 1850s and this too has been stolen from us!”
McAlister then told to people in attendance to ask themselves, “why would my government not want me to grow a plant that has been shown to kill cancer cells in petri dishes since the 70s?”
Arguing against mandatory minimums, there was a brief moment of comical absurdity when he compared the laws to a Chinese takeout menu which takes the power out of a judge’s hand and makes it “a marijuana plant from Column A, within 1000 feet of a school from Column B, that’ll be 13 years with no parole please.”
As he began to close, people were ready to go, completely amped up by his speech.
“Thank you for all being here and for showing your faces today! The best thing we can do is show our fellow Texans that there’s nothing to be scared of. That we are not content to simply be classified as criminals forever when it’s the law that is the problem, not the plant and certainly not the people!”
“Today we march with brothers and sisters from around the world in this Global Marijuana March of 2014. We march for the victims of the War on Drugs that cannot be with us because they’re currently locked in a cage. We march for Texas patients that could benefit from medical cannabis and for the farmers that will soon enough be growing hemp once again in this great state!”
McAlister concluded, “It’s high time we put prohibition out to pasture in the state of Texas!”
His speech ended just a few minutes before the scheduled start of the march. Once he made it down from the balcony and into the crowd, around 1,500 people were on the march towards the courthouse, singing and chanting as spectators looked on.
Some of those watching the march were clearly upset, but many more cheered it on, especially an elderly couple who very enthusiastically cheered and clapped as the parade of people went by.
Nothing could prepare marchers for what happened next, and it was largely well handled.
A man and what appeared to be his wife drove their car into the crowd, honking their horn, coming close to hitting a few people. It is this reporter’s guess that they were unaware that a protest was taking place, though it would be hard to not understand that, and these people simply wanted to get through while being extremely rude and dangerous about doing so.
People began to shout at the couple in the car for nearly hitting several people and their recklessness, which prompted the man to get out as the female kept driving. He began shouting obscenities at people, one of which who took offense and began to get irate back. Sensing what was likely a need to protect his fellow marchers, though not the best of ways to deal with the situation, the marcher and man from the car came face to face before other marchers stepped in to calm him down.
Those near the situation soon sensed what needed to be done and began to shout “just let them through,” knowing that they didn’t want to see any trouble. It seemed like there may have been a brief moment of imminent trouble when the marcher who was being cussed at slapped the hood of the car. This did not lead to an altercation though.
A scan of the area revealed no nearby officers. During such a large event in which DFW NORML had to purchase permits for, while the police had not hassled anyone, they weren’t there when people were truly in danger from a motorist.
The vehicle drove on through and the man got back in the car, which then lurched forward and honked again, nearly hitting several other marchers towards the front. Once people were able to get out of the way, the car sped off.
The mood turned light again as people marched to drums and chanted such things as “legalize marijuana” and “we smoke pot!”
For many in the crowd it was their first time participating in such an event and many openly talked about how the billboard brought them out. They were excited, proud to be a part of a protest, with some even equating it to protests in other countries against their governments. Essentially that is what it was, a protest against government agents harassing people over unjust laws.
Arriving at the courthouse, another 400 to 500 people were already there waiting for everyone else.
Several people gave speeches, including Rocky Palmquist, the Libertarian Party candidate for Texas Agriculture Commissioner who spoke about the need for farmers to begin growing hemp and bemoaned what the state has done to run small farmers out of business.
All the while a man stood just below the steps, holding a smoking joint in the air in protest.
Many others began to light up as well, with Fort Worth officers standing far outside of the perimeter observing the crowd.
It was an act of civil disobedience, harkening back to the civil rights era.
Palmquist was fired up and when he finished his speech, he took a long puff off a joint that was passed to him as he stood on the steps of the courthouse.
McAlister was up to speak again, further hammering on the lives torn apart by prohibition, and once he was done, he too took several puffs off of a joint that was passed to him.
Over 2,000 people were standing at the courthouse, protesting peacefully, and many were openly smoking what is assumed to be marijuana in clear defiance of what a majority of Texans believe to be unjust cannabis laws.
No major traditional media outlet reported on this event. Not the newspapers, not the radio stations, nor the local television crews. If you get your news only from these outlets and didn’t go to downtown Fort Worth on Saturday, you might not even know that this took place.
Some wondered if the event would have been more effective on a day when the courthouse is open during the week, however doing so would not have drawn nearly as many people.
After all, people who support marijuana legalization have jobs to go to as well.
This was the largest event ever put on by DFW NORML, who signed up over 90 new members that day, bringing their total membership to well over 600. Critical funds were also raised, which sets the organization on great footing as they prepare to host the largest marijuana reform conference ever held in Texas later this year in June.
By: Stephen Carter
Contact Stephen via email at TXCann@gmail.com
Listen to our podcast at txcann.podomatic.com