Keene Sentinel Covers Police Station Smoke-In

POtThey arrested our friend, so the cannabis celebration was brought inside the Keene police lobby yesterday, as the Sentinel’s Anika Clark reports:

Supporters of marijuana legalization took their fight with a law directly to the law Sunday as they lit up in the Keene Police Station lobby.

They puffed. They cheered and laughed. They left. But not before one of them yelled at a department employee who was working behind a front window.

One of the rally-goers had just been released without being charged, after being arrested for smoking what he said was nothing more than mint leaves. But activist Sam A. Miller said, “What they smoked inside the police station today, that was real. … I could tell from the smell.”

Activists have gathered for more than a week to smoke at 4:20 p.m. — a number identified in marijuana subculture with the drug.

Sunday’s police station smoke circle sparked no arrests from a department Lt. Shane C. Maxfield said had a limited staff on a Sunday afternoon.

Meanwhile, as the activists vow to continue their pro-pot protest indefinitely, local residents are left to wonder: What’s next?

“I really believe tomorrow will be a bigger and better day for entertainment,” said Patricia A. Byrnes, whose apartment is near the rally’s epicenter on Central Square. Byrnes has been watching the protest daily and says she doesn’t like what she sees.

“All I feel is sadness that we have come to this point,” she said. “There ought to be a better way of getting our points across.”

One way, according to Mayor Philip Dale Pregent, is working through the established channels of government .

“At this point, I don’t think that (the activists) have a real mission … in regard to how they want to go about helping change the situation,” he said Sunday evening. “They’re just doing a lot to attract attention right now, and I don’t think that that gains them much of anything.”

But with attention comes awareness, according to Miller, a Free State Project activist who has been filming the protests.

Asked why he doesn’t move his protest efforts to the seat of government in Concord, Miller said, “I’m here.”

He also pointed to the back-and-forth discussions the Keene City Council has had about sending a resolution to urge lawmakers to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana as evidence of how sluggish the governmental process can be.

While councilors spend weeks debating whether to send what he called a “letter,” Miller said, “people are sitting in concrete boxes in prison over this drug war that’s a failure. … I don’t want to believe that the best answer is to use the system and hope that in the next decade or so, these laws will be repealed.”

Free State Project activist Ian Bernard echoed him.

“I can say that for me and many other activists, we’re not going to beg permission from politicians to live as free men and women,” he wrote in an e-mail. “We’re just going to do it.”

In the meantime, the spectacle has drawn a refrain of honking from drivers showing their apparent support. But it’s also drawn flak from others.

Erik Olsen, a 17-year-old student at Keene High School who checked out Sunday’s rally, said that while he supports marijuana legalization, the belligerent attitude many activists have taken toward police “is not even remotely helping the cause.”

Resident David Curran rode his bike to the police station Sunday and told activists he doesn’t have a problem with their movement. But he described the torrent of profanity he’d just had to listen to as they marched past his house.

Jay Patterson, 35 — who is about to move to downtown Keene from Peabody, Mass. — watched the gathering from the corner of Central Square Saturday.

“I think that it’s a little inappropriate,” he said. While people have the right to freedom of expression, Patterson added, “the getting-in-the-cops’-faces stuff isn’t really that cool.”

A man, who declined to identify himself but said he formerly served in the military, also took issue with the American flag that’s been tagged with the words “Legalize Freedom” and what appears to be a marijuana leaf.

“They need to stop,” he said. “That flag is freedom, not marijuana.”

But many activists show no signs of letting up.

A man who has declined to identify himself — but was the one who put the 4:20 sign on the Central Square statue and was the person arrested and then released Sunday — indicated to WMUR-TV that the protest would continue “every day until they end the drug war and free all drug prisoners.”

There has been talk of pro-pot activists attending the next scheduled City Council meeting on Oct. 1. And according to Bernard, a Keene contingent will be heading to Manchester to take part in a similar protest he said is starting today.

“I don’t imagine it will be too popular when it’s really really cold out, but it’s my understanding that it’s intended to continue on a daily basis” in the Elm City, he said.

And as activists’ smoking slogan proclaims them to be lighting up “in remembrance of lost liberties,” one 18-year-old Keene resident said he’d be protesting until they’re regained.

The teenager — who said he’d been in and out of the court system on marijuana-related charges since he was 14 — declined to give his full name.

“It’s my body, it’s my choice for me,” he said of his continued cannabis use. As for whether he’ll lose steam when temperatures fall, he said, “I’ll put on my coat.”

  • http://soundclick.com/thinkliberty thinkliberty

    "One way, according to Mayor Philip Dale Pregent, is working through the established channels of government."

    Yeah I think that people have tried "working through the established channels of government." Remember how the governor vetoed allowing cancer victims and other people who are suffering to use marijuana just as medicine. (nothing else) The government does not even care about people suffering on their deathbed. — Decent people find that barbaric and offensive.

    As Albert Einstein said: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

    "The established channels of government" won't work with us or for us, we need to try something different.

  • Jeff

    Golly gee mr. mayor! Can I have a turn at imposing my will on everyone else and get a chance to live like a leech offa their productive efforts too? Can I? Can I? Can I? That's one mighty fine system you gotcha self there!

    Disgusting. Simply disgusting.

  • Joe

    Waaa, I want to smoke up and show how much of a rebel I am like everybody else. There's plenty of legal drugs you can take, just wait till you are 21.

  • Chris

    Surely you say that in jest Joe. Are you saying that one should wait till 21 to smoke pot?

  • interested observer

    Marijuana is better for people than alcohol, but yet it's illegal. Marijuana also helps with pain. I wonder if lobbiests for the Pharmaceutical companies have something to do with Marijuana being illegal. Maybe it has to do with the Christian conservatives who think that everybody should live a prim and proper life style of going to church every Sunday. Maybe it's a combination of both.

  • theKINGofKEENE

    The first front-page story was in the Union Leader, but not word one in the "Slantedhell"…A certain "Melanie Plenda" byline used to appear in the Keene Sentinel a few years ago, but no more. Now, the byline appears in the Union Leader. And why is the whole marijauna issue so damn *SECULAR*???…hasn't anybody read Genesis, Ch. 1, V. 29???…it's usually on page 1 of the Bible!!!…(Yes, Randall J. "Randy" Tefft, you're a fucking piece of shit, a chicken-shit cop caller, and you got *NOTHING*, punk-ass! You couldn't even tell *me* to fuck off. Another bully-with-a-badge coward like your little fuck-buddy Eli Rivera. I want my house back, assholes. Remember, if you'd left me in my house in the first place, you wouldn't be reading this, 'cause I wouldn't be writing it. You've none but yourselves to blame.

  • http://apathyonline.net Abbie

    That's right… Christians are obligated to support, or at least agree with the idea of marijuana decriminalization.

  • Bob C.

    The freedom to own our bodies is the issue. The substance (marijuana) is irrelevant. If a person is harming nobody why do we allow armed men to steal their liberty? That is not a free society.

    It's none of my business if somebody drinks alcohol, eats twinkies, is addicted to coffee or cigarettes or smokes pot. Just as importantly it's none of YOUR business either. Live and let live. That is freedom.

  • bob42

    Government is a gateway drug.

    Our politicians and the legitimate drug war related industries that support them and profit from the violence are addicted. This is why "working through the established channels of government" consistently fails.

    I think it would be beneficial to the cause to keep the protests up, up beat, peaceful and friendly to all. If they get too rowdy or rude, some pinheaded professional liar at the Office of National Drug Control Propaganda will say that smoking pot makes people cuss.