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The Week Online with DRCNet
(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)

Issue #32, 3/6/98

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

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NOTE: State alerts for Virginia, Colorado and California were distributed on 2/26 and 3/4. If you are from one of these states but didn't receive the alert, please write us at [email protected] with your request to be added to the state distribution. The Colorado and California alerts are still active, so please visit (Colorado) or (California).

Our 2/26 Virginia alert can be viewed at, but the bill we were most concerned with, Seeds and Stems, seems to be defeated for this year. Congratulations to Lennice Werth, Roy Scherer, Michael Crawitz and all other Virginia activists for their terrific work year after year! And many thanks to those of you on this list who helped out.

Table of Contents

  1. Legislators Blast Mexico Certification: Resolutions to Overturn Introduced in Both Houses
  2. U.S. House Panel Approves Resolution Against Medical Marijuana
  3. Newt Gingrich Calls for Lifetime Ban of Drug-Using Athletes Who Refuse to Snitch
  4. Violent Week in Giuliani's New York Drug War
  5. Medical Marijuana Initiative Filed in Washington State
  6. Federal Agent Cleared in Shooting of Candy Bar-Holding Teen: Plus -- An Interview with Robert Godosky, the Teen's Attorney
  7. Professor's Penn State Pot Protest Continues
  8. California Inmates Get Ruling -- but no Justice -- in Sexual Assault Case
  9. Industrial Hemp Legalized in Canada!
  10. French Artists, Intellectuals Sign Petition Challenging Drug Laws
  11. Irish Priest Urges Legalization
  12. Quote of the Week: Who's the most "silly son-of-a- bitch" in Colorado politics?
  13. EDITORIAL: A real live shooting war in America

(visit last week's Week Online)

1. Legislators Blast Mexico Certification -- Resolutions to Overturn Introduced in Both Houses

In what is shaping up as a replay of a battle fought one year ago, legislators in both the House and the Senate have introduced resolutions aimed at overturning the Clinton administration's certification of Mexico as a cooperative partner in the Drug War. Last year's attempt to overturn certification in the House swept through committee with a vote of 27-5, and was stopped only after the President secured new promises of Mexican cooperation. The Washington Post reports that administration officials view the prospect of a reversal this year as "extremely unlikely" as they are confident that there are insufficient votes in the Senate to overturn a presidential veto, if it comes to that.

But that hasn't stopped legislators from both sides of the aisle from trying. On Tuesday (3/3), Senators Paul Coverdell (R-GA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced that body's resolution. Coverdell explained his opposition by stating that "by almost any objective standard, Mexico has clearly failed to satisfy the legal criteria required for certification." Feinstein cited "gaping holes" in Mexico's Drug War efforts, including "endemic corruption."

All of this complicates matters for President Clinton, who is scheduled to attend a Western Hemispheric Summit next month. On the agenda will be increasing levels of hemispheric cooperation in the prosecution of the drug war. Many Latin American leaders have complained in recent years about the certification process, pointing out that there is much hypocrisy inherent in the largest drug consumer in the world passing unilateral judgment on countries who are bearing much of the brunt of America's drug war.

2. U.S. House Panel Approves Resolution Against Medical Marijuana

(Reprinted with permission of the NORML Foundation,

March 5, 1998, Washington, DC: A coalition of Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee approved a "sense of the House of Representatives" resolution on Wednesday stating that "marijuana is a dangerous and addictive drug and should not be legalized for medical use." House Resolution 372 -- introduced by Crime Subcommittee chair Bill McCollum (R-Fla.) -- was approved by a voice vote despite efforts by several Democrats to kill or amend the measure.

"Medical marijuana is a public health issue," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who vigorously argued against the bill. "[It] is not part of the 'War on Drugs.'" Also speaking in opposition to the measure were Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), ranking Democrat on the committee, and Reps. William Delahunt (D-MA), Barney Frank (D-MA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Martin Meehan (D-MA), and Melvin Watt (D-NC).

Before passing the resolution, Republicans rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Conyers that stated "States have the primary responsibility for protecting the health and safety of their citizens, and the Federal Government should not interfere with any state's policy (as expressed in a legislative enactment or referendum) which authorizes persons with AIDS or cancer to pursue, upon the recommendation of a licensed physician, a course of treatment for such illness that includes the use of marijuana." Republicans also rejected an amendment proposed by Rep. Martin Meehan (D-MA) calling on the House of Representatives to "consider this issue... deserving of further study." Republicans argued that any lifting of the legal ban prohibiting marijuana, even for medical purposes, would send mixed and potentially dangerous messages to the American public about drug use. Rep. McCollum -- who sponsored legislation to permit the legal use of medical marijuana in 1981 and 1983 -- further charged that it would be "counterproductive" for Congress to encourage medical marijuana research or request the Food and Drug Administration to review the drug's prohibitive status.

"[I] do not want to go on record supporting another study [on medical marijuana,]" McCollum said. "[Congress] must send a clear message [that] ... marijuana is a highly addictive Schedule I drug ... with no likelihood of FDA approval." Rep. McCollum also said that he no longer supports the stance he took in the 1980s when he urged the federal government to make marijuana legal as a medicine.

"The Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are willing to ignore the science and deny an effective medication to seriously ill patients in order to advance their political agenda," charged NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. For example, Stroup noted that Rep. James Rogan (R-Calif.) voted for the resolution despite declaring that he observed a seriously ill family member successfully use marijuana as a medicine. Two Democrats who opposed the resolution also gave personal testimonials of a friend or family member's battle with terminal illness. One representative also admitted that her friend found therapeutic relief from marijuana.

"Republicans apparently are not willing to let scientific evidence, compassion, or common sense get in the way of arresting and jailing marijuana smokers -- even those who are seriously or terminally ill," Stroup said.

The resolution now goes for consideration before the full House. For more information or a copy of House Res. 372, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500.

3. Newt Gingrich Calls for Lifetime Ban of Drug-Using Athletes Who Refuse to Snitch

Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, Feb. 26, House Speaker Newt Gingrich called upon all sports leagues and associations to ban for one year any athlete who tests positive for drugs, with the added proviso that they be forced to reveal where they got the drugs, or be banned for life. Brian McIntyre, spokesman for the National Basketball Association, told the L.A. Times, "We thank the speaker for his thoughts, but as it relates to the NBA, we think that this is an issue that is best addressed solely by the NBA and its players." The various professional sports leagues, of course, negotiate their drug policies within the framework of collective bargaining agreements between the leagues and the players unions.

4. Violent Week in Giuliani's Drug War

In New York City, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's new "zero-tolerance" Drug War claimed the life of one suspect and nearly claimed the life of a cop in a "buy and bust" operation in Brooklyn. Also, police acting on an anonymous tip kicked in the door of the wrong apartment in the Bronx and fired over 30 shots. Fortunately, no one was injured.

Police taking part in a "buy and bust" operation, which netted a single $20 vial of crack-cocaine, walked into a narrow hallway where one suspect was confronted. In the ensuing struggle, apparently over the officer's gun, the suspect was killed, and the officer, 13 year-veteran Sgt. Dexter Brown, was shot in the lower back by a bullet from the gun of a backup officer. Brown's life was saved by his bulletproof vest. He was hospitalized but is expected to recover fully. Mayor Giuliani told the Daily News that it was an "'excellent job' by officers exposed to 'tremendous danger'".

In the Bronx, 44 year-old Ellis Elliot was asleep in his bedroom at 8:15 Friday morning (2/27), when he heard his door being kicked in. Assuming that he was being robbed, Elliot grabbed his (unlicensed) gun and fired once in the direction of his bedroom door. That shot was answered by a barrage, possibly as many as 30 shots from the police. After the barrage, Elliot told The New York Post, the police finally identified themselves, at which time Elliot came out with his hands up. At that point, he was cuffed and, still naked, dragged from his apartment through the new hole in his front door and into the street. Elliot told the Post that while he was being cuffed and dragged from his home, police cursed at him, called him "nigger", and refused to let him put on clothes. When police finally went back into the house to retrieve clothes for Mr. Elliot, officers brought out pants and a blouse belonging to Elliot's girlfriend. Elliot was forced to wear the woman's clothing to jail.

Elliot, who has no criminal record, is being charged with possession of his unlicensed firearm. The New York City Police Department has indicated that it will reimburse the building's owner for the damage to the apartment.

The Week Online called the New York City Police and spoke to a representative in their press office. That office indicated that the police, out of the Bronx Narcotics Unit, were executing a search warrant at the time of their entry, but could not confirm what exactly was being searched for. We then asked whether it was standard procedure to execute warrants at an hour (8:15 am) when it was likely that any children in a given home would be awake and preparing for school, the press rep responded, "er, no. I mean, you execute it when you think... when you do. I mean, did this guy have kids?" (Editor -- He might just as easily have had kids, since they broke down the door of the wrong apartment.)

5. Medical Marijuana Initiative Filed in Washington State

Add Washington to the list of states trying to pass a medicinal marijuana initiative in 1998. Dr. Rob Killian of Tacoma, who led the fight for a failed drug policy reform initiative (I-685) in 1997 is also spearheading this campaign. The 1997 initiative, however, was quite broad, modeled after Arizona's successful Prop. 200. This time, the language is straight medical marijuana, protecting medical users, as well as recommending physicians from prosecution, and its supporters have no doubt that it will get on the ballot, and pass.

Tim Killian of Washington Citizens for Medical Rights told The Week Online, "A lot of people, especially those outside of the state, view the defeat of 685 as a setback. On the contrary, that campaign, for an initiative which went well beyond marijuana, gave us an opportunity to raise the level of discussion about drug policy issues in general around the state. A lot of people who opposed 685 were, for the first time, able to discuss and to learn about the issue of medical marijuana in a rational and intelligent forum. Many legislators and even a lot of editorial boards around the state went on record saying that they could support a narrowly drawn medical marijuana initiative, but opposed the more broadly written text of 685. Well, this time we have narrowed the focus of our efforts to encompass only medical marijuana, and the legal protection of doctors and patients, and we're expecting the support of a lot of people who probably wouldn't have been on our side had it not been for the 685 experience."

NOTE: Washington Citizens for Medical Rights is looking for volunteers, as well as contributions. If you are interested, and would like to help, you can contact them at (206) 781-7716, or e-mail to [email protected], or send checks (made payable to Washington Citizens for Medical Rights) to P.O. Box 2346, Seattle, WA 98111.

6. Federal Agent Cleared in Shooting of Candy Bar-Holding Teen

U.S. Deputy Marshall William Cannon was cleared by a Queens, NY grand jury this week (3/4) in the shooting of 17 year-old high school student Andre Burgess. Burgess, captain of the soccer team at Hillcrest High School, was walking through his own neighborhood on 138th street in Laurelton, Queens (an officially determined "high-intensity drug trafficking area") on November 6 of last year, when an unmarked car carrying four federal agents rolled through. Cannon, who reportedly mistook a silver-wrappered Three Musketeers candy bar for a gun, jumped from the car and shot the teen once in the back of the leg.

According to Burgess, Cannon did not identify himself and gave the teen no time to react. "I turned to see what was up," Burgess told the New York Daily News at the time, "and boom, I'm hit, and I fell to the ground." Burgess was then handcuffed while lying on the ground, bleeding, until an ambulance arrived. Internal investigations by the U.S. Marshals Service and Dept. of Justice are still ongoing.

In reporting on the Burgess case, The Week Online spoke with Andre Burgess' Attorney, Robert Godosky:

WOL: Andre Burgess is a 17 year-old African American kid living in a black neighborhood. What is your take on the significance of that fact in light of what happened?

RG: Well, what I'd like to think, and perhaps it's naïve, but what I'd like to believe is that Agent Cannon simply had a quick trigger. My gut tells me, however, that with officers working in poor, predominantly minority neighborhoods, where they're pressing down on drug trafficking, there's an underlying reaction that the people there are all suspect.

Also, you need to ask yourself whether this type of behavior by law enforcement is acceptable in those areas, where it clearly wouldn't be in an area like Wall Street, although there are certainly a lot of drugs there as well. We're not running street sweeps on Wall Street. But a black kid in Laurelton, Queens, in his own neighborhood, is holding a candy bar, and he gets shot by an officer of the law. But if our investigation does reveal that there was a racial bias in this particular case, by this particular officer, I've told Andre that we'll pursue that.

WOL: Is it safe to assume that you're disappointed in the Grand Jury for failing to indict?

RG: What we're really disappointed in is Richard Brown's (Queens D.A.) inability to get an indictment. It's easy for the D.A. to lay the blame on the grand jury, but the D.A. has a lot of control over what goes on in that process. They couldn't even get a reckless endangerment charge? C'mon. They simply didn't want an indictment... they didn't even try. And now we're sitting here listening to the D.A. talk about how this was an "unfortunate occurrence"? Every shooting is an unfortunate occurrence. Was there any reasonable justification for Agent Cannon's actions? No. The guidelines that he used in deciding to fire his weapon were not objectively reasonable by the standards of any law enforcement agent anywhere.

Andre was unarmed, shot in the back of the leg. He was doing nothing wrong. And Agent Cannon didn't even identify himself. That is certainly both unwarranted and unreasonable. The failure to indict here sends a message to any law enforcement agent working in Queens, perhaps especially in poor, minority neighborhoods in Queens, that it is okay to shoot first and ask questions later.

WOL: What were the Federal Marshals doing in the area in the first place?

RG: Well, according to the Marshals' office, they were looking for a suspect on a warrant from 1982. Andre was two years old in 1982, so they certainly couldn't have mistaken him for the guy they were after.

WOL: The Justice Department is still investigating the case. Being that it is a federal investigation of a federal officer, are you concerned that the outcome could be the same as the local investigation?

RG: Well, of course you have something of an inherent conflict, with the Justice Department charged with upholding the civil rights of citizens, and, in this case, a federal officer being investigated. Zachary Carter is the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District, and it's his role to proceed zealously in this matter. If necessary, we could ask for a special prosecutor, but I doubt that enough of a conflict would be found here to justify such an appointment.

If justice isn't done on the criminal side, we'll be left to seek compensation in a civil case. People complain all the time about the civil process, but often it turns out to be the only avenue for an individual to get some measure of justice.

WOL: And how is Andre, both physically and emotionally?

RG: Well, physically, he's recovering. He's still undergoing physical therapy, but he's determined to try to resume his soccer career next year at the college level. Andre was extraordinarily lucky. The bullet entered the back of his thigh and exited the front, all without hitting either the bone or the artery.

Emotionally, this has been horrifying for him. That neighborhood is his home. With everything that he might already have to worry about there, is it right that he should now be afraid that he'll be shot at by an officer of the law? This is a good kid. Captain of his soccer team, headed for college. His mom's an extremely hard-working woman. Andre's only crime is that he lived in the wrong neighborhood. In our societal quest to crack down on these communities, are citizens now less entitled to the service and protection of the police based on where they live?

7. Professor's Penn State Pot Protest Continues

- Alex Morgan for DRCNet

(NOTE: Coverage of this story on 2/20 ( was also courtesy of Alex Morgan. The editors regret the omission of that byline.)

Penn State Professor Emeritus Julian Heicklen resumed his campaign of civil disobedience Thursday (3/5) by smoking marijuana with several supporters at the university's Main Gate. Heicklen and four other protesters have been charged with various drug offenses stemming from the Feb. 12 "Smokeout." Heicklen had refrained from smoking during the past two Thursday protests, but resumed yesterday to protest the slow pace that the cases are moving through the Centre County Judicial system. "I'm already being denied a fair, impartial and speedy trial, and I haven't even gotten into court yet," he told a crowd of about a hundred supporters.

This was the seventh consecutive protest held at noon on Thursday. However, unlike previous protests, neither the Penn State nor State College Police were present when the joints were being smoked.

The crowd cheered and applauded when Heicklen lit the joint and passed it to Diane Fornbacher, a local writer and marijuana activist. They were joined by Alan Gordon, a Penn State alumni who has publicly planted marijuana seeds and turned himself in for marijuana offenses numerous times in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia. Gordon was cited with Heicklen on Feb. 12 and plans to use a medicinal marijuana defense, while the Professor plans to persuade a jury to nullify the marijuana laws as an unreasonable intrusion of government power into the lives of responsible adults.

Co-defendants Ken Keltner and Jennifer Corbett were introduced to the crowd but declined to smoke, citing advice of their lawyer in a civil suit Keltner has filed against the State College Area School District for suspending him as a result of his arrest at the Feb 12. protest.

While smoking the joint, Heicklen talked about personal freedom and civil rights and contrasted the harm supposedly done by marijuana with the violence and disorder associated with College Football, an economic boon and cultural icon for this Big Ten College community.

"Football's primary purpose is to glorify violence... it's a highly criminogenic activity leading to student riots, public drunkenness, gambling and ticket scalping... football has corrupted this community."

Heicklen said that while he has nothing personally against football, it is hypocritical for the community to "...glorify football as a religion" while condemning marijuana as a dangerous drug.

He said that two-thirds of those going to prison are sentenced for non-violent crimes, while half are for non-violent drug offenses. "...I'm ashamed of it and I mean to change it."

Penn State student and Libertarian Charles Miller said that while the number of drug felons has increased so has the number of unsolved car thefts and burglaries, "...not only are they putting the wrong people in jail, they're leaving the wrong people on the street."

At 12:50 PM the Penn State Police finally showed up but no one was smoking. When asked by The Week Online why they weren't present at the start of the protest, an officer replied that they weren't aware of it until someone called 911.

Heicklen was quoted Wednesday in the Daily Collegian as saying that he would be smoking a joint at the Thursday rally to protest the corruption of the court system. Given that Heicklen had to cross the street into the town of State College on Feb. 12 in order to be arrested, it would seem that the University is reluctant to confront the issues being raised by the Professor.

In response to questions about his future plans, Heicklen said, "I'll keep smoking... I'm moving this thing out of the courts and into the streets."

There won't be a rally next week due to Spring Break but the protests will resume on March 19.

This past week Heicklen was the focus of major stories by the local CBS affiliate WJAC of Johnstown/Altoona and the Centre Daily Times of State College, and his actions were applauded by the Board of Editorial Opinion of the Daily Collegian, an independent publication of the students of Penn State University.

As of right now the Preliminary Hearing schedule for the five protesters arrested for assorted drug charges at the Feb. 12 protest is as follows:

  • March 11- Alan Gordon
  • March 18- Professor Julian Heicklen
  • March 25- Jennifer Corbett, Ken Keltner and Andrew Burke

All dates are subject to change.

8. California Inmates Get Ruling -- but no Justice -- in Sexual Assault Case

- Barrington Daltrey for DRCNet

The war on drugs continues to exact its toll on the humanity of our system of justice, the civil rights of individuals, and on taxpayers' pocketbooks. On March 3, 1998, Judge Thelton E. Henderson of the United States District Court in San Francisco was presented a settlement of a civil rights suit against the United States Bureau of Prisons brought by three women prisoners, two of whom are in federal prison on drug charges.

According to their lawyers, Michael Bien and Geri Lynn Green, the three were victims of sexual assault and rape while housed in the J-2 Segregated Housing Unit of the otherwise all male Federal Detention Center in Dublin, California. The attacks occurred in the fall of 1995.

"We are incarcerating people at alarming rates," said Green, "The prison systems are not set up to handle the huge increases. Even in women's prisons, men staff the units. They read the prisoner's mail and listen to all phone calls. There exists no safe and secure method of reporting abuse, meanwhile there has been a steady erosion of prisoners' access to the courts, legal representation, and the press. These attacks and the resulting retaliation occurred because we have a prison system that is accountable to no one. The prison system thrives on cover-ups and retaliation, breeding malfeasance and misfeasance by prison personnel without redress."

The settlement requires changes in operating procedures at federal prisons throughout the country, and the women will share in $500,000 in damages to be paid by the federal government.

The attacks reportedly occurred repeatedly late at night, when a correctional officer would open the women's cell doors, giving access to male inmates. When two of the women got word out to the regional director requesting help, they received no assistance. Instead, word of one victim's under oath identification of the correctional officer and an attacker was leaked to the male inmates, and subsequently her door was again opened. Three men entered, handcuffing her, brutally beating her and sexually assaulting her. The attackers made clear this attack was retribution for her reports to authorities.

Despite polygraph tests validating the victims' statements, the U.S. Attorney's Office sat on the case for two years and refused to bring it before a grand jury. Ultimately the case was closed without action being brought against the correctional officer or anyone else for the violent crimes, the cover-ups, the acts of retaliation or the obstruction of justice.

Enforcement of even the civil settlement will be difficult. "In 1996, a new federal law was passed which greatly restricts the power of the federal courts to protect prisoners from serious violations of their Constitutional rights, such as the rape and sexual assault of my clients," said Bien. "Because of this law, plaintiffs will not be able to enforce the settlement of this case by seeking relief from Judge Henderson. There is no reason that the operation of the federal prison system should be beyond the scrutiny of the federal courts. The law is bad policy and is unconstitutional."

9. Industrial Hemp Legalized in Canada!

Beginning this spring, for the first time since World War II, the cultivation of industrial hemp will be legal in Canada. Health Canada will regulate the crop, with a limit of 0.3 per cent THC in seed samples, and a minimum of four hectares. The decision follows several years of debate over the issue during which pressure on the government mounted in the form of farmers who were eager for a new crop.

Senator Laura Milne, a Liberal member who had pushed for an end to the prohibition, told the Ottawa Citizen, "I am delighted that the matter is going ahead. This is an opportunity for Canadian farmers, unmatched in this century." While precious little hemp has been grown in Canada in recent years, there is expected to be a ready market. The U.S. currently imports about $100 million worth of the crop from countries, such as China, where cultivation is legal. The news will be particularly welcome up north, where the promise of a crop with a short growing season and a quick turnaround is important.

Some, however, were still unsatisfied with the ruling, claiming that the proposed regulations are too restrictive. Ron Schnider, of West Hemp Enterprises Inc., called the 0.3% THC limit too low. "I think it's actually the THC that protects it from pests, ironically enough" he told the Citizen. Brian Taylor, Mayor of Grand Forks, B.C., told The Citizen that one problem was that "limiting growing to a minimum of four hectares... eliminates a lot of small farmers."

10. French Artists, Intellectuals Sign Petition Challenging Drug Laws

Last Thursday, Feb. 26, a group of over 100 French artists and intellectuals presented a petition declaring that "At one moment or other in my life, I have consumed stupefying drugs. I know that in admitting publicly that I am a drug user, I can be prosecuted. This is a risk I am ready to take." In France, the very act of admitting the use of drugs is prosecutable as an incitement to others.

According to the Independent on Sunday, the signatories hope to draw attention to the "hypocrisies and inconsistencies of government policy and the application of the French anti-drugs law." France's new Socialist government is already beginning the process of public debate in an effort to raise awareness among the population of the need to reform France's historically harsh drug laws.

11. Irish Priest Urges Legalization

The Irish Independent (2/27) reported that Father Gerry Raftery of the Franciscan Justice Office told the Irish National Crime Forum that "if limited legalization (heroin prescription) was considered and if the drugs issue was redefined as a health issue rather than a criminal matter a number of positive effects would ensue." Father Raftery told the Forum that up to 60% of property crime in Dublin was drug-related and that there are as many as 10,000 IV drug users in the Dublin area. The goal of the 35-member Forum is to create a "white paper" which would then serve as a model for criminal justice policy in Ireland for the next several decades.

12. Quote of the Week

"Steve Curtis is a silly son-of-a-bitch... It's totally stupid that he does this."

Colorado Republican State Senator and rancher Dave Wattenberg, commenting on threats by the state Republican Party Chairman indicating that any Republican voting in favor of a pending needle-exchange bill would face party-financed opposition in their next primary.

(You heard it here first! DRCNet reported on Curtis' threat last week, before the major media picked it up. ( Also please read our urgent Colorado action alert at if you haven't already.)

13. EDITORIAL: A Real Live Shooting War in America

Last Week, a federal grand jury elected not to indict Marine Cpl. Clemente Banuelos in the 5/20/97 shooting death of 18 year-old high school student Esequiel Hernandez near Redford, Texas along the Mexican Border. This week, a Queens, NY grand jury elected not to indict U.S. Marshal William Cannon in the non-fatal shooting of 17 year-old high school student Andre Burgess in Laurelton, Queens. On Friday (2/27) on Sheridan Avenue in The Bronx, New York, police kicked in the door of the wrong apartment at 8:15 am, eliciting a single gunshot from the frightened resident. That shot was immediately answered by up to 30 rounds of fire by the officers. And in Brooklyn last week, a cop was shot in the lower back by another officer during a struggle with a suspect after a buy and bust operation -- which netted a single $20 bag of cocaine -- went bad.

In case you hadn't noticed -- and if you are white and middle class perhaps you haven't -- the Drug War is an actual, honest-to-God shooting war, being prosecuted by all levels of the government against the people of the United States. This is a war on poor folks, on black folks, on Latino folks, and on kids. This is a war which has turned the U.S. into the world's pre-eminent incarcerator, claimed thousands of innocent lives, turned law enforcement agencies into occupying armies, and opened up domestic fronts for our military forces, all while failing spectacularly to reduce the availability of drugs, any drugs, on our streets, any streets, from coast to coast, or anywhere in-between.

The act of war, the actual prosecution of a real live war, which is what's happening in poor communities across this country, alters the mindset of those whose job it once was to serve and protect. A door, the wrong door, is kicked in at 8:15 am by a trained narcotics squad. No thought is given to the fact that in apartments all over the country, at 8:15 in the morning, school-aged children are up and about, at kitchen tables and in hallways, in bathrooms and bedrooms. Did it occur to anyone that kicking in a door at 8:15 am might pose an unnecessary risk to innocent children in the apartment? In the apartment next door? Or directly upstairs or below? Of course not. This is war. And these communities are war zones. And the people who live in them are all suspect. Just like in Vietnam. Just ask any cop assigned to a "high intensity drug trafficking area".

The folly or believing that we will somehow create a drug-free society if we just arrest enough people, if we just arrest the right people, leads to the shooting of an officer in Brooklyn for a $20 crack bust. Is it the cop's fault that he has been deemed fodder in the war? Obviously not. But although a mayor will show up at the hospital, the cop is fodder, and nothing more. And for what? With cocaine and heroin at all-time high purity levels and all-time low prices, it is certainly not for "drug control". The only gain shown for all of the cops shot is political. Because even arresting the dealer who sold that cop $20 worth of blow, and even arresting his dealer, and his dealer's dealer, and the guy who brings the stuff into the country, and the guy who sells it to him, isn't going to reduce the availability of drugs on our streets. Never has. Never will.

One might take issue with the decisions of two separate grand juries in refusing to indict either Cpl. Banuelos or Agent Cannon. Perhaps one or both of these individuals are blameworthy. Or perhaps not. And one might question the training or the tactics of the narcotics squad that kicked in the wrong door, or the squad that got themselves into a struggle with a suspect in a narrow stairwell. But in each case, one would be missing the larger, and far more important question. That is: 'When?' When, after how many shootings, after how many busts gone bad, after how many wrong apartments, after how many dead cops, after how many shot kids, after how many prison cells, after how many communities destroyed, after how many years? When will we seek a truce? Quiet the rhetoric? Calm the hysteria? When will we end the madness that is a war, a real live shooting war, on our own citizens? In looking over the landscape and the carnage of this ruinous battlefield that was once our great nation, one has to ask: When will we ever learn?

Adam J. Smith
Associate Director

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