- Alex Morgan
Penn State Professor Julian Heicklen is in Centre County Prison in lieu of $50,000 bail following his arrest for marijuana possession during the first hour of a 30 hour marathon "Smoke Out" coinciding with the four-day Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.
The protest began at "High Noon" at the university's main gate in downtown State College, with Heicklen reading a statement summarizing his six month civil disobedience campaign. Penn State police arrived at 12:15 to inform Heicklen he was in violation of a university policy prohibiting use of a bull horn without a permit. Heicklen responded that the university lacked the power to pass legislation and ordinances and that "... it's my policy to use the bull horn." The police left saying they would be back.
Heicklen lit a joint and passed it around a crowd of supporters. About nine of the 70 protesters smoked marijuana, although the demonstration was witnessed by hundreds of the 100,000 visitors that are in "Happy Valley" for the festival which runs through Sunday night. Also in attendance were reporters from the local CBS and Fox
Heicklen repeated his claim that he is not a pot advocate but a "political smoker... The lighted marijuana weed is the torch of liberty... I believe in freedom. Not only that but I'm a tired old miser, I object to supporting the pot heads in prison with my money. I want all those pot heads out of prison, on the street and working so they can support me and raise my Social Security payments."
The police returned at about 12:30pm, but the joint was out, and they once again failed to convince Heicklen to cease using the bull horn and left saying they would return. Finally, the police returned when Heicklen lit up a second time, confiscated the joint, confirmed it was marijuana and arrested him at 12:55pm.
Heicklen went limp and made the officers carry him into the police car and later into District Magistrate Carmen Prestia's office. According to Heicklen associate Charlie Miller, who attended the hearing, Prestia asked Heicklen if he intended to continue with the protest at the Arts Festival, and Heicklen asked the magistrate if he was asking him to indict himself for crimes not yet committed. Prestia then said he was tired of playing Heicklen's games, and that he was "carrying this thing too far." Prestia set Heicklen's bail at $50,000 cash and scheduled his
Charlie Miller, Press Liaison of the Centre County Libertarian Party, co-sponsors of the protests, will now lead the four day rally during Heicklen's incarceration. "It will definitely continue. We made commitments. These people are showing up (the rally speakers), and we will keep pressing the issue, although its unlikely that a lot of people will be smoking pot." Among the scheduled speakers are nationally known authors Drs. Lynn Zimmer, John Morgan and Lester Grinspoon.
After Heicklen was arrested, the police told the demonstrators that they could not use any "sound amplification." The campus police maintained a strong presence in the area all day, as did the State College police across the street.
Miller said, "This is our 26th week of having political protests. We never had a problem before (with the bull horn and literature tables); the police are obviously very sensitive because of the Art Fest. They're saying we're not allowed to pass out literature in State College because
Miller and local activist Diane Fornbacher are making alternative plans to house the speakers that were going to stay with Professor Heicklen. Miller said he doesn't expect Heicklen to be out of jail before the protest ends on Sunday (6/12) at 6:00pm.