Newsbrief: Canadian Couple Appalled at Being Treated Like, Well, New Yorkers 4/30/04

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New Yorkers have long been inured to the daily thuggery and brutality displayed by the New York Police Department as it enforces the laws against marijuana. Responsible for nearly 10% of all marijuana arrests in the entire country, the NYPD typically hauls people in for possessing a joint or two, an offense usually punished with a small fine, but gets its pound of flesh by detaining those arrested in dirty, cramped holding cells for an average of nearly an entire day. For jaded New Yorkers, it's just business as usual, especially in the police state atmosphere that pervades the city since the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.

But for visitors from more civilized climes, the NYPD's behavior is shocking and scandalous. Ask Canadian couple Paul Dehler, 45, and his wife, Caroline Gudz, 41, of Ottawa. According to a report in the Ottawa Citizen this week, the couple is officially complaining to Mayor Michael Bloomberg over a run-in they had with some of the city's finest during a January visit to the city.

Dehler and Gudz were sitting eating a bagel in Cooper Square Park in Manhattan's Lower East Side when they were set upon by undercover narcs who claimed they were smoking marijuana. They were not, said Dehler and Gudz, only having lunch before a trip to the Museum of Modern Art, when two scruffy looking men in civilian clothes rushed them, yelling something about smoking marijuana. Thinking they were being mugged, Gudz screamed for help. According to Dehler, the undercover cops punched him in the face and threw him to the ground. Although no marijuana was found, both Gudz and Dehler were arrested and jailed at the 9th Precinct for nearly 24 hours.

"I got brought in front of this big bull sergeant who looks at me and says, 'Do you like to fight with cops up in Canada?' I said, 'I don't know what's going on. I'm willing to apologize to the arresting officer,'" Dehler told the Ottawa Citizen. "He interrupts me and says: 'If that was me arresting you, you would be in the hospital right now.' He said, 'Take him in the back and strip search him and give him the whole nine yards.'"

The NYPD strip-searched Dehler and Gudz and repeatedly blocked their efforts to contact friends, family, or attorneys, Dehler said, but a good Samaritan who witnessed the encounter contacted the Canadian consulate. Gudz was charged with resisting arrest and obstructing justice, while Dehler was charged with attempted assault, resisting arrest, harassment and disorderly conduct. All the charges have since been dropped, but the couple is out $5,000 in legal expenses and has, for good reason, developed a jaundiced view of the Big Apple and the United States.

"I don't drink, I don't smoke, we have an organic garden in the back. We're as clean as they come," said Dehler. "We met nothing but wonderful people until this incident, and then we thought we were in a bad Hollywood movie." As for New York City: "It's a beautiful city," said Gudz. "I love it. But I'm telling you, I don't want to go back there. I don't want to go back to that country."

But the couple does want to let Mayor Bloomberg know about their experience. In their letter to the mayor, they wrote: "Every Canadian who has heard our story has been horrified that law-abiding, well-intentioned tourists can suffer such a terrifying experience at the hands of NYC law enforcement authorities," Dehler wrote. "My wife and I inform you of this incident with the expectation that your office will respond by taking the necessary measures to protect the safety and security of Canadians visiting your city."

Don't expect too much, Mr. Dehler. After all, Mayor Bloomberg, who has publicly admitted enjoying pot himself, blithely continues the draconian marijuana policy begun by his law-and-order predecessor Rudy Giuliani and ignores the same abuses perpetrated against New Yorkers by "New York City's finest" on a daily basis.

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Issue #335, 4/30/04 Announcing: "The New Prohibition: Voices of Dissent Challenge the Drug War" -- New Compendium by Sheriff Masters Features David Borden and Numerous Other Thinkers on Drug Policy | Peruvian Coca Growers' "March of Protest and Sacrifice" Reaches Lima as Government Seeks to Elevate Alternative Leadership | Like a Phoenix from the Ashes: Vancouver's "Pot Block" Rebounds from Weekend Arson Fire | There You Go Again, Joe: CASA Report Uses Suspect Science to Hype Teen Marijuana Menace | NORML 2004: Stroup to Retire, Lobbying the Hill, Initiative Excitement, Medical Marijuana | Newsbrief: Drug Czar, Media Campaign Well-Positioned to Influence November Elections | Newsbrief: FBI Was Looking for Dope, Not Terrorists, 9/11 Commission Says | Atlantic City Announces Needle Exchange Plans | Newsbrief: European Union Blocks Cannabis Exhibition | Newsbrief: New Web Site Compiles Judicial Opposition to Drug War | Newsbrief: Canadian Couple Appalled at Being Treated Like, Well, New Yorkers | Newsbrief: Albuquerque Cops Block 4-20 Event by Closing Park | Newsbrief: Colorado Drug Task Force Sued Over Methamphetamine "Decontamination" Public Stripping | This Week in History | The Reformer's Calendar

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