This year's Million Marijuana Marches, which stretched across two weekends this year, have come to an end, but not always happily. The forces of repression, which visited Buenos Aires the previous weekend, were busy in Moscow and Tel Aviv.
In Israel, uniformed and undercover police shut down the May 8 International Marijuana Day event at HaYarkon Park in Tel Aviv after arresting 30 people for the suspected use or possession of marijuana, the Jerusalem Post reported. Event organizer and Green Leaf Party head Boaz Wachtel was among those detained.
The police moved in four hours after the event began, swarming the sound system and shutting it down, cutting off the music right in the middle of Peter Tosh's classic herb anthem, "Legalize It." Although some pushing and shoving and shouts of "fascists" and "police state" broke out, that was the extent of the violence.
"I came to the conclusion that this was a drug party and violation of the law won't be tolerated. After thirty people were arrested for using drugs, it was decided to close down the event," said Brigadier General Aaron Ezra of the Tel Aviv police.
But the Post suggested that perhaps Ezra had other reasons for shutting down the event, which had been held peacefully for the past six years. This year, the event had a higher profile because Knesset member Roman Bronfman was set to give a speech announcing he would file medical marijuana and marijuana decriminalization bills. The event was shut down 15 minutes before Bronfman was set to take the stage.
"From my standpoint, today's event is legal, after the high court rejected a petition [to ban the event] and after the city of Tel Aviv gave authorization for the event to be held," Bronfman told reporters at the event. "I think the police were the ones who disturbed the peace. "The police knew I was supposed to speak at 4:00pm, and I interpret what happened here now as a suppression of free speech and not allowing a Knesset member to express his opinion."
Official reaction was much the same in Moscow, where protesters at the "World Hemp March" were arrested for taking part in an unauthorized protest. According to the Moscow Times, the city refused to grant a permit for the march, claiming it would violate the state law that forbids illicit drug propaganda. About 30 people showed up anyway, and they were arrested. They were to be released "once their transgressions are documented," police told the Times.
Although authorities in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires behaved like those in Tel Aviv and Moscow earlier this month, shutting down the Buenos Aires "Festival Against Intolerance" at the last minute even as thousands streamed toward the site, it was a different story last weekend in Argentina's second largest city, Rosario.
Like its Buenos Aires counterpart, the Rosario "Festival Against Intolerance" was organized by the Argentine Harm Reduction Association (ARDA). More than 6,000 attended, reported ARDA's Silvia Inchaurraga. "We organized this as part of our National Campaign for the Depenalization of Drugs for Personal Use," she said. "We had 11 bands, as well as ARDA representatives, national Deputy Eduardo Garcia, author of the decriminalization bill introduced in November, and a member of the drug user network RADDUD, as well," Inchaurraga reported.
Participants chanted slogans such as "Just Say No to The War on Drug Users," "Cures Not Wars," and "In Argentina the Drug Law is More Harmful Than the Drugs." Now if someone could just convince the drug warriors.