Burn the Drug War on the National Mall This Saturday!

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[Update: Catharsis took place as planned. Photos from the event can be found on the event's Facebook page.]

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/catharsis-cell-burning.jpg
This coming weekend, the National Mall in Washington, DC, will be the scene of a two-day vigil highlighted by the ceremonial burning of an interactive art installation dedicated to victims on the drug war in the shadow of the Washington monument.

The event is Catharsis on the Mall: A Vigil for Healing the Drug War, open to the public and featuring exhibits, art, music, dance, and nationally known speakers, including famed civil rights attorney Billy Murphy Jr.; Ifetayo Harvey, who lost her father at age four to prison and deportation for a first-time drug offense; and Anthony Papa, sentenced to fifteen years to life imprisonment for a first-time drug offense.

The vigil's centerpiece is the "Temple of Essence," a structure that "offers a space for healing personal and collective trauma, engaging community, and allowing the release of negative energy." It's the temple that will burn on Saturday night.

"People will see they are not alone in this struggle," said Michael Verdon, temple artist and US Air Force veteran. "As the temple burns, we will turn our individual experiences into a collective memory and heal as a community. Afterwards, our vigil will continue with cathartic dancing until sunrise."

Members of the public are invited to share their drug war stories during open mike sessions, as well as writing them within the temple's walls and leaving mementos before it burns.

"Through art and peaceful expression, we are demonstrating the transition to a more compassionate society," said event organizer and civil rights attorney, Robert Haferd. "This vigil is the first of its kind on the National Mall, and we are delighted that the National Park Service, Park Police, and the DC Fire Department have partnered with us to make it possible.

The event is organized by Washington DC-area artists, social justice advocates, and Burning Man participants. Speakers and installations will be provided by national and local drug policy organizations, including Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).

The vigil is timed to coincide with the International Drug Policy Reform Conference, which will bring more than one thousand researchers, academics and advocates to our nation's capital to work toward ending the war on drugs.

"From the recently-leaked United Nations document calling for drug decriminalization, to growing bipartisan support for ending mass incarceration and allowing cannabis research, we are transitioning from the traumatic war on drugs to policies grounded in public health and human rights," said Natalie Lyla Ginsberg, event organizer and Policy and Advocacy Manager for MAPS. "It’s time to come together to heal and celebrate."

See you there!

Washington, DC
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Catharsis on the National Mall

I wrote a piece about Catharsis, including photos and videos from this exciting, unprecedented event, on the Burning Man blog: http://journal.burningman.org/2015/12/global-network/rhymes-with-burning-man/catharsis-burning-for-change-on-the-national-mall/

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