Philly DNC Arrests, But No Cannabis Citations

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Edited photo of Kyle Moore arrested July 20, 2016, at Philly DNC HQ.

Newspapers bragged the day after the DNC that there were “zero arrests made by Philly police during DNC protests.”  There were over 100 citations issued, however, but Philly Mayor Jim Kenney emphasized the respectability of the DNC in contrast to the RNC, as most Democrats did in their speeches all week. Mayor Kenney made the DNC appear more civil by being able to claim zero arrests were made, even though nearly 5 times as many activists were issued citations in Philly than arrested in Cleveland.  In June, Mayor Jim Kenney signed legislation that reduced the penalty for so-called “nuisance crimes” like disorderly conduct and obstruction. “The bill, introduced by City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., turned the punishment for nuisance crimes from criminal summary citations into essentially tickets,” Philly Voice explained.

Activists around the nation hardly noticed the few actions happening at the RNC in Cleveland, where only a total of 23 demonstrators were arrested.  Cleveland BLM didn’t get involved in the convention, and many other activists didn’t want to waste time trying to change Trump’s positions and deal with Trump’s ad hoc redneck security.  Instead, the attention was on the DNC, where thousands of Bernie supporters were expected to attend from July 25-28.  Philly activism was much more appealing than Cleveland’s.  Philly BLM hosted one of the largest DNC rallies on July 26, but even prior to the DNC the Philly BLM organization occupied the first highway in the nation over the death of Alton Sterling on July 6, where roughly 11 demonstrators were arrested for blocking the highway.

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Philly BLM activist arrested July 6, 2016.

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11 Philly BLM activists performing highway sit-in for Alton Sterling, July 6, 2016.

Philly arrests appeared again on July 20, when six Reclaim Philadelphia activists (including me) were arrested for performing a sit-in inside the lobby of the DNC Headquarters, demanding the release of the financial records of the $60 million raised in private by the DNC Host Committee. My picture appeared in Philly.com that night with a solemn face and an American bandanna around my neck, and I was recognized from this picture by strangers at the DNC.  The July 20 arrest signaled to other activists to risk arrest at the DNC without fear. The Progressive Standard contrasted the number of arrests at the RNC to the six arrests at the DNC, under the title: “23 Protesters Arrested During Entire RNC. Six Arrested Before DNC Even Begins.”

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Photo of Kyle Moore from Philly.com

Then on Thursday, July 21, at least 10 clergy members were arrested for performing a sit-in at the Philly International Airport to protest the low wages and unfair treatment of American Airlines employees. But Philly authorities wanted to have a peaceful image, while underlining the fact that they would ensure law and order. On July 24, the day before the DNC began, my picture appeared in a Philly.com article that quoted Philly police as saying they were “absolutely ready” to secure safety at the DNC. Mayor Kenney was quoted at the press conference as well: “Our goal is not to arrest anybody.”

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Photo from Newsworks, July 22, of Philly Clergy performing sit-in at Philly International Airport for higher wages of employees.

The majority of the arrests from Monday, July 25 – Thursday, July 28, can essentially be attributed to the non-partisan group Democracy Spring, as well as to individuals who participated in Democracy Spring’s D.C. arrests from April 11-18, 2016, when over 1,300 persons were arrested to get big money out of politics, in the largest civil disobedience action in the 21st century.  Democracy Spring used its famous reputation to reignite mass arrests at the Philly DNC.  Over a dozen core members lived in a Philly house for two weeks, planning actions for each day of the DNC.  Democracy Spring held nonviolent civil disobedience training’s nearly every night of the DNC inside a Philly church.

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First nonviolent civil disobedience training at DNC.

The largest arrest at the DNC for a single action took place on Monday, July 25, when 54 people were arrested for a Democracy Spring action outside the Wells Fargo Center. Demonstrators first attempted to block a convention entrance on Broad Street with a planned sit-in, and some even attempted to hop over the police barriers, reported CNN.  When the demonstrators approached the entrance, they were met by a line of Philly police, who used their bikes to prevent anyone from entering. One Democracy Spring member arrested that day described the arrest process as such: “We sat down for nearly two hours, continuing to chant while we one-by-one jumped a three-foot tall metal barricade that had been set up.”  Demonstrators nonviolently climbed the barrier, with some even receiving help from police, and were zip-tied before being bused to the station and issued a $50 citation for “disorderly conduct.”  Democracy Now wrote that police arrested TeleSUR journalist Abby Martin as she tried to access the blocked-off area. “She says she was following the police’s instructions when an officer grabbed her, tore her dress and handcuffed her.”  Hundreds of demonstrators stood in support of those getting arrested, as seen in Democracy Spring’s live coverage.

But just like every other day at the DNC, the protests were largely ignored by the media. This point was made most clear by CNN.  As CNN was performing live coverage of the sit-in, the network abruptly cut away from the protest in order to cover the R&B group Boyz II Men.  Other networks failed to properly credit the organization Democracy Spring, or misrepresented the organization’s goals in its coverage.  A New York CBS article wrote that “more than 50 people after they tried to storm the barricades outside the Democratic convention Monday evening in a show of anger over Bernie Sanders’ treatment by party leaders, even as he urged his supporters to fall in line behind Hillary Clinton.” Too bad Democracy Spring didn’t protest over Bernie Sanders, but in fact protested big money out of politics, restoring voters rights, as well as other reforms that would restore power to the individual voters.

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Democracy Spring Sit-In to “Protect Voting Rights” on Monday, July 25.

Although news coverage was shallow and lacking on the first day, the massive arrests at least gained attention to the fact that more demonstrators were arrested on day one of the DNC than the amount arrested during the entire RNC. Cleveland Fox News 8 cheerfully reported the next day that there were “twice as many [persons] detained Monday than those arrested during the entire RNC in Cleveland.”

Arrests on Tuesday were postponed, after Democracy Spring decided to support the BLM rally that day instead.  According to Philly Magazine, four persons were actually arrested on Tuesday night around 8:30 P.M. for climbing over the security fence.  These four Bernie supporters were taken in by Secret Service, “making them the first DNC arrests.”  CBS Philly wrote that the four persons were initially provided a minor citation – just like the 54 citations the day before – but while they were detained they were subsequently arrested by Secret Service, and charged with a federal offense. Protest lawyers responded by charging that the demonstrators rights were violated. Newsworks reported the following day that the “4 DNC fence jumpers” were released.   These four arrests received more publicity than most arrests that week, probably because of the federal charges set against them by the Secret Service, and also because of the arrest of a 69-year old grandmother. Philly.com, NJ.com, Sputnik News, L.A. Times, ABC, WGN TV, Metro US Todayand many other news outlets wrote about these four arrests.

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Photo from July 27 of 4 persons being arrested. Photo by Sputnik News.

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Twitter photo reposted on Twitchy.com of 69-year old woman climbing fence on Tuesday, July 26.

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Scaling fence on Tuesday, July 26, resulting in four arrests. Photo from Philly Magazine.

On Wednesday morning, July 27, about 10 demonstrators were cited for staging a sit-in at the Comcast Center, as over 20 demonstrators cheered in support outside. The majority of individuals involved in the arrest were part of the D.C. Democracy Spring arrests in April, but this action was not affiliated with Democracy Spring.  Luigi Costello of Florida led the sit-in action, and previously worked with Democracy Spring in D.C. in April. CBS Philly quoted Costello saying he wanted the media to “stop entertaining, start investigating.”  Occupy DNC individuals carried the same message outside the building, calling MSNBC the new conservative Fox News.  Philly Voice ignored the 41 other arrests at the DNC that day, and wrote the popular themed, but misleading title: “Ten cited in Comcast Center sit-in on quiet Day 3 of DNC protests.” Overall, the Comcast sit-in received major news coverage, including by NJ.com, ABC, and Associated Press. USA Today wrote that by Wednesday afternoon, 69 citations were issued overall.

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Philly Voice cover photo of Occupy DNC individuals protesting outside of Comcast as 10 are arrested for Comcast sit-in.

On Wednesday night, activists brought the heat by staging a mass protest outside the gates of Wells Fargo Center.  At least seven activists were arrested around 10:50 P.M. by Secret Service for entering a restricted area. They were dressed in all black with their faces covered. One of those arrested was charged for approaching the eight-foot fence with “throwing knives,” according to Philly.com (it was later reported that this individual was a paramedic who carried the knives to “cut gauze and bandages,” and prosecutors did not add a weapons-related charge to the indictment).    CNNIndependent, Fushion, American Renaissance, RT News, Philly Magazine, Courier Times,  LA Times, Fox and a long list of online papers covered the rally as well, with several reporting on the potential violent weapon held by one of the persons.Once again the press picked up on this arrest more than others because of the federal charges by Secret Service and the possible threat of violence. The press by then already expected the biggest protests to occur outside the gates of the Wells Fargo Center, and set up cameras there for the show.  RT News wrote that demonstrators “clashed” with police that night, and gained more excitement for the article by posting several videos of the large sea of demonstrators and police.  These seven arrests along with the four arrests on Tuesday resulted in a total of 11 activists being arrested by Secret Service. An August 8 article by Newsworks reported that the four Bernie supporters arrested on Tuesday had their charges thrown out by the Feds, but that the other seven still faced charges of up to a year in prison.

At the front entrance of the Wells Fargo Center that same night around 9 P.M., Democracy Spring led the second largest DNC arrest, when 34 activists were arrested for a staged sit-in at the first public entrance of the Wells Fargo Center.  One gentleman arrested re-fractured several fingers after he was pushed from behind and fell to the ground. Video footage could be used to determine if he was pushed by a stranger or a police officer.  I was one of the 22 men arrested that night, and we were released that same night with a $50 citation for “blocking a highway.” The charge can possibly be thrown out since we didn’t obstruct traffic on the highway because the highway itself was shut down all week by police. But the sit-in by Democracy Spring was a last-minute action put together, after police warned organizers that jumping the fence would lead to federal trespassing and prosecution, unlike Monday’s arrests that were merely $50 citations. So only after we were threatened with actual arrests did we decide to protest out front of Wells Fargo Center.

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Democracy Spring sit-in at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday, July 27, when 34 persons were arrested.

But there was very little press coverage about the second biggest arrest the DNC.  Probably because every individual was nonviolent and because Secret Service did not need to get involved. The arrest also happened around the time President Obama spoke, and reporters merely ignored the reports the next day, just as they did with most of the Democracy Spring arrests. But then again, the 7-person arrest was widely covered, despite occurring more than an hour after Democracy Spring’s action. An article the next day by USA Today was titled: “As Obama speaks, chaos and arrests outside DNC,” but the article only spoke about the actions of the 7-person arrests, and didn’t once mention the Democracy Spring arrest from the same night. CNN briefly mentioned the 34-person arrest, but it was overshadowed by the 7-person arrest that night. A New York Times journalist merely posted a live stream video of the arrests on her Facebook.

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Photo of Democracy Spring civil disobedience action at Wells Fargo on Wednesday, July 27, when 34 persons were cited.

On Thursday, July 28, Philly activists from the DNC Action Committee, along with individuals from Democracy Spring’s April arrests, organized theater action with a staged court hearing outside the Wells Fargo Center, calling for a “citizens arrest” of Hillary Clinton due to election fraud. The press release caught the attention of The Daily Dot, Philly Magazine, and even conservative blogs.  Late Thursday night and into early Friday morning, after a thousand people voted in support of the citizens arrest outside Wells Fargo Center, three individuals vowed to get arrested in an attempt to make a citizens arrest against Hillary Clinton.  US News released an article on July 29 about the attempted citizens arrest, under the title: “Citizen’s Arrest of Hillary Clinton Fails, Ending Week of Defiant DNC Protests.” The three individuals arrested were Andy, Brian and Emily, who were all involved in Democracy Spring at DC in April. The three activists attempted to cross the line of Philly police bicycles, but were pushed back by police. Unable to break the bicycle barrier, the three of them staged a lengthy sit-in. U.S. News reported: “The activists understood from the beginning it would be them, rather than Clinton, who wound up behind bars.” Andy amused reporters and officers by explaining that he was arrested for trying to issue a citizens arrest against Hillary Clinton.

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Three persons cited on Thursday, July 28, for attempting Citizens arrest against Hillary Clinton. Photo from Philly Voice

Democracy Spring’s official protest on Thursday was an inside job at the Wells Fargo Center.  Three car loads of Democracy Spring members entered the Wells Fargo Center that night in an attempt to interrupt Hillary Clinton’s speech. Although not reported on by the media, a Facebook video showed Democracy Spring members explaining the group’s message of getting big money out of politics. Democracy Spring members were ejected from the event but not cited.

Philly.com reported that police estimates by Thursday evening showed that Philly Police issued 103 citations and that Secret Service arrested 11 persons for jumping over security fences. Nine of the eleven arrested were released Wednesday and Thursday, and the final two persons were released Friday. But this press release was issued by the police prior to the 3 arrests for the citizen’s arrest action, bringing the total to 106 citations.  “Despite Simmering Tensions, Few Arrests at Conventions this Year,” read the title of HeatStreet’s blog. At the Philly RNC in 2000, over 400 activists were arrested.

Police abuse was lower than expected, but intimidation was obvious. Most of the week the cops outnumbered activists in any one area.  Batons were out and in the hands of the officers, which is a terrifying sight for people who are trying to apply and maintain their right to free speech.  Police issued zero citations for marijuana smoking, however, which in Philly could have been a $100 ticket for anyone smoking in public.  No one was cited on Monday, when several thousand people marched from City Hall to FDR Park with a 51-foot inflatable joint, as hundreds smoked openly without incident.  Then on Tuesday, July 26, more than 30 persons smoked at Thomas Paine Plaza for the smoke-out organized by the East Coast Cannabis Coalition, and again police watched from a distance without acting.  Dozens also smoked on Thursday in another march with the inflatable joint.  I smoked at the first two events myself, and I also smoked at nearly every action that week without incident.  It’s possible that police were ordered not to make needless arrests or citations, and were possibly even restricted from citing anyone for cannabis.

‘NJWeedman’s Joint’ Manager Arrested

The state of New Jersey and the city of Trenton continue their attack on NJWeedman. In the past few months NJWeedman and his religious temple and restaurant (“Liberty Bell Temple III” and “NJWeedman’t Joint”) have fallen victim to police raids and numerous arrests. LBT-III was raided by police twice (March 6 & April 27, 2016), leading to 11 arrests, and NJWeedman was arrested three times in the last three weeks (April 19, April 27, May 13, 2016).  The past week has been equally as bad.

If things were not tough enough for NJWeedman in court already, on May 16, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his petition for writ of certiorari, stemming from his 2010 New Jersey arrest.  The U.S. Supreme Court was his last chance to overturn the state’s charges against him that he spent numerous hours trying to win for the last six years.  He will now have to start over in his next court case to reach the U.S. Supreme Court again. He was also plagued with two more bizarre incidents this week.

First, NJWeedman received summonses in the mail for smoking inside a Trenton public building in violation of a city ordinance and smoking in public in violation of state law.  This was for his smoke-out stunt at a Trenton City Council meeting on November 5, 2015, when he lit up a joint with several others at City Hall in protest against the City Council refusing to vote on a non-binding resolution in support of marijuana legalization.  No one was charged or arrested that night for smoking inside the building, but, as the Trentonian headline read from the May 19, 2016, article: “Trenton Police Charge NJ Weedman Six Months After City Hall Smoke Stunt.”  Trenton Police Captain Edelmiro Gonzalez, who apparently witnessed NJWeedman smoking at City Hall six months earlier, signed the summonses against him.  NJWeedman reported to the Trentonian that this served as another example of “harassment” from Trenton police. “I am under siege by the police department,” he said.

After the Trentonian wrote the article about NJWeedman being charged six months after the fact, the newspaper was contacted by police officials, who said the summonses were signed the day after the smoke-out and mailed via regular mail.  Yet, police officials declined to comment on why no warrant was issued for his arrest over the smoke-out.  NJWeedman, who was unaware about the smoke-out summonses until he was informed about it that week in court for his cyber-bullying case, thought the purpose was to make him unaware of the court dates for the summonses, which would lead to a warrant out for his arrest for not appearing in court.  NJWeedman was quoted by the Trentonian again on May 20: “I’ve been in and out of the court system for 20 years and I completely understand how it works.” He continued: “If I missed court, there would’ve been a warrant from the City of Trenton.”  NJWeedman’s attorney, Ed Heyburn, called the city out for applying “selective prosecution” against his client.

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Phil Charles.

The Trentonian also reported on the second issue with Trenton police this week.  On Thursday, May 19, 2016, “NJWeedman’s Joint” business manager, Phil Charles (28-year old black male) was arrested on the same street as the business by Trenton police.  On Wednesday night, May 18, a police car sat across the street from “NJWeedman’s Joint,” making sure the restaurant didn’t serve turkey burgers or chicken wings past 11 P.M. The “Joint” was closed by 11 o’clock, and shortly afterward Phil left the restaurant along with his friend Deenia Sackie (21-year old ‘Joint Girl’).  According to Phil’s narrative, this is what went down.  Phil and Deenia walked toward a vehicle owned by a friend of Phil’s, who apparently let Phil borrow the car to drive to work. As manager, Phil asked the Trenton police from his car, which still wasn’t turned on, if there was a problem he could help with.  At some point Phil allegedly “sneezed” out of his car window, but the police interpreted this as him “spitting.”  Immediately afterward one officer walked up to the driver side of the car and asked Phil for his license and registration.  Phil asked “why” twice, to which the officer responded by opening up the door and handcuffing Phil and Deenia. After both were handcuffed, the officers performed an entire search of the vehicle owned by Phil’s friend.  Police found less than 50 grams of weed stashed in the vehicle, and arrested and charged Phil for “alleged possession of marijuana under 50 grams in a motor vehicle and for allegedly spitting on the sidewalk.”  Deenia was also arrested and charged for possession charges under 50 grams. However, neither of them possessed marijuana on themselves personally, and there was no marijuana smoke or scent inside the vehicle. The entire search of the car stemmed from alleged spitting.

Phil was taken to jail, where his summons became a warrant by order of Sgt. Stokes, according to Phil, for failure to appear in court from 2013, which Phil claimed he attended and paid. When Phil was released from jail early Thursday, May 19, he posted a video on Youtube with him and NJWeedman discussing these “false charges.”  While Phil was still being held, Trenton police extended the attack on Weedman’s Joint by issuing the restaurant a ticket/ordinance for staying open past 11:00 P.M., which it wasn’t!  NJWeedman, who wasn’t even at the “Joint” during this period, said the police were using their time to harass him instead of dealing with serious city issues like “murderers” and “rapists.”  NJWeedman also mentioned it was discriminating that other restaurants and fast food places in the city could be open past 11 P.M., like Taco Bell, Sonic, and numerous other food stores that were ‘grandfathered’ in to serve food late at night.  NJWeedman said these food stores were granted special privilege because they are white-owned businesses, unlike his black-owned restaurant.

NJWeedman Summoned Six Months After City Council Smoke-Out

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NJWeedman at Trenton City Council meeting, November 5, 2015.

This week NJWeedman received summonses in the mail for smoking inside a Trenton public building in violation of a city ordinance, and smoking in public in violation of state law.  This was for his smoke-out stunt at the Trenton City Council meeting on November 5, 2015, when he lit up a joint with several others at City Hall in protest against the City Council refusing to vote on a non-binding resolution in support of marijuana legalization.  NJWeedman famously called all the city council members “cowards” before he was excused from City Hall.  No one was charged or arrested that night for smoking inside the building, but, as the Trentonian headline read from the May 19, 2016, article: “Trenton Police Charge NJ Weedman Six Months After City Hall Smoke Stunt.”  Trenton Police Captain Edelmiro Gonzalez, who apparently witnessed NJWeedman smoking at City Hall six months earlier, signed the summonses against him.  NJWeedman reported to the Trentonian that this served as another example of “harassment” from Trenton police. “I am under siege by the police department,” he said.

After the Trentonian wrote the article about NJWeedman being charged six months after the fact, the newspaper was contacted by police officials, who said the summonses were signed the day after the smoke-out and mailed via regular mail.  Yet, police officials declined to comment on why no warrant was issued for his arrest over the smoke-out.  NJWeedman, who was unaware about the smoke-out summonses until he was informed about it that week in court for his cyber-bullying case, thought the purpose was to make him unaware of the court dates for the summonses, which would lead to a warrant out for his arrest for not appearing in court.  NJWeedman was quoted by the Trentonian again on May 20:“I’ve been in and out of the court system for 20 years and I completely understand how it works.” He continued: “If I missed court, there would’ve been a warrant from the City of Trenton.”  NJWeedman’s attorney, Ed Heyburn, called the city out for applying “selective prosecution” against his client.

NJWeedman calls this a pattern of persecution against him.  He finds it suspicious that this case came up immediately after Trenton police arrested him three times within three weeks.  Phil Charles, manager at NJWeedman’s Joint, was arrested outside the restaurant that same week on May 19.  NJWeedman’s attorney Ed Heyburn is sympathetic to his case and is doing the work pro bono.

Third Annual 420 Trenton Smoke-Out

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Trenton City Hall April 20.

The East Coast Cannabis Coalition (ECCC) organized the Third Annual 420 Trenton Smoke-Out on April 20, 2016.  For the third year in a row cannabis activists smoked in civil disobedience outside Gov. Chris Christie’s office at the Trenton State House, and no one was arrested… sort of.  NJWeedman, co-organizer of the smoke-out and founder of the Trenton 420 protest in 2014, was arrested at the DMV by Trenton police on April 19 under a warrant for missing a court date.  He was held in jail for several days, missing the 420 rally he helped organize.  NJWeedman believed the police intentionally arrested him on April 19 to prevent him from attending the 420 rally and to kill the spirit of rally attendees. But as he sat in his jail cell on April 20, over 100 potheads smoked out the State House without arrests.

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State House April 20.

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State House April 20.

Legalization of cannabis reached a new record high for 420 in 2016. An Associated Press/University of Chicago poll released in March 2016 showed that 61 percent of Americans supported legalization, against 39 percent who opposed it.  This survey mirrored the findings of the October 2015 Gallup Poll showing 58 percent of Americans supported legalization, which was the same percentage of supporters in 2013, when Americans supported legalization by 58 percent for the first time ever.  Thus the entrance into the 60+ percentage of Americans supporting legalization is a big deal, showing the significant jump over a few percentage points in such a short amount of time.

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Ken Wolski of CMMNJ in Trenton, April 20. 

At 2:45 we gathered in front of City Hall and took pictures of all the banners and signs, including the popular sign, “Free NJWeedman.”  Without having a permit to march in the road, we took over the streets and called for bystanders to join us.  The majority of people we passed showed full support of legalization and ending mass incarceration.  I ended up carrying the marijuana cross that NJWeedman had made in 2014 to represent the state’s persecution of him and cannabis users.  Additionally, I wore a black-and-white prison suit that resembled the one NJWeedman wore when he smoked inside the State Assembly and was arrested back in 2000.  I even wore this prison outfit in the Democracy Spring march from Philadelphia to D.C., April 2-10, and even wore it when I was arrested with 430 other activists at the Capitol Building on April 11.  Democracy Spring demanded money out of politics to ensure one voice had one vote, and by the end of the week at least 1,400 people risked arrest for this cause, marking it as the largest mass arrest in the 21st century.  During my speech just prior to 4:20, I declared: “Marijuana won’t be legalized until we get money out of politics.”

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Kyle Moore speaking at State House April 20.

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Marching in Trenton on April 20, 2016.

During the march and rally we carried the ECCC’s large, fake marijuana joint, a.k.a. the “Unity Cypher,” which was part of the ECCC’s “Unity Cypher March” along the East Coast in the “Olympic-inspired event.” Beginning April 14 the Unity Cypher was transferred from one state to another by representative activists along the East Coast, from Maine to Florida. On April 19 the Unity Cypher appeared at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Narcotic Drugs (UNGASS) in New York City, and arrived for the rally in Trenton on April 20, before going to Philadelphia that night.

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NJ Crew holding Unity Cypher on April 20.

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NJ Joint Boyz lighting up Unity Cypher. Photo by Jo Anne Zito.

At 3:00 speeches began at the State House.  Speeches were made by Jo Anne Zito of CMMNJ and read a letter written by NJ cannabis POW Jon Peditto, NJ MMJ patient Lefty Grimes of Sativa Cross, NJ MMJ patient Karen Signore, NJ Anonymous Hemp Sector organizer Barack Oganja, producer of Fully Baked Radio Phil Charles, Michael Chazukow of Libertarian Party, Kyle Moore of NJ Legalize Marijuana Party, and the event was MC’d by Vanessa Maria of ECCC.

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Karen speaking at State House, April 20.

Three police officers stood on the steps of the State House throughout the rally.  When everyone lit up at 4:20, the police turned a blind eye to the action. For a brief moment people were startled when police began heading towards us, but we were relieved when they announced they only wanted us off the government property while smoking.

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Rally at State House, April 20. 

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Trenton for Bernie Sanders at State House, April 20.

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Marijuana Is Safer Than Alcohol, and Bernie Sanders sign, April 20.

The rally should have gained more attention due to the fact that NJWeedman was arrested, but the media didn’t have much time to react to his arrest only the day before the rally, plus an arrest over a small warrant is not as exciting as being arrested for possession.  NJ 101.5 fm radio covered the rally under the title, “NJWeedman Arrested – But Not at 4/20 Smoke-Fest at State House.”  NJWeedman suspected the police arrested him in retaliation for the article he wrote in the Trentonian on April 15, inviting Gov. Christie to smoke with him at the State House on 420. “Mr. Christie, 4/20 is here again” read the title of his article.  This article got spread the word about the rally and received notice from NJ 101.5 fm radio on April 16 and NJ.com on April 19.

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Cannabis Activists cross street at 4:20 to conduct Smoke-Out.

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Smoking with Unity Cypher at 4:20. 

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Kyle Moore, Vanessa Maria and Billy Taylor discuss DNC protests in July.

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Smoking after 4:20. 

Afterward, hundreds of people gathered at NJWeedman’s Joint, hoping to see NJ’s top marijuana activist walk through the door, but alas he remained in jail until April 22. Live music was performed by LNJ sessions.

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With Unity Cypher after 4:20. 

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Smoking at 4:20.

NJWeedman Arrested For Third Time In Three Weeks

NJWeedman was arrested for the third time within three weeks by the Trenton PD on Friday, May 13. He was first arrested during his trip to the DMV on April 19, 2016, the day before the big 420 Trenton rally; then he was among 10 persons arrested during a raid of his Trenton religious temple, Liberty Bell Temple III; and was arrested for the third time on May 13 for “cyber bullying” a Trenton police officer. NJWeedman is shouting for help at the state and federal level at what he perceives to be a pattern of discrimination against him by state officials.

I previously documented his first two arrests in my blog, “NJWeedman’s Joint Raided: NJWeedman Arrested With ‘Joint Boys'”. But in short summary, NJWeedman’s LBT-III church was raided by Trenton police during a “midnight mass” on March 5, 2016, kicking out hundreds of members. NJWeedman responded by filing an injunction in federal court to keep his religious temple open after business hours, commenting that the Trenton police “infringed on his religious rights.”  Skip forward to April 18, when police investigated “NJWeedman’s Joint” backyard with shining lights, using the excuse of a “noise complaint.”  Then on April 19, NJWeedman was arrested for a warrant issued over a missed court date.He was let out of jail on April 22, but was arrested again on April 27 during a raid of his religious temple. Over the next two weeks NJWeedman gained huge press coverage by challenging the raid arrest via jury nullification, calling himself conviction proof against the Mercer County Prosecutors Office. Finally, he claimed the raid was orchestrated by Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union). Lesinak’s law firm defended the city of Trenton against NJWeedman’s lawsuit, and therefore NJWeedman believed the raid was a “retaliation” for filing the lawsuit.

Despite the raid, NJWeedman reopened his restaurant on May 6, but business was slow due to the fear of the raid.  On Tuesday, May 10, he announced the restaurant’s reopening by holding a sign outside of his building that read, “We R Open. Fuck The Police.” A Trenton police squad stopped in front of his store, and engaged in an argument over the sign. Police claimed it was unlawful assembly for NJWeedman to stand on the side of the road, to which he responded that he was the only individual assembled there. NJWeedman repeatedly told the police vehicle: “You’re blocking traffic.” The police remained in the vehicle in the street for several minutes as NJWeedman yelled to bystanders about the police: “Fuck him! Fuck him! In fact, fuck ’em both.” NJ.com reported him saying he was trying to attract the community to his business. “I wasn’t confronting the police,” he continued. “I was out here exercising my free speech and trying to get people to come in. That’s all.” The police turned around and parked in front of the store, where they issued employee Jason Arnold a littering citation for throwing a cigarette butt on the ground, and they walked inside the business before leaving to loud applause. “I’m going to have a problem with the Trenton Police Department now if I didn’t already,” NJWeedman commented.

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NJWeedman’s arrest on May 13 stemmed from a video he was in where he called Officer Flowers a “pedophile” in public. This video was posted online, but NJWeedman claimed he did not shoot the video nor did he post it online.  He therefore found the charges against him unjust.  At 2:00 P.M. on May 13, several police officers arrested NJWeedman at his restaurant and led him to a police vehicle outside.  He was charged with a complaint-warrant for “cyber bullying” and using “offensive language.”  He was held until 8:00 P.M. that night, until he partially posted his $5,000 bail.

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May 13 Complaint-Warrant.

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May 13 Complaint-Warrant.

NJWeedman’s May 13 was scantly covered by the press, unlike his previous two arrests.  This is unfortunate since he was suspended from the Trentonian on May 4 and can no longer publish his own point of view.  Decarcerate the Garden State was the only online site to blog about his arrest that same night, which spelled out the consequences of a police state arresting people for online comments: “It means that what we say in this medium, blogging, etc. can be criminalized and you can be arrested for a youtube or a comment or a blog meander.” The blog also remarked: “Mass incarceration can be at anybody’s doorstep in a flash and it is everybody’s issue.”

Epilogue (May 20, 2016)

The press eventually picked up on this case. On May 16 the Trentonian headlined an article: “‘Butthurt’ Trenton police officer arrests NJ Weedman for cyberbullying; ACLU bashes charges.”  NJWeedman repeatedly mocked Officer Flowers online for being “Butthurt” by his comments. That same day NJWeedman called into the Deminski and Doyle show on NJ 101.5 radio, which turned into a NJ 101.5 online article titled, “Weedman busted for calling cop a ‘pedophile,’ so he calls cop a ‘tender-butt.'” He explained his comments directed at Flowers on May 10: “This officer has a reputation — he’s kind of a thug, and he has that other reputation. When he started trying to tell me to put my sign down, and I couldn’t do that, and get out of the street — all this stuff he’s trying to tell me — to me, I’m a First Amendment guy, anyway. I know he cannot tell me not to do this. So I was doing it anyway despite him, and it got heated between us. I said the personal … thing about him, I called him a pedophile.”  The hosts supported NJWeedman.  “If you call somebody a pedophile, and you do it maliciously, and they’re not, yeah, you can get sued, civilly — that’s very very different than a criminal charge,” co-host Deminski said. “But it seems that there’s absolutely not business that the police had in filing any criminal charges against Weedman, even if it were Weedman who posted this.”

NJWeedman thanked Officer Flowers for filing the phony charges because it landed him an attorney.  Attorney Edward Heyburn announced on May 16 that he would assume all of NJWeedman’s criminal and civil rights civil cases following the “preposterous” arrest.  “Trenton is filled with corrupt cops and that corruption goes all the way up to Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri,” Heyburn said. “Not only are the charges unconstitutional, they’re absurd and they make a mockery of what the law was actually intended to prevent. It’s a scare tactic because they know that my client doesn’t have a lot of money.”  While getting arrested, NJWeedman was also charged with marijuana possession when police found “a roach” on the brim of his hat. Attorney Herburn responded to this charge: “There obviously have been no lab reports to indicate it was actual marijuana or whether it was just paper.”

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Facebook Meme. Original photo from NJ.com.

The ACLU also came out in support of NJWeedman on May 16, following the cyber bullying charges. A NJ-ACLU senior staff attorney told the Trentonian that neither of the charges (cyber-bullying and offensive language) “appear to be sustainable.” ACLU attorney Alexander Shalom said the offensive language charge in the statute was ruled unconstitutional by the appellate courts three decades ago.  “It wasn’t ruled unconstitutional last week or last month, it was ruled unconstitutional in 1985,” Shalom said. “So this isn’t the one where we should give law enforcement a pass and say, ‘Well, maybe they’re not just reading all the latest cases.’ This is a ticket that they shouldn’t have written because for the last three decades, it’s been unconstitutional to write such a ticket.”

Shalom said the cyber-bullying charge was missing a necessary element in the complaint.“The law doesn’t criminalize any time you use a social networking site to emotionally harm someone,” he said, noting thousands of spurned lovers throughout the state who would then be violating the law. “Instead, what it criminalizes is when you post something that is obscene or lewd that is intended to emotionally harm someone. There’s no allegation that’s what Mr. Forchion did.” Shalom said calling an officer a ‘pedophile’ is “insulting and rude, but it’s not obscene or lewd.” “Both of the charges should be thrown out,” he reported. “It seems like the officer was using the criminal law to enforce his petty grievances.” Shalom even agreed with the marijuana community that police should focus their time on another issue besides nonviolent consumption of cannabis.  “We’ve been reading a lot about the real and serious crime problems going on in Trenton,” Shalom said. “Rather than enforcing low-level marijuana crimes and inventing crimes that don’t exist, the Trenton police would be better suited to be focused on the real crime that’s plaguing that city.”

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Attorney Edward Heyburn. Photo from website “Trenton Homicide Watch”.

Attorney Heyburn said the police are “not focusing on the shooting and the killings.” “What they’ve done is use all of that as a pretext to target my client and the people that frequent his establishment and try to put him out of business when there’s been no issues of violence in his place whatsoever,” Heyburn said.  “They may not like his message saying, ‘F**K the police,’ but this is America. I think sometimes Trenton officials forget that it is America, they think that they run this place like Nazi Germany. I’m going to make sure that my client’s rights are protected as well as other people that are victims of the Trenton police.”  Heyburn even filed a civil rights case against Officer Flowers.  “Flowers by all accounts is a troubled cop,” Heyburn said. “He’s abused and terrorized Trenton residents for years. The Trenton police internal affairs has known this. They’ve chosen not to do anything about it.” Heyburn announced his intention to reach out to Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson, who has advocated for community policing. “He’s at the top of the food chain,” Heyburn stated. “He’s allowing the police to terrorize his residents so he has some responsibility here. His hands aren’t clean. He can’t expect that the Trenton residents are going to trust the police when he’s sitting back allowing them to file bogus charges.”

Attorney Heyburn rightfully linked the high levels of unsolved crime and murder to police wasting time cracking down on NJWeedman. On May 17, for the website “Homicide Watch Trenton,” Heyburn criticized Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri by bringing up NJWeedman’s case: “The upper echelon of the prosecutor’s office has to go. If you publish this, my concern is if anyone reads this online I might get charged with cyber-bullying.”

The online website “Tech Dirt” defended NJWeedman in a blog on May 19. The blog mocked how the NJ cyber bullying law was implemented to protect the children, but instead was misused to protect a cop from a local citizen.  “Tech Dirt” said the offensive language charges, stemming from NJWeedman saying ‘Fuck the Police,’ were “largely baseless.”  The website continued: “But the use of the cyberharassment law — which carries a possible penalty of 18 months in jail and a $10,000 fine — is completely ridiculous.”  Moreover: “If Forchion committed no crime by calling Officer Flowers a pedophile in person, no crime was committed simply because this confrontation was recorded (by a third party) and posted to YouTube (also, apparently by a third party).”  Tech Dirt attacked Officer Flowers by saying: “Because Flowers didn’t arrest Forchion on the spot, this means he had to go looking for ‘evidence’ of Forchion’s supposed ‘cyberharassment,’ which the officer somehow feels is a better statutory match for verbal abuse he experienced in person. Sure, Flowers could try to sue Forchion for defamation, but that takes time and Flowers’ own cash. Flowers would rather have taxpayers finance his vendetta and see Flowers face a possible $10,000 fine and a stretch in jail than walk away from the disorderly conduct charge he likely won’t be able to make stick.”  Tech Dirt wrote in conclusion: “Rather than simply ignore the personal attack, Flowers chose to treat it as a criminal offense. The end result is that Forchion, a.k.a. ‘NJ Weedman’ — a person who runs a ‘pot temple’ he apparently feels is beyond the reach of state regulation — is now the least ridiculous participant in this confrontation.”

NYC 2016 Million Marijuana March

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May 7, 2016, NYC Cannabis Parade. Photo from Troy NORML.

The East Coast Cannabis Coalition (ECCC) traveled to the Million Marijuana March (MMM) in New York City on Saturday, May 7, 2016, where the international protest was first organized in 1998 (but the 1998 rally was a flop, so 1999 became the official beginning mark). Around 1,000 demonstrators came out for the NYC Cannabis Parade at Union Square.  No arrests were made when everyone lit up at 4:20. ECCC founder Vanessa Maria spoke shortly after 4:20, announcing the ECCC’s End the Drug War rally at the Philadelphia DNC this July.

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Vanessa Maria speaking at 2016 NYC Cannabis Parade.

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Vanessa Maria speaking at 2016 NYC Cannabis Parade.

Multiple organizations endorsed the rally such as Bernie Sanders groups, Libertarian Party, and NYC Green Party. Jack Cole represented Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), and DCMJ brought the 51-foot joint that made an appearance at the April 2 White House Smoke-Out.  The NYC rally was reported on by Crain’s New York Business, 420Intel.com, FlavorPill.com, EV Grieve, Law Street Media, Marijuana Stocks, Viewing NYC, Mediaite.com, Europa Newswire, Political Storm,  and a video was posted on Vimeo and Youtube.  According to the Russian TimesMMM protests took place in 829 cities and 72 countries.

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DCMJ’s 51-foot joint at NYC Cannabis Parade. Photo from Troy NORML.

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2016 NYC Cannabis Parade.

MMM was founded by NYC marijuana activist and founder of Cures Not Wars, Dana Beal, who organized the first Smoke-In in 1967. The International Marijuana Day of protest, based off the 1965 “International Days of Protest against the war in Vietnam”, eventually spread to hundreds of cities worldwide.  Cures Not Wars enlisted the help of The Coalition for the Abolition of Marijuana, C.A.M.P., which formed in 1978 to unite broad forces under one legalization group.  The Yippie front-group, “The Fifth Avenue Marijuana Parade Coalition,” formed out of this; again based off the largest NYC Vietnam peace group in the 1960s, the “Fifth Avenue Peace Parade Against the War in Vietnam” (formed in 1965). Some report that the “high” point for Yippie chapters holding Smoke-Ins across the nation took place in 1978-1979.   San Francisco, Madison, Ann Arbor, and New York were among the few cities that continued them into the 1990s.  The New York events were held in Washington Square Park, with parades involving music bands going down Fifth Avenue.  This was mostly led by the Yippie! front-group, “The Fifth Avenue Marijuana Parade Coalition.”

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2016 NYC Cannabis Parade.

Yippie members Dana Beal and Aron Kay Pieman, who both spoke at the 2016 MMM rally, originally connected the marijuana movement of the 1960s-1970s with the antiwar rallies against the war in Vietnam. By 1973, NYC held a Smoke-In on May 1, a.k.a. May Day (“Jay Day”), declaring it “National Marijuana Day.”  This was the inspiration for having the MMM on the first Saturday of May each year. On July 4, 1970, Yippies and antiwar protesters crashed a pro-war event called “Honor America Day” in D.C., smoking tons of marijuana and invading the stage with Viet Cong flags. Then next year they returned to D.C. on the fourth of July, setting off the annual July 4th White House Smoke-In.In 1971, massive Vietnam demonstrations plagued the Nixon Administration, while the Shaffer Commission on weed was being conducted.  On April 24, 1971, around 750,000 persons demonstrated against the war in one of the largest rallies ever organized in D.C. The May Day protests began in D.C. on May 3, when roughly 7,200 persons were arrested that first day in the largest arrest in U.S. history.  By the end of the third day on May 5, over 13,000 demonstrators were arrested overall.  At this same time, Nixon blamed the massive protests, not on the unpopular war he was waging, but instead placed blame on the demonstrators for smoking marijuana, on homosexuals, on blacks, minorities, academics, wild youth, etc.Nixon claimed that “every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish.” (weed people, 44)

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Green Party 2016 NYC Cannabis Parade.

 The DNC in 2016 will be huge for cannabis legalization, but DNC protests began decades ago.  Dana Beal, Aaron Kay and Tom Forcade organized the first DNC cannabis legalization rally in Miami in 1972. A concert was held at Flamingo Park during the Smoke-In, where 1,000 demonstrators gathered, including Allen Ginsberg, who led a song at the park.  NORML members were present passing out literature during the organization’s first ever Convention. Beal led the march of 300 persons to the Convention Hall, where he yelled “free pot” as he tossed handfuls of joints into the crowd.  He also led the chant, “we smoke pot and we like it a lot.” They carried anti-heroine banners, and Beal was quoted saying: “We’re against death drugs like heroin.”  No one was arrested at the Convention Hall, despite marijuana clouds floating everywhere. (july 10, 1972, NYT)  Beal spoke with Democratic candidate George McGovern that weekend about marijuana legalization.  Beal wisely pointed out that marijuana was a safe alternative to the reports of CIA heroine in Vietnam, saying legalization could save millions of people from hard drug use. McGovern said he personally spoke out against the CIA heroin on the Senate floor, but said he was not ready for the Dutch model of separating marijuana and hard drugs.

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2016 NYC Cannabis Parade.

NJWeedman’s Joint Raided: NJWeedman Arrested With ‘Joint Boys’

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Trenton crowd witnesses police raid on “NJWeedman’s Joint” and “Liberty Bell Temple III” on Wednesday, April 27, 2016. Photo from NJ.com.

NJWeedman opened “NJWeedman’s Joint” on June 15, 2015.  His smile became contagious on opening day as he stared directly across the street at City Hall and welcomed every type of customer who entered – locals, fans, medical marijuana patients and City Hall employees. He had so much faith in the “Joint“, despite opening up shop in the deserted end of State Street, with both sides of his restaurant touching vacant, run-down buildings.  NJWeedman’s fame and appeal, however, actually made it possible for a viable business to run smoothly in the poor Trenton area.  A “joint resolution” was signed by state Sen. Shirley Turner, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora and Assemblywoman Liz Muoio, declaring in support of “NJWeedman’s Joint” opening: “The grand opening represents the culmination of an extensive planning and building process, which has been brought to fruition only through the extraordinary labors and efforts of a number of devoted people whose commitment to NJ Weedman’s Joint has been exceptional and unwavering.” Reed Gusciora made a statement that certain Trenton authorities ignored: “We want to do all we can do to support all businesses that open in the capital city.”

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NJWeedman receiving the state’s “joint resolution” from Assemblyman Reed Gusciora. Photo from the Trentonian, July 4, 2015.

NJWeedman can always find the best in people and he willingly puts his faith in those around him. He quickly bought up two vacant sections of his restaurant building, expanding the restaurant to include a religious temple (Liberty Bell Temple III) and a recording studio. He hired half a dozen employees from the local area, who were provided a voice in the direction of the company that is not seen in many other careers.  He recruited local customers by hosting open microphone events, where local artists of all types of music were provided a free stage to play and collaborate with other struggling artists – after a few months “The Joint” released a combined mix-tape of tracks written by all the local artists.  He also recruited local artists and painters by allowing them to paint or draw free-style along the outside and inside of his building.  In a highly black-populated city, NJWeedman allowed Black Lives Matter literature to be passed out in his restaurant, including flyers for protests against the NJ State Trooper shooting of 14-year old Radazz Hearns.  NJWeedman also gained the trust of the homeless people on State Street by providing them work with outside duties.  NJWeedman even provided them chairs to sit in next door to his place.  NJWeedman invited #OpFeedTheHomeless to clothe and feed the homeless in Trenton during the winter 2015-2016.

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Homeless and unemployed persons hanging out in their usual comfortable spot provided by NJWeedman, as Trenton police raided the person who treated them with respect. Photo by NJ.com, April 27.

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A well-crafted and beautiful paint-job done by a local graffiti artist is set behind the two officers with semi-automatic machine guns. Photo by NJ.com, April 27.

Yet, certain powers-that-be in Trenton have nothing but disdain for NJWeedman, ignoring the economic services he provides to Trenton’s impoverished business sector and the humanitarian services he provides to Trenton’s lower-class.  NJWeedman brought a peaceful vibe to the community, which a dozen Trenton police officers shattered during a “midnight mass” raid on March 5, 2016, kicking out hundreds of temple members.  NJWeedman responded by filing an injunction in federal court to keep his religious temple open after business hours, commenting that the Trenton police “infringed on his religious rights.”  Skip forward to April 18, when police investigated “NJWeedman’s Joint” backyard with shining lights, using the excuse of a “noise complaint.”  Then on April 19, NJWeedman was arrested for a warrant issued over a missed court date.  Curious that the police waited to arrest NJWeedman until only the day before his April 20 rally at City Hall and the State House, “Third Annual 420 Trenton Smoke-Out.”  Perhaps it had something to do with NJWeedman publishing an article in the Trentonian on April 15 that mockingly invited Gov. Christie to smoke at the 420 rally. Due to this NJWeedman sat in jail on the day of the rally he was supposed to co-host, but luckily Trenton police did not arrest the hundred other persons who smoked at the State House.  NJWeedman was released free around April 22.

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Trenton Police “midnight mass” raid on NJWeedman’s Liberty Bell Temple III on March 5, 2016. Photo from the Trentonian Twitter page.

The Big Raid came on April 27, when dozens of Trenton officers dressed in full tactical gear, including machine guns and tear-gas masks, raided NJWeedman’s stores. Police brought in K-9 dogs and taped off the entrance to the store. NJ.com released an article about the 4:00 P.M. raid within the hour, which led to NJWeedman’s friends spreading the message on social network under the hashtag #FreeNJWeedman.  NJ.com reported that the raid was conducted by Trenton police and the Mercer County Narcotics Task Force, and “a Trenton Fire Department ladder truck was called in so investigators could access a roof.” The Trentonian followed with an article that had pictures of the Trenton police dressed up like they were ready to go to war with the community. The Trentonian wrote: “Members of the crowd yelled with displeasure at the police. Some yelled that officers used cocaine, while others yelled ‘f**k the police, he’s legal.’”   The state’s top radio show, NJ 101.5, mentioned the Trenton police were “armed with assault rifles and bullet-proof vests.” Numerous other journals and online websites shared articles, including Scoop Nest, In USA News, MyInforms.com, Latest US Extra News, Wopular.com, etc.

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Trenton Police brought in K-9 dogs to sniff-out the “Joint.” Photo from NJ.com, April 27.

NJWeedman was arrested along with nine other employees, known as the “Joint Boys,” and were taken to the Trenton Police Department. NJ.com came out with a second article on April 28, listing for the first time the names of the “Trenton 10.”  Those arrested and part of the “Trenton 10” includes NJWeedman (51), Tomas Geronmino (27), Shawn Hurley (45), Philippe Dume (28), Gregory Peterson (20), Nhuygel Green (52), Alfonso Clark (35), Brian Jones (46), Roderick McKinney (39), and Timothy Williams (27).  NJ.com reported that NJWeedman faced “10 charges of marijuana possession and distribution, as well as distribution of drug paraphernalia, maintaining a narcotics nuisance, and for having booby traps in a manufacturing or distribution facility.”  Out of the nine others arrested, two were charged with drug possession. The remainder were charged with outstanding warrants. Another NJ.com article claimed police seized $19,270.  Weedman was busted with $330 on him and faces 13 charges against him, while being held on $70,000 bail. The most recent NJ.com article as well as the April 28 report of NJ 101.5 f.m. claimed that eleven people were arrested total, which would make it the “Trenton 11,” although the 11th arrest, according to NJ.com, took place during a “second raid” in Hamilton that led to a minor marijuana possession charge.  The radio station reported that police seized $19,000 in marijuana during the raid: “56 grams of marijuana,” 32 grams of edible candy, a pound of marijuana butter, another 10 grams of marijuana, 5 grams of hashish, another 1,055 grams of marijuana, 5 ounces of promethazine, scales, $85 cash in a jar, $60 in cash and packaging materials in the office, and 28 grams of marijuana in the backyard.  Another NJ 101.5 f.m. announcement was released April 28 about the raid: “Weedman’s Joint restaurant was raided yesterday and he and nine others were arrested. Do you really want your tax money going towards locking people up for something harmless like marijuana?” A.P. reports on April 28 also conveyed that 11 people were arrested in the drug bust, including articles of U.S. News, Philly.com, The Dispatch, ABC 7 Chicago Eyewitness News  ,KSL.com, U.K. Daily Mailand ABC News.  

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Arrest at NJWeedman’s Joint on April 27. Photo from NJ.com, April 28.

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Two black men being arrested during the raid, April 27. One of them is a regular employee for NJWeedman. Photo from NJ.com

The police made a statement by having a quasi-military squad invade the “Joint,” driving fear into local people who side with NJWeedman over Trenton politicians and authorities.  Even if “NJWeedman’s Joint” re-opened, those in power suspect that people will be too frightened to enter the business, and therefore NJWeedman will have to close shop.  Victory for those in power; a big loss for Trenton’s economy and health as a community.

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Trenton Police surround NJWeedman’s building with AK-47’s and bullet-proof vests. Photo from NJ.com, April 27.

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A black man being arrested during the raid, April 27. Photo from NJ.com

It is too early to say who is in charge of these attacks.  On April 28, Extract Sun Times released an article about the raid, quoting NJWeedman from a previous article last year, where he stated:“There’s still prejudice against marijuana when it comes to bureaucracy,” he said. “Family courts, state police, that sort of thing.”   Possibly the Trenton police, who have known NJWeedman for a long time.  Could be the state courts that have repeatedly dealt with NJWeedman and his tactics of jury nullification over the last 20 years. Perhaps Trenton politicians.  On November 5, 2015, NJWeedman and others performed a smoke-in at a Trenton City Council meeting, after a resolution to legalize cannabis died on the floor, and NJWeedman repeatedly called the City Council members “cowards.”  This act didn’t put many City Council members in NJWeedman’s corner.  Gov. Christie is a big suspect in NJWeedman’s current despair.  They became acquainted with one another in August 2003, when NJWeedman was arrested three times outside US Attorney for NJ Chris Christie’s office in Newark, for carrying a sign that called Christie a “hypocrite.”  Since then NJWeedman has been a thorn in Christie’s side, leading to numerous smoke-outs at the State House from 2014-2016, and other forms of confrontation between the two men, like on March 23, 2015, when NJWeedman followed Christie to a radio station and confronted him in the parking lot, requesting that Christie “stop arresting people for marijuana.”  Christie replied back:“Why don’t you go call President Obama?”  Christie is currently placing his chips in the Trump campaign, and is doing all in his power to come off strong and competent, but unable to be either of these things at any given point, he has chosen to beat up on the underdog like the bully he is.

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NJWeedman friends and fans in disbelief after the raid. Photo by NJ.com, April 27.

As of now, it is suspected that NJWeedman and the Joint Boys may have a hearing for bail at Mercer County Courthouse on Thursday morning, April 28.  NJWeedman’s daughter informed the Trentonian that the charges against her father were possibly going to be “related to intent to distribute marijuana,” but she was unsure of the exact charges he faced. Bail for NJWeedman could be as high as $70,000, according to one source. It is still unknown of what will happen to NJWeedman’s businesses or what will happen to NJWeedman and the Joint Boys.  But it seems the future will be faced with tons of jail support and protests over the injustice served on a daily basis in the world of marijuana prohibition.

Epilogue (Updated May 4)

NJWeedman was released in the evening on April 28, after paying a percentage of his bail. He immediately returned to the Joint and posted a Facebook video that night of himself rolling up and smoking a joint. “Fifteen years ago I said I was never going to take a plea,” NJWeedman said on the video. “Since then I’ve beaten the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office twice. And now Mercer County has lined up for their ass whoopin’.” News outlets like the Jersey Tribune covered this Facebook post. He interviewed with the Trentonian over the phone that night, which quoted him in an article the next morning: “They just gave me another platform to continue my goal.” He continued:“This is exactly what happened in Burlington County. I beat those prosecutors, and I’ll beat the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office too. They’re on the wrong side of history.” NJWeedman won his charge against marijuana distribution against Burlington County Assistant Prosecutor Luciano in October 2012 through jury nullification, when the jury voted 12-0 to find him not guilty. The following day Jeff Edelstein titled his Trentonian article, “Jury upends marijuana law, NJWeedman walks free.”

NJWeedman complained about the charges against him and the reports issued by police.  “It may have been worth a few hundred dollars, but $19,000 worth of weed…are they crazy?” NJWeedman said. “And distribution? What? They didn’t catch me selling weed to no one. Just about everyone here is a smoker. So yes, there’s weed here. But there’s no distribution going on. They exaggerated big time.”  He argued he never sold marijuana to anyone:“I share because I care, and it’s wrong for them to criminalize that. A lot of people come in here with weed and we share. Sharing is not selling. We’re not running any kind of illegal enterprise out of here.” “This is the politics of pot in New Jersey,” NJWeedman said to the Trentonian. “This is about certain people refusing to accept that I have a church next to my other businesses. One of the police officers even told me the operation wasn’t initiated by the Trenton Police Department. They assisted in the investigation, but it was set in motion by someone else. Politics are in play here.” NJWeedman said he’s “looking forward to the trial,” and that he knows he has the public on his side in regard to marijuana laws.“I’m a proponent of jury nullification and I’m going to take this to trial,” he reported. “Once again I get to publicly argue my case in court and be David fighting the Goliath of government.”

“I’m out – I was released at 8:30 pm tonight – 29 hours after arrest,” NJWeedman wrote on Facebook Friday morning, April 29, reported NJ.com. “I read some of the press and I’m shocked the Police exaggerated and misconstrued the goings on at The Temple. I want to comment and respond in my own words.”NJWeedman reported he couldn’t wait for his case in two years, “NJ Weedman versus Mercer County.”  That afternoon he held a Press Conference at his cannabis church, where he announced his intention to fight the case through jury nullification. “I told them in jail that I’m going to have a press conference,” NJ.com quoted NJWeedman saying at the press conference.  He also announced he was “conviction proof.” NJ 101.5 radio also reported on the press conference. NJWeedman explained the paraphernalia charges were based on the items for sale in the smoke shop, and that the fortified premises charge against him was probably based on his surveillance-camera system. NJ 101.5 was also complimented the business production brought by NJWeedman: “But The Joint’s brick facade also overlooks the kind of boarded up and vacant buildings that pockmark much of the state’s struggling capital city.” It also mentioned he “opened up his doors to the homeless, offering them a safe place to sleep.”  NJWeedman criticized the police reports that were quoted in the press.  Debi Madaio, NJWeedman’s business partner, was quoted in a High Times special on NJWeedman on April 28: “We’re the center for activism here.” She explained the purpose of the business was to bring together the medical marijuana community: “I started this business from a medical point of view.”

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NJWeedman at April 29 Press Conference at cannabis church. Photo in NJ.com, April 29.

NJ.com reported in another article on April 29 that the Joint restaurant was shut down for health code violations.  The Health Department shut down the Joint on the day of the raid, showing the cooperation between government departments in bringing down the NJWeedman. Then on April 30, NJ.com continued its trail of articles on NJWeedman by writing an historical account of his marijuana activism. The press conference and his complaints about police officials “exaggerating” the charges was reported on by Associated Press, including NBC Philadelphia Channel 10, Channel 6 News, ABC 7 News, Courier Post, Yahoo, Boston Herald, New Jersey Herald, Yakima HeraldHickory Record, Oklahoma NewsOk, Cherokee Tribune & Ledger News, KTAR News, South Carolina Morning News, U.K. Daily Mail, Naples Daily News, Newsday, Reporter News, Lancaster Online, Marietta Daily Journal, Atlantic Broadband, CBS New York Channel 2, California Appeal-Democrat, San Francisco Gate, Los Angeles PostTexas Eagle, Dothan Eagle, Standard JournalArgus Press, Daily American, Bowling Green Daily News, Bend Broad Band, Quixnet, Richmond Times Dispatch, Herald Whig, and Albany Times Union.

Jeff Edelstein released a Trentonian article on NJWeedman on May 1, comparing him to Henry Gunther, the last man to die needlessly in WWI.  Edelstein, who has defended NJWeedman for over 15 years in the press, wrote these disparaging words: “And yet Forchion – who has a brilliant, sharp mind – keeps running into the buzzsaw, keeps Gunthering himself for no good reason.” Edelstein pleaded with NJWeedman to just wait for NJ to legalize marijuana, which he claims isn’t too far away. “So Ed, a direct plea here: After you clear up this latest brush with the law, how about putting down the bayonet. It doesn’t have to keep ending like this for you. There’s a happily ever after out there in Colorado or Washington, Oregon or Alaska. Move down to D.C. Or somewhere where marijuana is decriminalized. You won the war. Enjoy it.” Yet, Jay Lassiter wrote a warm piece about NJWeedman in the popular cannabis magazine Leafly on May 2, recording the history of victories in NJWeedman’s corner.

NJWeedman gained more fame for the case on May 3, when he spoke on the “Deminski and Doyle show” on NJ 101.5 radio.  He repeated his claims that the raid was orchestrated by Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union). Lesniak’s law firm is defending the city of Trenton against the lawsuit filed by NJWeedman for the invasion of his church by police in March. He therefore accused the raid as being a form of “retaliation” for filing the lawsuit.  Moreover the lawsuit became more problematic when NJWeedman filed video proof from his $10,000 installed video cameras to prove that police harassed him during the March invasion. Weedman announced on the radio:“I really and truly believe I am conviction-proof on this. I am taking it to a jury. I don’t want the prosecutor to try to bribe me with some plea of leniency. I want a jury trial as is my right.”  NJWeedman was also quoted saying about Lesinak:”He’s opposed to legalization.” Sen. Lesinak denied the claim on NJ 101.5. “I think he’s been smoking too much weed. These are the rantings of a raving lunatic,” Sen. Lesniak reported. “Weedman’s comings and goings are not at the top of my list of things to pay attention to.”

NJ.com reported on the radio interview that same day:“NJ Weedman Takes To the Radio, Blames Raid of His Joint On Retaliation.” NJWeedman explained he had no problems with his business until February. “I was told that this came down from high above,” he said as he explained his “retaliation theory,” blaming the prosecution and the police over the raid. For this reason he personally invited Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri to handle the prosecution side of the case so that NJWeedman, who plans on representing himself pro se, can personally duel with him in the court of law. NJWeedman, who previously defeated Burlington County Assistant Prosecutor Luciano for his 2010 arrest, is positive he can win the case:”I want you to do this… I want you to take this beating.”  NJWeedman wrote about his upcoming battle with Prosecutor Onofri on his website njweedman.com on May 3. NJWeedman pleaded Onofri not to “pass this trial off to an assistant – do it yourself, ‘hero’.”

Despite all the positive press, NJWeedman was fired from his position as a writer for the Trentonian on May 4, 2016, a job he’s held since August 2014.  His column was discontinued by the paper because of the “chaos” with the raid; and because of the “conflict of interest” with both the Trentonian and himself reporting on his case.  First his church is invaded in March; then he’s arrested April 19; then arrested again during a raid on his business April 27; and now he’s fired from his job.  When will the pain end for NJWeedman, and when will the prohibition of marijuana stop ruining lives like it did his?

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NJWeedman edited this picture of Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri in front of NJWeedman’s Joint.

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NJWeedman edited this picture of Prosecutor Angel Onofri in front of NJWeedman’s Joint.