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  Thousands Participate In Million Marijuana March!
Posted by FoM on May 03, 1999 at 20:51:53 PT
Source: High Times Magazine 

cannabis It was Jay Day around the world on May 1, but the epicenter of the Million Marijuana March (MMM) had to be New York, where the event was founded 27 years ago. Originally known as the Smoke-In/5th Avenue Parade, the MMM replaced it two years ago after getting ousted from Washington Square Park and Fifth Avenue by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the City government of New York.

Event organizer Dana Beal, who has always preferred marches to sit-down rallies, hoped to gain a permit to march up 5th Avenue like other traditional parades, but was turned down by the City. New York authorities offered Broadway instead and a rally location at the Southern tip of Manhattan at Battery Park. It was pretty much a repeat of last year's scenario, but thousands of the marijuana faithful unfortunately didn't know where and when the day's events were taking place.
Until the Smoke-In was railroaded out of Washington Square in 1997, New York smokers enjoyed the tradition of smoking out the Greenwich Village park on the first Saturday in May. The event had grown substantially in the '90s from a meagerly attended rally to a overcrowded throng of weed heads. In 1996, more than 250 people were arrested in Washington Square Park. In 1997, the event was canceled due to city interference. Last year, a compromise was reached, allowing a downtown march to a new park location. But this didn't satisfy Beal, who until the last minute had hoped to gain a reprieve from the City and receive permits to march on Fifth Avenue and rally in Central Park. This didn't happen in 1998 or 1999, creating quite a bit of unnecessary confusion. This year's rally flyers and posters did not state that the MMM was heading downtown or that Battery Park was the rally location. The result was a decent- sized march followed by a disappointingly low turnout at Battery Park.

This HIGH TIMES editor was told by organizers that marchers were to congregate in the Washington Square Park area from 11 am to 1 PM. The March would start at 1 PM and head South on Broadway. I arrived at Washington Square at noon. A Family Day event was going on in the Park, smartly organized as an antidote to the Smoke-Ins of the past. Confused potheads walked around the park looking for signs of the MMM. One MMM "official" running through the crowd told people to go to Battery Park. What about the March? Since no one was there to provide information, I rode the subway to Battery Park. When I got there, one of the Cures Not Wars organizers told me the march was starting at Broadway and Houston St. So I got back on the subway and found the March, which was proceeding down Broadway.

The March was a great success. As many as 10,000 smokers chanted "I smoke pot and I like it a lot" and "Hemp hemp hooray, legalize today" as they made their way through lower Manhattan. It was an empowering display.

At Battery Park, the sound system was not running when the marchers arrived. When it was finally turned on, Beal got on the mic and expressed his desire to stage a Millennial Marijuana March next May. Of course, he said it would have to be in Central Park. But the fact is Battery Park is a perfect location for the rally. It's significantly bigger than Washington Square Park, looks out on the majestic Statue of Liberty and caters to tourists.

After a series of opening speeches (including one by yours truly), music thankfully took over the day. John Brown's Body, an upstate reggae band, are one to watch. They're playing reggae festivals all over the country this summer. Their short set was highlighted by a tight horn section and Irie lyrics. HIGH TIMES's own reggae all-stars, the Cannabis Cup Band, followed with a flawless set of ganja songs, including two by Bob Marley ("3 o' Clock Roadblock" and "Get Up, Stand Up") and the original, "Pass the Herb." Rocker T and Eskinder Tafari's lead vocals were most high and rootical.

Short perfomances by hip-hopper Diezzle Don and the rock band Gargantuan Soul were less impressive. David Peel and the Lower East Side did their usual thing, haphazardly singing "I Like Marijuana" and "The Pope Smokes Dope," reminding us of the event's Yippie roots. A promise of an appearance by members of Wu-Tang Clan materialized late in the day when MMO (Money Makin' Operation), who record for Wu-Tang Records, made a brief stage appearance. The rally ended with an impromptu performance of the blunted classic, "Mad Izm," by Channel Live.

Crowd estimates vary widely. The March was at least 5,000 strong and the Battery Park crowd added up to perhaps 10,000. But if people had known the locations way ahead of time those figures would have been easily doubled. Maybe next year, for the Millennial Marijuana March.

Steve Bloom - Special to HT News

Thank You High Times Magazine for this great article!

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