By Deej Sulivan
APRIL the 20th has for years meant only one thing for the cannabis community – a chance to protest. All over the world tokers of all shapes and sizes come together to protest against the unjust laws which criminalise them for partaking in their favourite herb.
In the UK the focal point of our 4/20 protests has for a number of years been Hyde Park in London, and this year was no exception. With the continued rise of the UKCSCs in the last 12 months, coupled with the great weather and the fact that 4/20 fell on a Saturday; expectations were high for this year’s event. The number of people who had said they would be attending on the Facebook page had reached over 5000 by Saturday morning, but no one really expected that many to turn up. What actually happened was incredible, and a true testament to the power of the internet and mobile phones, as well as a sign that the current momentum in the worldwide cannabis movement is showing no signs of slowing down.
When I arrived, at around 1pm, there were probably a few hundred people already there. Most were just lounging around in the sun with a joint or a pipe and enjoying the music being provided by the guys from Lean Clothing. The sweet smell of Cannabis smoke and the sound of laughter and happy conversation filled the air, a far cry from the mad rushing and chaos of the rest of central London, just a few hundred metres away.
For the first hour or so the number of people slowly grew and everywhere we went there were people on their mobile phones telling their friends what was happening and to come and join them. Facebook and Twitter had really picked up on what was happening and at one point I was excitedly told that there were 20 tweets a minute relating to the smoke-out. By the time 4:20 rolled around, the atmosphere was electric. By this point an estimated 10,000 people had showed up, there were multiple sound systems blasting out music, and everyone (even those who weren’t smoking) was well and truly stoned.
At the northern end of the protest Greg De Hoedt (founder of the UKCSCs and Community Outreach Director at NORML UK) was giving a rousing speech to a rapturous response from the crowd, or at least from those who could hear him. From somewhere in the crowd a red smoke canister was let off and the whole place, from the Marble Arch entrance all the way down to the Joy of Life Fountain, turned into one huge party.
It was easy to forget amongst all the revelling that under our current laws everyone who attended this event could technically have been arrested and charged as a criminal. What Saturday showed more than anything else is the true absurdity of this position. 10,000 people gathered together to smoke cannabis, and as far as I could tell no fights broke out, no criminal damage was caused and everyone had a great time and went home happy. And this wasn’t just a bunch of hippies getting stoned; there were people there of all ages, from every background you can imagine, and all of them were united in the fight against prohibition.
In the wake of this potentially historic event it is vitally important that we use any momentum generated to push our movement to new heights; and to force the Government into action. Next up on the calendar is the Million Marijuana March in Cardiff on May 4th and the NORML AGM two weeks later in Bristol. If we as a community can come together like we did yesterday in London and make these events even half as big as 4/20, we will get the media attention we deserve, and show those in power that we are not going anywhere. This is a very exciting time to be a part of the campaign to reform cannabis laws in the UK, but we need everyone’s help. If you missed out on Hyde Park, don’t miss out again.
Organiser, Orson Boon, who runs the London Cannabis Club, the UK’s largest cannabis based Facebook page said: “We saw London cannabis consumers come out in force yesterday in what was the largest 420 party ever in the UK – people from all backgrounds and ages socialised in what was a very peaceful day. The London Cannabis Club would like to thank everyone who came for making it a very special day. This has really put the London 420 event on the map and we’ll have an even bigger one next year.”
Video courtesy of Jo Martin Moss, who is Secretary and Deputy Director for NORML UK