The Drug Race And Party to End the War
"15 Years to Life"/"Nightmare
text and photos by Preston Peet- special
April 23, 2002
Despite rain and some enthusiastic security
guards, the combined Drug War Race and Party held April 20, 2002
in New York City was a triumph of will on zero budget. With a
bicycle race in the afternoon simulating the day in the life of
a NYC drug delivering bicycle courier, and a party that night,
hundreds of people helped put the event together and came out
to show support for an end to the War on Drugs.
Organized by Valerie Vande Panne, Ana da
Gama, and Joker, the event was held to benefit the Drug War Awareness
Project, a new drug reform organization based in NYC dedicated
to making people aware, by utilizing art and education, of the
horrendous damages caused by the War on Drugs.
Fake acid, weed, happy pills, crack and powder
Race organizer Joker, with supplies
Approximately 30 bike messengers gathered with
their bikes in Tompkins Square Park in the Lower East Side, braving
the rain and possible trouble with NYPD, who can break up any
gathering of 25 or more people who have no permit from the city.
Each racer paid $5 for an itinerary, a numbered spoke card, and
a bag full of fake drugs which they had to deliver to 6 different
points throughout Manhattan. Kicking off at precisely 4:20 PM,
there were a few mishaps during the race, such as the one racer,
Mortimer, who got hit by a taxi uptown near the first stop of
Central Park but was not seriously injured.
Racer with bike spoke card advertising
Bayer Heroin and Aspirin
And they're off!
The first 5 racers to cross the finish line, afflicted
with apparent short-term memory loss, forgot to hit the second
to last stop and were disqualified from contention. The first
place prize, a bike messenger bag, went to Mike Macca, from Adelaide,
"Adelaide has the best, most liberal weed
laws in Australia," Macca told drugwar.com. "They’re much better
about weed at home than are authorities here in the US, and people
are much less paranoid."
The party was held on the 9th floor of the Lunatarium
in Brooklyn, overlooking the East River. The
Libertarian Party, NORML,
the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet),
Students for Sensible Drug Police (SSDP),
Moratorium Project, the Harm
Reduction Coalition, the Kunstler
Fund for Racial Justice, Cures-Not-Wars,
and the NY Medical Marijuana
Patients Cooperative (email link-ed.) were all on hand with
representatives and/or literature about their groups’ efforts
to reform the nation’s drug laws.
Hey, those look like mushrooms!
The space was filled with artwork by a number of
artists, including a brilliantly hard-hitting, American flag filled
exhibit by Anthony
Papa, a prison/Drug War reform activist and artist who served
13 years on a 15 years to life prison sentence for drugs until
he received clemency from NY Governor George Pataki in 1997. Papa
is currently working also to draw attention to a new
anti-art policy in the NY State Prison system.
Two pieces on display by Anthony Papa
There were dj’s in two different rooms, a drum
circle, an urban acappella group lead by Kid Lucky, a bar, and
an incredible skyline view of Manhattan.
DJ Ness spinning some serious rock n' roll
The Lunatarium, which bills itself on its website
as "New York City’s latest locus for illuminating the unity among
the arts in a celebration of individual expression and exploration,"
has itself an aggressive security force. Security guards set themselves
up at the door and searched party attendees before allowing entrance,
and they wandered the party throughout the night, searching for,
finding, and ejecting one pot smoker after another. One of those
pot smokers included the editor of drugwar.com, who found himself
leaving the party around 2 AM at the insistence of security guards
who caught him packing a bowl. While to the casual observer this
might seem a bit odd at a party the main purpose of which was
to draw attention to the War on Drugs, it really isn’t hard to
understand at all if one takes into account the ongoing hysteria,
ruthless law enforcement, and even asset forfeiture over illegal
drugs, including use of the benign and harmless marijuana.
"It’s a symptom of the repression we’re living
under right now," said event organizer Vande Panne. "The security
guards were acting like cops. Establishment owners, even those
who support the cause, find themselves in a situation where they
are oppressed, and in turn have to oppress others to protect their
"We always search at the door, but we may
have been a little sensitive to the issue," Lunatarium owner Sebastian
Holzmeister told Drugwar.com. Asked if the club would face serious
trouble if cops busted someone using illegal drugs inside the
club, Holzmeister said, "It’s always hard to say ‘well, we didn’t
know about it,’ And in the private home, the Supreme
Court just ruled about a month ago, you can be held responsible
and loose your housing if a family member is caught using drugs
even if you didn‘t know about it." Though the Supreme Court actually
ruled that those in public housing can be subjected to such draconian
methods, he has a point, knowing other
clubs in NYC which have had such troubles. "There was that
whole Tunnel being closed thing. Peter
Gatien supposedly actually dealt with drugs, which made it
even worse. They got rid of him." Holzmeister is one of those
establishment owners who personally does not agree with the War
stratagem, but must protect his business. "I think it’s a total
waste of money. I think we spend too much money in law enforcement
instead of spending it in ways that help, but I’m not an expert
on the subject." Holzmeister is supportive of the movement to
end the Drug War, noting that "otherwise I wouldn’t have done
it, I wouldn’t have booked the party."
"The main point is that people are thinking
about the Drug War, and getting active," said Vande Panne.
"I think it’s wonderful too how culturally diverse this whole
event was. I feel it was a tremendous success."
Valerie Vande Panne and Theo Rosenfeld,
DanceSafe and harm reduction activist