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Attorney warns of violence if university snuffs out Colorado 4/20 protest

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, April 19, 2012 15:15 EDT
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A view of the crowd at the CU-Boulder campus on April 20, 2010. Screenshot via YouTube.
 
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A violent scene could be the inevitable result if the Colorado University-Boulder’s moves ahead with its plans to snuff out a long-running 4/20 protest, a Colorado attorney warned Raw Story on Thursday.

“What the university is trying to do is kill a fly with a nuclear ICBM,” Robert Corry, Jr., a lawyer specializing in marijuana law who’s currently working with Colorado protesters, told Raw Story on Thursday. “It’s completely overreaching to close down an entire campus to all members of the public.”

The school announced last week that it would use police officers to restrict access to campus on April 20, preventing anyone who is not a student from stepping onto their grounds. “The gathering disrupts teaching and research right in the heart of the campus,” CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano said in a media advisory. “The size of the crowd has become unmanageable, and limits our faculty, staff and students from getting to class, entering buildings and doing their basic work. It needs to end.”

To that effect, CU-Boulder plans to bring in a swarm of police officers on Friday to surround the campus and set up checkpoints at key entrances. They intend to prevent unauthorized access to the campus by non-students, and the school said that officers will be issuing tickets for tresspassing that carry fines of $750 and up to six months in jail.

Problem is, marijuana protesters in Colorado are more amped up than ever this year, especially with full legalization on the state’s ballot this fall for the first time ever during a presidential election season. An added complication: Demonstrators have held an April 20 protest at CU-Boulder every year for the last decade with very little resistance from the administration.

To help ensure that tradition carries on, Corry has filed a legal complaint asking a judge to issue a restraining order against the university.

“The 420 Protests are peaceful in nature and on information and belief, no significant injury or property damage or disruption has ever occurred,” he wrote in the injunction request (PDF), which was filed on Thursday. “Police have issued a handful of citations to individuals allegedly in violation of laws, usually petty offenses for possession of marijuana or paraphernalia. By comparison, the average CU home football game, which occurs approximately six times per fall, attracts far larger crowds and generally more damage, disruption, and problems than the 420 protest, once per year.”

Speaking to Raw Story, Corry called CU football events “alcohol-soaked,” and said “there’s no alcohol that I’m aware of” at any of the 4/20 protests. “The purpose of a university is to talk about relevant things and to learn about real issues, but much of it happens in the real world,” he added. “That’s what this is: this is far larger than just a marijuana issue… It has ramifications far beyond that.”

The request, which could see a judge issue a restraining order against the university’s plans to lock down campus, was filed on behalf of several non-students who have participated in the April 20 protests at CU-Boulder in years prior.

Protesters said that despite the university’s plans, they’re not going to stay home. A schedule on the Colorado 4/20 Coalition’s website advised protesters to meet at 4:20 p.m. on Friday at the Norlin Quad on the CU-Boulder campus to rally for marijuana legalization. They added that one of their sponsors would be passing out “gonzo legal weed” that contains no actual marijuana — which could serve to confuse officers on scene, who intend to issue $100 citations to individuals caught using contraband in public.

“I hope that there won’t be a violent confrontation, but that’s a theme of our concern,” Corry concluded. “You militarize these police officers… you’re inevitably inviting confrontation and problems.”

Ultimately, he said that CU-Boulder officials might just not be able to “handle the message anymore,” especially in a key election year that could see Colorado become the first state to throw off marijuana prohibition.

“But I think CU’s real reason is they wrongly believe this hurts CU’s reputation,” Corry concluded. “I think the opposite is true: CU is strong enough to tolerate opinions that are different to the mainstream. A violent confrontation with police while cameras are rolling would be a problem for CU’s reputation as a tolerant liberal arts institution.”

UPDATE: SCHOOL OFFICIALS TO MAKE QUAD ‘AS INHOSPITABLE AS POSSIBLE’

An official at Colorado University-Boulder told CNN on Thursday that the university would cover the area in “very smelly” fish emulsifier to discourage the event. Watch below:

Photo: A marijuana protest at the CU-Boulder campus on April 20, 2010. Screenshot via YouTube.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
 
 
 
 
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