Philly police bust libertarian activist Adam Kokesh during ‘smoke down’ pot rally

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, May 20, 2013 15:26 EDT
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Libertarian activist Adam Kokesh moments before getting arrested at a marijuana rally in Philadelphia. Photo: Adam Kokesh on Facebook.
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Libertarian activist and Iraq veteran Adam Kokesh was arrested Saturday at a “smoke down prohibition” marijuana rally in Philadelphia after police moved in on the crowd at 4:20 p.m. in an apparent show of force.

In Philadelphia, marijuana possession under 30 grams is punishable by a small fine and the offense is classified similarly to a parking ticket. Since decriminalization went through, activists have taken to staging open-smoking events at Independence National Historical Park, and police have mostly just ignored them.

Sunday’s event was different, however. As police milled ever-closer to the roughly 60 to 75 demonstrators present at the national park, a man with access to the public announcement system began counting down to 4:20, urging the crowd to “light that shit” in direct disobedience to signs police placed around the area insisting that nobody would be allowed to smoke marijuana. “Fuck the law, smoke it anyway!” Kokesh shouted into the microphone. “Bring it in! Hey, everybody show some love. Make it difficult for the police here.”

A total of five people were arrested during the event. Two of them — Kokesh and “Panic Hour” comedy writer N.A. Poe — remain in the Philadelphia jail pending a hearing set for later this week, according to supporters. It’s not clear what the official charges are, but the incident happened on federal land, meaning Kokesh and Poe could face charges of assaulting a federal officer, a crime that carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

In a poor-quality video shot from the scene, Kokesh appears to resist by refusing to drop his microphone, keeping his arms locked in place as police attempt to subdue the former Marine. He then turns his palms outward for the crowd to see he was being nonviolent, even as he continued to pull against police. “I am being assaulted by an officer of the law!” he says. “This is a criminal act!” Then Kokesh finally relents and officers take him away. “No victim, no crime!” activists chant as he vanishes beyond a police barricade.

It didn’t take long for conspiracy host Alex Jones to claim that Kokesh was intentionally targeted by federal officers due to his plans for a July 4 gun rally in Washington, D.C., which bans anyone except law enforcement officers from carrying a firearm in the city. His former group, Iraq Veterans Against the War, disowned Kokesh’s plan in a statement earlier in May, warning that the march may endanger participants.

Jones, however, believes that Kokesh was “singled out” from the group not for favoring marijuana legalization, but for his role as the professional rabble-rouser behind the “Open Carry March on Washington,” which had just over 4,500 Facebook profiles attached to it as of Monday afternoon. While it’s not clear if he was targeted or not, supporters told Jones that Kokesh appeared to be in federal custody.

If he is charged with assault on a federal officer and resisting arrest, his plan for a July 4 armed march on D.C. would seem to be in question. Then again, a post to the event’s page on Monday morning declared: “THIS MARCH WILL GO ON NO MATTER WHO HAS TO LEAD IT!!”

Whether that really happens remains to be seen.

This video is from YouTube, published May 18, 2013.

This video is from LiveLeak, published May 18, 2013.


Photo: Adam Kokesh on Facebook.

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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