Is protest always a good thing?

Something that had been in the pipeline for a while came to pass last week. It hasn’t been discussed before on this blog for reasons which will become clear, essentially because to have done so could have been construed as undermining a well intentioned effort.

It was to be hoped that everything cannabis law reformers have been through over the past few years resulting in the subsequent developments of backward law reform would have made them think about the future direction of the law reform campaign a bit, perhaps to have reconsidered the arguments they were making, the way they were making them and perhaps even the goals they were trying to achieve.

In a blog entry back in June, The future of the cannabis law reform movement, mention was made of a small medi protest in London called “Protest London”. It’s fair to say at the time UKCIA had hoped this would grow into a campaign that would be taken seriously. We wrote at the time:

Much play was made of the almost unofficial legalisation of Sativex cannabis medicine, but it’s not easy to get and many medical users are still forced to use the street supplies. As a result we have perhaps the first signs of a new medical campaign, with “Protest London” pulling a small but respectable demonstration of medical users in London last week.

PinkyThe organiser of Protest London is Jim Starr – AKA “Pinky” (he has a pink beard) who is, as far as UKCIA can ascertain, a genuine medical cannabis user from Dorset. Pinky seems to be genuinely motivated and honest in his intentions, but has of late been almost impervious to well intentioned good advice – advice  such as don’t call yourself “Pinky” in official communications, or even basic stuff such as to use a spell checker on press releases, website content and letters and get someone to proof read them.

A while back Pinky had posted to the UKCIA forum and other cannabis sites promoting his plans for a second demo in Redditch, the constituency of Home Secretary MP Jaquie Smith

Protest Redditch has two aims.

1, to reunite the cannabis community for a mass protest for medicinal and recreational use.

2, get the crazy cannabis laws changed or at least kept at a class c drug.

It was no longer a medical only  protest, something had persuaded him to broaden it.

The protest in Redditch will take place on Saturday 18th October 2008 market place (town center). Redditch is the home town of Jacqui Smith, Home Secretary and MP. We will hit her where it hurts most (home)

As things unfolded it became clear that something was going wrong. Pinky was coming out with totally unfounded “facts” about cannabis on various forums and posting long, rambling almost incoherent letters to senior government ministers, the media and so on. He was gently offered advice and positive criticism both on forums and in private mails by a number of people. It was as if someone or some organisation was persuading him to ignore all this good advice.

He found encouragement to do what he wanted to do without criticism from the LCA – the Legalise Cannabis Alliance. The LCA is a campaign which has been running now for just about 10 years – originally as a political party but for the last three years as a campaign group. Pinky’s protest became something promoted by the LCA and for the past few months the rest of us heard little more from him.

So it was that Pinky’s demo happened last week in Redditch, you probably read about it if you take the Redditch Standard:

Hopes of town cannabis protestors go up in smoke
Nicola Fahey

Thursday 23 Oct 2008
THE CAMPAIGN leader of a pro-cannabis protest group that came to Redditch last weekend (18th October) has admitted the rally was “disappointing”.

Only a couple of hundred activists turned out for the eight-hour static demonstration in the town centre against so-called “unjust” cannabis laws, despite organisers previously claiming their mass protest in Redditch would hit Home Secretary and town MP Jacqui Smith “where it most hurts”. Some residents were said to have avoided the area amid rumours campaigners were set to cause trouble in the town.

But the biggest disappointment for leader Jim Starr, otherwise known as ‘Pinky’, was the fact that Ms Smith continued to ignore the pleas of thousands of medicinal users on her own doorstep and didn’t turn up to talk to protesters as invited. The protest follows the Home Secretary’s decision earlier in the year to reclassify cannabis as a class B drug, despite advice from the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs.

Pinky said: “We want answers as to why she wasted heaps of taxpayers’ money and disregarded the outcome of the report that recommended cannabis remain at class C?

“But if anything, this demonstration has proved by her failure to turn up that she’s the kind of person who stays quiet and hopes a problem will go away – but we will not go away.

“People in pain should have the right to use the only substance that works, without the fear of prosecution.”

The Government’s decision to reclassify cannabis as a class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 was announced by Ms Smith in May on “public safety” grounds.

The Home Office said at the time there was real public concern about the potential mental health effects of cannabis use and, in particular, the use and availability of stronger kinds of cannabis.

Interestingly the LCA claim there were somewhat fewer people on the demo, in their leaflet “Wossup Redditch they write:

Redditch was a quiet protest – except of course for the excellent sounds and speeches broadcast into the street. About 50 protesters joined in…

It’s hard to find the words to sum all this up because this is clearly the sort of effort UKCIA would be expected to have supported and would indeed have supported normally. That’s why we didn’t criticise it in advance, but it’s hard to support something you can see is being badly organised to the point where it’s going to fail in its stated objectives.

Perhaps the most important aspect to understand is that it’s better not to do something at all than to do it badly, and this demo was being done badly – everything about it was done badly and it had been clear for some time it was being done badly.

Promotion for the Redditch  event has gone now, but the Protest London website gives an indication of just how badly the campaign is being done. Under a banner masthead  –

Protest London

Yes it is a load of people mooning (at Gordon Brown actually) and the one on the site is much bigger and clearer than we show it. The site laments the fact that the protest is being ignored by ministers and, as if by way of explanation  goes on to announce the handing in of a petition to 10 Downing Street:

Pinky has handed in over 5000 signatures to downing street regarding medicinal cannabis users should have the right to self medicate with cannabis without fear of prosecution

The message from Pinky to the receiver at 10 downing street was “hear is a box of pain for gordon brown, also enclosed in the box is over 5000 signatures from different walks of life”.

If cannabis gives someone a better way of life then we should be able to continue our way of life without the fear of prosecution. We should have the rights to be happy, to many people have wrote to the government with no reply. If we can’t get heard we shall get seen and noticed. (sic)

It is so depressing to see someone putting so much effort into doing something only to do it as badly as this, the more so when it’s something you deeply and passionately believe in. Pinky clearly has the ear of the LCA so why oh why didn’t they give him the help he so clearly needs to make his campaign something that would be taken seriously, rather than seemingly encouraging him to carry on making these mistakes? Was it indeed the LCA that persuaded pinky to broaden his campaign to include recreational use? Was it they who persuaded him to ignore advice and offers of help from others?

Let’s be clear about this; the medical cannabis campaign needs to be a serious campaign on behalf of ill people which will  gain widespread support.  Likewise there is a good argument for saying the law reform campaign needs to be a campaign for across the board law reform, bringing the recreational trade under proper legal regulation. These are, to a large extent, different campaigns however.

Whichever direction the protest takes – a special medical only or a general law reform campaign it’s an issue which needs a forceful, professionally run sober minded campaign, it does not need something like this.

I guess the message the LCA and Protest London need to take on board is that it is possible – very easily possible – to show the world that you don’t have support for your cause, indeed to alienate support and to drive people into the arms of the opposition. That the LCA still need to learn this is all the more depressing as they’re not exactly new to this game.

Formed in 1999 the LCA tried standing in elections as a single issue political party. Actually it was a good idea and maybe it could have worked had the right arguments been made and the right image presented by the party. It was never going to win office of course, but it could have upset some results  in target wards for example. But for whatever reason it didn’t work and after some seven years or so of trying it was decided – rightly – to reform as a campaigning pressure group.

The thing is, the LCA have  never at any time taken a step back and tried to find out what it was they were doing wrong. They had to be doing something wrong because cannabis has hardly been out of the news for the past 10 years and yet the LCA is hardly a household name. It seems almost as if they’ve gone out of their way to look amateur and now seem intent on encouraging others to follow their example. That’s harsh maybe, but it needs saying.

It’s all well and good – as a leading figure in the LCA put it not long ago – “to campaign for what we (ie they) want”, but when it starts hurting people and actually damaging the law reform effort they really should think long and hard about the image they present, the way they present it, who they are aiming their message at and perhaps even the goals they have.

This blog has been critical of both Pinky’s protest London campaign and the LCA. Whereas the LCA deserve it, Pinky Jim is just one very ill person in some pain who is trying to make a difference. He knows help and advice is on offer to up his game from a number of sources including UKCIA, it’s up to him whether to take the advice or not, but all he has to do is ask.

13 thoughts on “Is protest always a good thing?

  1. “Hear Hear!”

    Inspiring piece UKCIA. Enough so infact, that I feel motivated enough to start on my own site.

    Thanks!

    bmonk

  2. Ever heard the phrase, “any advertising is good advertising”?

    I call bullsh*t on your criticisms of LCA and Pinky. The activism movement on any front – from peace to animal rights to the environment – has its share of nut cases. Why should you expect the drug law reform movement to be any different? Do you think all environmentalists like the work of Greenpeace? Do you think the RSPCA approve of everything PETA does?

    Sure, you can try to work together with other drug reform groups. Sure, you can offer advice to others, but you can’t force them to take it. And decrying others efforts only points to divisions within the movement.

    If Pinky and the LCA can put together a protest that attracts 50 to 100 protesters and gets media attention, then good on them. If you don’t want to support them publicly because their efforts embarrass you, then don’t. Many groups of varying sizes protesting the same laws may prove more effective than one large, umbrella organization.

    Whether you agree with their methods or not, more people protesting in more places in more ways means more media coverage. Why is even bad coverage good coverage? Because it always keeps the topic in the public. The more public scrutiny cannabis, and the laws around it, receive, the more the truth will seep out.

    Far worse than Pinky and the like protesting poorly is not protesting at all. Without protest, without pressure, without media reports, without public awareness, there will never be change.

  3. I don’t agree with “anon”. Just because people get media coverage, it doesn’t mean that the truth will “seep” out. The word ‘misinformation’ comes to mind. Oh, but we haven’t seen much of that in recent times now have we….

    “Going soft on cannabis is the worst thing I’ve seen in 28 years” – Police Officer.

    “Police and paramedics reported the pungent smell of cannabis in the room and empty BEER cans.”

    Examples of how, regardless of what other “drugs” were involved, cannabis has been made out to be the sole doer of evil.

    “That is why we are reclassifying cannabis to Class B from January 29 2009” – Home Office spokesman. <—- What the F. The 10 year drug strategy didn’t work. Cannabis has ALREADY been a class B before. I think you’ll find that to most people who have been smoking for a while, they really don’t care if it’s a class b or c, they’ll keep doing it.

    It won’t go away, it’s been here too long 🙂

  4. You’re a star, Jim Starr

    I think the sentiments above are entirely warrented under the circumstances.

    Having spent the thick end of twelve months observing how the American marijuana campaigns go about their business, its fair to say there needs to be a wholesale shake-up of how the british reform campaign goes about achieving the same results as the Americans have, and with the utmost respect to Pinky et al, it wasn’t done by mooning the president, (although who wouldn’t want to moon G dubya?).

    I really think its time someone politicians can look upon as an equal was to state the case for cannabis reform, speaking to them on their own terms, on their own turf, and in a language they can clearly understand.

    And until someone who understands how “the system” works is installed, the establishment will carry on using that same system, to wrap the cannabis issue up in red tape.

    People like Jim Starr deserve all the plaudits they are given, for having the energy and the stomach to get up and “do” what a lot of people “don’t”.

    With some purposeful direction given to such a whirling dervish of activity, who knows what could be achieved?

    Canna Zine

  5. Derek quoted Pinky was coming out with totally unfounded “facts”

    can you please show me where i have stated totally unfounded facts Derek?

    in all forums i have posted in, your the first one to say i have put up unfounded facts.

    please show all the links to these facts you state as no forums have complained about me not putting the truth up!

    ukcia have been offered a place in organising/ running of the protests, you have advised and the points have been taken into account. you don’t even reply to my emails, my last one corrected your errors and the way you read things but you did not respond.

    all I’m doing is trying to state the facts and get us noticed, it doesn’t matter to me weather i sit at home like i have done for the last 5 years fighting silently or standing up at protests

    i have stood up to fight for those people who cant and would have a better way of life if they could legally get cannabis. i can only be wrong doing this in your eyes!

    please stop reading what others put after twisting my words and read what i have put up!

    i go for myself and you have been offered a place yet you still carry on spreading lies till i stand corrected on this point of yours!

    you are just like the press you have the facts but change the wording to suit. the press have put a few lines that i didn’t state but who cares i might not have your support and i don’t stand for all cannabis users.

    i go and organise protest because people like you wont, thats the only difference between me and you. I’m prepared to stand up and fight, you have had 3 chances to now yet you dint, why is this?

    i state to all don’t come because you agree with me. i give all users a time and place to to come and express there own feelings about the cannabis law inc yourself but you rather tell lies and fight me rather than put a megaphone where your mouth is. protest London have 4 megaphones at the last protest, why where you not behind one of them expressing your disgust at the uk cannabis laws?

    people are told to come for themselves and not for me. so come on Derek why where you not there?

    can i post my last email up from me to you in here? this will prove me right and you wrong!

    please put facts up and not rumours!

    you have stated untrue facts which is deformation of my character.

  6. Hello Pinky

    Yes, you can post your last e-mail here if you like, but I would advise against it for your own sake because it illustrates the points I make in the blog above only too well.

    I have read what you write and I’ve seen some of the advice you’re being given by others.

    I think I made it clear above that you are well meaning and indeed well motivated, although we’ve never met I do believe you to be genuine.

    But as I said it’s as if you are listening to people who are telling you to ignore good advice, either that or you simply don’t trust anyone who tries to help. Either way I’m afraid your efforts are being undermined in ways which are easy to avoid and frankly, they’re not helping the cause of cannabis law reform much, if at all.

    I suggest you read the above blog entry again, this time with the thought in your head that it’s intended to be a constructive comment.

    The criticisms of your publicity are especially important. It doesn’t take much to get someone to proof read your stuff and trust me, you do need help with grammar and spelling. It is important, really, really important.

    The offer of help still stands, if you are willing to take it.

  7. I’m willing to take help and i don’t make these decision’s myself. comment i make about myself is one thing, comments i make about the campaign is another.

    all you have done is criticised my work at no point have you stated how you would go about the protest.

    your working against protestlondon and me and the lca, you have proved it with the above post. i cant do anything right.

    please answer my questions! inc the one of me stating untrue facts as before anything goes to print its checked including available links and is proof read.

    now please answer the questions or remove this untrue post. join us or fight us like you fight the lca. I’m not a paid member of the lca I’m independent but support them just like all the other or gs i post in!

    p.s. show the facts please and i will answer. like i have stated read the facts froim me no one else! if you read the lca forums you will see why sarah and stu got banned for speading lies and twisting things, then sarah accuses me of removing posts i cant remove and get cought out. then now they get you to there dirty work? or thats how it seams. facts please!

  8. he is the reply, i have nothing to hide and both parties has agreed to air this email for all to see.

    now please show your facts and not the bulls**t people state!

    email between pinky and Derek

    pinky:
    hi Derek hope your well, sorry for been so busy at the expo but you saw how crazy it was. i have added replies below.

    Jimmy

    Derek:
    Couple of points:

    First your poster was 3 M big, that’s way too large to send to people on e-mail. It’s OK for me with my fast Internet connection, but anyone with a dial-up will be locked out of their e-mail for ages because of this and could well have their e-mail in box filled up by it, meaning they lose incoming mails. I’m attaching a properly compressed version for you to use in future.

    pinky:
    point taken and i have made the files smaller thank you for helping with making that one attached smaller

    Derek:
    Second, the 14 year penalty for sharing a spliff is not changing, that’s what it is now and will be after the move to B. The only change happening is a move form 3 years for possession to 5. In fact, the change will be almost meaningless given the new regime they’ve announced which is so full of holes as to be laughable.

    pinky:
    i thought it was two to five years, but the law after this date will be how it is stated in the poster. i know the main thing is the 2 or 3 year increase for having it on you. but as of the 26Th Jan the law will stand as the poster states

    Derek:
    Third, what about people who don’t use cannabis but support the law reform, aren’t people like me welcome on your protests? Not everyone who hates prohibition uses cannabis you know…

    pinky:
    i didnt know you didn’t use at all that has come of a surprise. nice to have people like you fighting for people like me thank you. you have been welcome to join protestlondon, you would be welcome to unite and help us to fight this unjust law and join the team. if you disagree with the UK cannabis law your welcome to come and fly a banner of your own choice. so yes you are welcome to attend. it would be nice to see you there. i have others in need of transport from wales who would also help with fuel. the choice is your. i don’t just want people there because they think the same as me.the cannabis laws are wrong and unless we forget differences and unite we will not win this war!

    Derek:
    Fourth, is it really a good idea to associate yourself with so many commercial firms, which are currently the focus of anti cannabis action from the government? It undermines your case hugely.

    pinky:
    i don’t know how showing the government that i have support from many different people etc would not be beneficial. point taken on that but the people are only supporting protestlondon.co.uk so we are able to fight for justice. i have done a poster for people who may feel offended by the supporters been shown on there so i have made a poster which doesn’t show supporters too. none of these posters will be up on the day.

    Derek:
    Sorry to sound negative, but please, think it through a bit eh?

    pinky:
    as you can see i have read it and noted your points as above, i do hope this rests your mind a little

    happy new year pinkz founder of http://www.protestlondon.co,uk
    ——————————

    (this is not part of the email)
    IF I MAKE MISTAKES I ADMIT TO THEM, I HAVE HAD TO FIGHT PEOPLE LIKE YOU FOR A WHILE. DEALING WITH THIS RUBBISH TODAY HAS STOPPED ME DOING IMPORTANT EMAILS TO THE RELEVANT AUTHORITIES ABOUT THE GLOBAL IN MAY. SO I CONGRATULATE YOU ON WASTING MY TIME AGAIN JUST LIKE OTHERS HAVE DONE IN UK420 BEFORE. PEOPLE KNOW I SUFFER PAIN IN TYPING SO THEY TRY AND MAKE ME SUFFER MORE
    ! PLEASE SEE MY ARGUMENTS IN THE UK420 FORUMS. IN THERE WHEN I WIN THE ARGUMENTS I GET BANNED FROM THERE EVEN THOUGH I DIDN’T BREAK THE RULES FOR OVA 6 WEEKS!

    I HAVE LOTS MORE SUPPORT THAN CRITICS BELIEVE ME!

    if you don’t agree then say in emails and then respond to them privately and stop trying to stop the legalisation of cannabis by other activists!

    I only speak for what i believe in, in your eyes that wrong why. i tell people to come to the protest for themselves not me!

  9. can i also ask if you have a problem with me why do you bring the lca into it? is it to cause more trouble in the cannabis community?

  10. the lca turning up is no different than the members inc you turning up. stop trying to cause trouble and why dont you look at the changes to the protests which advise had been taken and changes made!

  11. Right.

    Now Jimmy you have just posted four posts to this blog, which is way out of order.

    I really fail to see why you posted that e-mail exchange above – I edited it to make it clear how the conversation ran, you posted it as an incomprehensible mass of text.

    That exchange followed you posting out a badly formatted “press release” which you mass-mailed to people. The release took the form of a badly written attachment full of errors and over 3M in size. If you think sending stuff like that out to people is going to help, you’re very wrong.

    I don’t know why you’ve suddenly got excited about this blog entry anyway, it was written back in October last year!

  12. just re read your post derek, and sorry but i never new this post was from back then. if i knew about it i would of acted then!

    just shows how people are out to cause problems in the cannabis community.

    when i read this post i had to respond to stop all the romours as usual.

    sorry agian and hope ur well

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