BY MEGAN WHITE-FOX
BYRON BAY — US Independence Day (July 4) was marked here by the burning of a US "dollar signs and stripes" flag as part of a rally demanding drug law reform.
The flag burning symbolised the US-led "war on drugs" that protesters said is being organised in the interests of corporate, law-enforcement and government elites around the world.
Around 200 people joined the rally in front of the Byron Bay courthouse. Their immediate focus was to show solidarity with well-known local environmental campaigner Rusty Harris, who was appearing in court after being charged with possession of cannabis during sniffer-dog searches in March. Harris is using the case to fight the legality of the police use of sniffer dogs.
In the last few months sniffer dogs have been increasingly used to detect illicit drugs across NSW. This has been widely criticised in legal circles, along with laws recently introduced by the Carr Labor government giving police increased powers to search, detain, arrest and medically examine people, as well as raid houses.
Speakers from the Hemp Embassy, the Peace Bus, the Hemp Party and the Socialist Alliance explained that the "war on drugs" was very profitable for, and supported by, powerful interests including corrupt police, big drug dealers, the owners of the private prison industry and pharmaceutical corporations opposing competition from currently prohibited substances.
Many speakers also argued that increased police powers used to repress the use of prohibited drugs are a threat to all democratic rights, and do nothing to address the social and medical problems associated with drug use. Graeme Dunston announced that the Hemp Party will be contesting the federal elections to raise these issues. Nick Fredman pledged that the Socialist Alliance would work with all progressive forces in street actions and election campaigning to fight drug prohibition.