Thursday, May 08, 2008

Police fail as party-poopers

Despite locals warnings to "come in peace or not come at all" to the Nimbin Mardi Grass, Lismore police have no doubt incurred the karmic wrath of a number of the regulars at the annual Mardi Grass festival including the Ganga Faeries.

Curiously, last month 50 riot squad officers were mustered by the Lismore chief to raid the town of peace & lerv, renowned internationally for its irreverent rejection of laws prohibiting the use and possession of marijuana.

The raid resulted in the seizure of cannabis related items, with 8 people arrested and 4 kilos of the drug seized, but could the absence of heroin in those seizures indicate a decline in opiate use that was so prevalent there in the past?

The era of zen policing in Nimbin would seem to be over, after anticipatory raids on both the 2007 and 2008 Mardi Grass marred the usual festivities, for which thousands of people gather to celebrate an alternative way of life and immerse themselves in a culture devoid of the gangs, crime and militant policing commonly associated with 'drug use' in the urban concrete jungles of Australia's major cities.

According to Nimbin Hemp Embassy president, Michael Balderstone, much of the push to change the culture at Nimbin is being generated by the Lismore Council whose keen interest in the safety and organization of the event directly preceded the 'April Fool's Day raids.'

Pot-heads who felt the full force of the riot squad, cast doubts over the basis for the raid, saying that police largely had ignored the hard drugs such as amphetamines and heroin and let major dealers get away, although senior police said the raids and ongoing presence was in a bid to take a tough stance against drugs. They later claimed to have seized hard drugs, although the spin at the time of the first raids in early April, listed solely cannabis.

During the Mardi Grass Lismore Star reported,'a drug-dog operation stopping cars just outside Nimbin resulted in 44 drug detections, with 27 being issued cautions. Officers conducted 54 driver drug-tests, with three testing positive. Two of 317 people given random breath tests returned low range PCA readings."

This year a record 15,000 would-be hippies attended the festival, even though the number of activities and facilities had been reduced by police closures.