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Police Threaten Pot Smokers With Arrest

By Joel Rosenberg
Arts Editor

Flanked by officers in riot gear, Boston Police Superintendent in Chief Robert Faherty addressed a small crowd of reporters at a press conference yesterday to discuss how the departmentplanned on handling tomorrow's Freedom Rally, the ninth annual protest for the decriminalization of marijuana.

"Users are losers,"Faherty said, "and if you come to Boston Common on Saturday to smoke marijuana, you'll be a loser."He went on to explain that while "it might seem like a lark now"to smoke marijuana at the rally, if arrested, "you will be booked, fingerprinted, photographed, and the arrest will go on your record," which could be a problem when applying for a job.

"Our plan has two points," Superintendent James Claiborne said. "First is to allow everyone full exercise of their first amendment rights, and second is to prevent lawlessness."To that end, the police will be arresting as many lawbreakers engaged in "civil disobedience" as "logistically possible."

Last year, 150 arrests from the rally crowded police stations throughout the city. When asked how many arrests would be logistically possible this year, Claiborne responded, "Until the jails are crowded," including six stations around the area.

Arrests began last year

Before last year, there were very few arrests from this event, with many problems being misdemeanors like disorderly conduct or public urination. A Time picture of a protester smoking next to a Boston police officer changed all that, and now, as Claiborne warns, the event is no longer a "holiday for smoking marijuana."

MBTAPolice Chief Thomas O'Loughlin said there will be an additional 92 officers riding the commuter rail from the suburbs into the city, making arrests for drug use and possession.

Faherty said there would be "a large contingency" of officers on the Common, but refused a specific number.

Boston Police Sergeant Detective Margot Hill told the Boston Herald yesterday, "We'll have a significant presence, both undercover and in uniform, and we'll arrest anyone we see smoking marijuana. The person you pass that joint to might not be your friend."

When asked about a near riot last year in response to the arrests, Faherty said, "All of you were on the common last year. If there had been a near riot, it would have been all over the press."

In yesterday's Herald, Hill said the police department is prepared for "any eventuality."

Faherty pointed out that pot-smokers are generally a peaceful bunch, and that "99 percent of them sit down and don't break the law."

Large crowds expected

Between 50,000 and 80,000 people are expected on the Common Saturday. "Most of the kids are coming in for the concert, the free music,"Faherty said. The event, sponsored by the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, or Mass Cann, will last from noon until 5 p.m., and will feature bands including The Ghost of Tony Gold (12:10-12:35), Sam Black Church (2:10-2:50), and Max Creek (4:00-4:40). There will also be speakers, including Al Giordano, former Boston Phoenix political reporter, and John Sinclair, legend of the pro-legalization movement. The event is free and open to the public.