Pubdate: Thu, 28 Sep 2000
Source: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (TX)
Copyright: 2000 The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
Author: Linda Kane, Avalanche-Journal
Cited: Journey for Justice:
Drug Policy Forum of Texas:

Notes: From MAP: Daily updates from the Journey by Kevin Zeese are being 
posted at these sites: and  Besides the protest in Austin, there will 
be vigils in all of these cities: TX: El Paso; CA: Santa Cruz, San 
Francisco, Chico, Orange County, Santa Monica & Ventura; FL: Clearwater; 
MA: Northhampton; NV: Las Vegas; NY: Albany, Syracuse & Manhattan; TN: 
Memphis; UT: Salt Lake City; VA: Richmond; WA: Spokane. For details see:  See also:

Bookmark: For Journey for Justice Protest news items:


TULIA - About 45 adults and children from Tulia who are upset with a
drug bust that raised allegations of racism and forced a tax increase
are leaving for Austin today to participate in a protest rally.

''The primary purpose of our trip is to empower the people of Tulia
who have been directly impacted by the drug sting of 1999,'' said
Tulia resident Alan Bean.

''The other is to dramatize the impact on the families that the drug
sting affected. They have lost a parent, both parents, brothers and

The Tulia citizens plan to participate in a rally Friday called
Journey for Justice coordinated by the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, a
Houston-based group that wants drugs legalized and regulated.

People from Houston and other parts of the state also are expected to
attend the rally, which will be on the steps of the state Capitol. A
second rally is planned for later in the day in front of Gov. George
W. Bush's mansion.

The controversial drug bust in Tulia came after an 18-month undercover
operation that ended in the summer of 1999 and was conducted by a
single officer, Tom Coleman. Convictions have rested largely on the
testimony of Coleman, who has been criticized by some and praised by

The ethnic makeup of the people arrested - including 40 blacks, two
whites and one Hispanic - caused some Tulia residents to question
whether racism was a factor.

The Rev. Charles Kiker of Tulia said he believes blacks were unjustly
targeted. He plans to speak at the rally.

''I do not condone drug use,'' Kiker said. ''I've been invited to
speak ... simply to describe what has happened on the war on drugs in
Tulia. We want to have more sane, more just, humane laws concerning
drug laws and abuse.''

About three months after the bust, Swisher County taxpayers saw a 5.8
percent property tax increase because of costs related to the
operation, County Judge Harold Keeter has said. Swisher County has
about 9,000 residents.

Swisher County District Attorney Terry McEachern has prosecuted many
of the drug cases and has contended that the operation was not
racially motivated.

He said that he supports citizens' rights to voice their opinions in

''They have a right of freedom of speech and I'll defend that right,''
he said. ''I honor those rights.''

One of the stiffest sentences was handed down to a white man who was
on probation for drug-related charges when he was arrested during the
sting. He was sentenced to 434 years in prison for multiple charges,
McEachern has said.

A black woman received one of the lightest sentences - five years'
probation, he has said.

The drug bust has sparked national media attention and has caught the
interest of the American Civil Liberties Union and the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Representatives from the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial
Justice based in New York City have attended at least one drug trial
and plan to travel to Austin, Bean said. The organization is paying
for much of the trip for the Tulia residents, Bean said.

Alan Robison, executive director of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas,
said he hopes a speech he plans to give Friday will help raise
awareness of drug policies.

''Our policy of drug prohibition is literally causing more damage to
our society than the prohibitive drugs themselves could ever cause,''
he said.

Of the estimated 45 people from Tulia planning to attend the rally,
about 28 are children ranging in age from infants to about 18, Bean
said. Many of the young people have parents who are in jail as a
result of the sting, he said.

''They are coming to be empowered and also to demonstrate that the
next generation is being devastated by this,'' he said.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake