Pubdate: Sat, 29 Mar 2008
Source: Ann Arbor News (MI)
Copyright: 2008 The Ann Arbor News
Author: Tom Gantert, The Ann Arbor News
Bookmark: (Marijuana)

Rallies Vie for U-M's Diag


Hash Bash organizers and University of Michigan officials appear to 
be headed for a showdown over their differing views of freedom of 
speech as the annual pro-marijuana legalization event approaches April 6.

The controversy started when Hash Bash organizers learned the Diag 
had already been reserved for the first Saturday in April by an 
undisclosed student organization. For the past 36 years, the Hash 
Bash has been held on the Diag.

U-M officials said the student group has secured the entire Diag for 
the whole day, thereby preventing the Hash Bash from having its event 
there. U-M won't disclose what organization reserved the space, but 
U-M spokeswoman Linda Hancock Green said the student group reserved 
it last fall.

"The policy and practice to register that space hasn't changed 
significantly," Green said. "It's simple. It's first come, first 
serve. When it's full, it's full."

Rich Birkett, a longtime Hash Bash organizer, said if the student 
organization is legitimate, his group will respect their rally. But 
Birkett said his group will still go to the Diag that day.

Birkett said he'll bring "amplified sound" to talk to people who come 
for the Hash Bash, which has been held the first Saturday of April 
for the past several years. Birkett said he has a FM transmitter, 
portable boom boxes and mega-phones that will be used during breaks 
or lulls in the competing event.

U-M Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Diane Brown said that 
won't be allowed.

"They can't have a shouting match with each other," Brown said.

Brown said the only allowable permit for amplified sound went to the 
other organization's event. She said police would use campus 
"heckler" rules on anyone who disrupts the other event. Those rules 
include a series of warnings given to disruptive people before the 
heckler is eventually removed from the event.

"She's mistaken," Birkett said. "She doesn't understand the law. ... 
I've been litigating this for 20 years. I know what I'm talking about."

Birkett said if anyone is arrested or equipment is seized, organizers 
will file a lawsuit. He said there was some discussion of moving the 
date of the Hash Bash, but that idea was rejected. U-M has graduation 
ceremonies in May, and Hash Bash organizers want to hold their event 
while students are still in town.

Adam Brook, the emcee of the Hash Bash for the past several years, 
said he won't use any amplified sound. He said they tried that in the 
past, but police said they would arrest him. So Brook said he'll just 
stand on the steps of the graduate library and talk loudly to the crowd.

Brook said he didn't get a permit last year, and the Hash Bash went 
on. He said it will continue in the future.

"These people will come anyway," Brook said.

Brook said John Sinclair, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 
1969 after giving two marijuana joints to an undercover police 
officer, is expected to show up to speak at this year's Hash Bash.

"I haven't told him yet there is no P.A. system," Brook said. "I'm 
embarrassed by that." 
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