Pubdate: Thu, 30 Aug 2012
Source: Montgomery Advertiser (AL)
Copyright: 2012 The Advertiser Co.
Note: Letters from the newspaper's circulation area receive publishing priority
Author: Sebastian Kitchen


American, Mexican citizens join forces in march across Selma's Edmund 
Pettus Bridge as part of Caravan for Peace

As a law enforcement officer, Neill Franklin said he was responsible 
for locking up a lot of people, many of them for activity related to 
illegal drugs.

But, on Wednesday, Franklin walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 
Selma and drove into Montgomery with a caravan of people pushing for 
the United States and Mexico to reconsider their drug policies.

Franklin, who advocates legalizing and regulating drugs, said the war 
on drugs is expensive and is failing. He added that the war has led 
to the drug cartels murdering 60,000 people in Mexico, is spreading 
in the United States, and has led to the incarceration of thousands 
of people for nonviolent crimes.

"If you're black and Latino, it's definitely a war on you," Franklin said.

Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, 
said there is the crime, violence, money laundering and corruption 
that go along with the Mexican cartels and street gangs here, which 
he said are selling to and recruiting young children.

He said about 100 people, Mexican and U.S. citizens affected by the 
war on drugs, are involved in the Caravan for Peace, which started in 
Tijuana, Mexico, before moving into San Diego and Los Angeles and 
then gradually moving east. They will end the month-long caravan in 
Washington, D.C. Other organizations involved with the stops in 
Alabama included the state NAACP and the Alabama Coalition for 
Immigrant Justice.

Several of those victims of the war shared their stories Wednesday, 
some of them through translators, at Fresh Anointing House of 
Worship. They talked about loved ones who were dead or missing.

Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, who founded the caravan, said that he 
became involved because a "band of delinquents" killed his son and 
his friend in March 2011.

"That caused in me a great indignation," Sicilia said through an interpreter.

He said they then started a caravan in Mexico to shed light on the 
victims of the drug war and on the government's stance. There has not 
been justice for the victims, Sicilia said.

The writer said the war has its roots and responsibility in the 
United States, where he said the caravan is traveling with a message 
that drugs need to be regulated and that the government must stop 
inhibiting people's freedom by incarcerating them.

"The war started here in the United States," the consumption rate of 
drugs is the highest here, and the weapons used are from here, Sicilia said.

Mexico, he said, is responsible for the corruption there and for 
assuming the war on drugs as part of its national agenda.

Sicilia said Mexico is "in a state of social insecurity" and said 
that Mexicans can be kidnapped in the street.

Benard Simelton, president of the Alabama state chapter of the NAACP, 
said he felt the stops in Selma and Montgomery were significant 
because of the civil rights history.

Simelton said they passed a resolution in 2011 calling for a review 
of the current war on drugs, but said that the organization did not 
go as far as to push for legalization.

He said much of the NAACP's concern centers on the incarceration of 
black people and the fact that they are 13 times more likely to 
receive a harsher sentence than white people for the same crimes.

Simelton said they also had concerns about innocent people being 
killed on both sides of the border.

Franklin, a former state trooper in Maryland and officer with the 
Baltimore Police Department, said people were able to figure out 
within 13 years that prohibition did not work with alcohol, but have 
not figured out in four decades that it is not working with drugs.

He said prohibiting alcohol bolstered organized crime and that 
prohibiting drugs has led to power and money for drug cartels and street gangs.

Franklin and Simelton both expect there to be a change in drug policy 
in the United States. And Franklin said he does not expect it to be 
long before the policy is addressed.

"It's going to be changed regardless of who gets into office," 
Simelton said of the presidential race. "It's not working and more 
and more money is being spent to stop it and it is not stopping.

"We are hoping that whoever the next president is ... that they take 
a hard look at this policy."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom