Pubdate: Thu, 19 Jan 2017
Source: Philadelphia Daily News (PA)
Copyright: 2017 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.
Author: Julia Terruso


[photo] Chris Goldstein, right, shakes hands with police top brass after
meeting at La Colombe to discuss his planned "smoke-in" protest on Friday
in Rittenhouse Square. (Julia Terruso / Staff)

Members of the Philadelphia Police Department's top brass met with
marijuana activists Thursday to hash out how pot citations will be issued
at a protest planned for Friday.

"So we'll have everyone light up and then line up," said Nikki Allen Poe,
talking with members of the Police Department at a corner table at La
Colombe coffee shop at Dilworth Park, "and then you'll do the arr-."

"Don't use the A-word, it's not an arrest," Chief Inspector Joe Sullivan
said. "It's a citation."

Poe and a community of local marijuana activists have planned a
Rittenhouse Square "Toke back the wall" event, initially intended to
protest a now-abandoned rule that prohibited sitting on the wall in the

The group is also intentionally holding the event to dovetail with
President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration.

They expect up to 175 people to show up at the park at 4:20 p.m.

Officials said there would be a large police presence, along with an RV
where the citation-writing would take place. They asked the activists to
make sure people stayed within the park. They also emphasized that no one
should run if approached by police.

If there's a "runner," it goes out over the radio and can become a more
serious issue.

Chris Goldstein, president of the Philadelphia chapter for the National
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said part of the
reason for the orchestrated event was to demonstrate the "right way" to
get in trouble for small amounts of pot in the city, which has traded in
criminal charges for citations.

"We're going to line up some people to courteously get code violations,
and we want that to be a demonstration for our own community - this is how
to get it right," Goldstein said. "Don't freak out. Hand over your ID,
hand over your joint. Get your ticket. Have a nice day."

Fines are $25 for possession and $100 for smoking in public.

Sullivan commended the group on its eagerness to work with police.

"I would say you guys take the lead," he said. "We really love the
opportunity to meet in advance and discuss things and plan things out to
make sure everything goes in a positive fashion. We're grateful."

Goldstein said one of the most troubling parts of the sitting ban in
Rittenhouse was that it seemed to point to marijuana smoking as the lone
cause of other issues - loitering, a shooting in October, the stability of
the walls.

The mayor and the city have said the ban had nothing to do with pot. Mayor
Kenney even tweeted that marijuana users should smoke "not so obviously."

Goldstein brought this up at the meeting. Could there be a section of the
square designated as "less obvious"? What does obvious vs. not so obvious
mean when it comes to police?

"That's the subject of discussion," Sullivan said. "Let's focus on tomorrow."
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