HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Freedom Ride Scheduled For Late July
Pubdate: Tue, 26 Jun 2001
Source: Daily Texan (TX Edu)
Copyright: 2001 Daily Texan
Volume: 101, No. 166
Contact:  http://www.dailytexanonline.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/115
Author: Michael Taylor
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/tulia.htm (Tulia, Texas)

FREEDOM RIDE SCHEDULED FOR LATE JULY

Groups Schedule Ride To Raise Awareness Of Alleged Injustices In Tulia

To mark the two years that have passed since one of Texas' most infamous 
instances of racial targeting and to raise awareness about the perceived 
injustices of U.S. drug policy, a coalition of drug-policy reform groups on 
Monday announced the July 23 "Tulia Freedom Ride" from Austin to Tulia, Texas.

The ride is scheduled to coincide with the second anniversary of a July 23, 
1999 incident, in which the Swisher County Sheriff's Department arrested 43 
citizens of the Panhandle town of Tulia.

Forty of the suspects were black, and all were indicted based solely on the 
testimony of an undercover agent who critics say has a questionable past.

Activists and reformers have labeled the bust and the subsequent trials at 
which most suspects were given harsh sentences "ethnic cleansing" of the 
city's black citizens.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP have filed a joint lawsuit 
against the undercover agent, the sheriff and the district attorney. The 
case, which has received national attention, is currently under 
investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Charles Kiker, a retired Baptist minister who lives in Tulia and grew up 
nearby on a farm, said his group, Friends of Justice, grew up in the 
aftermath of the arrests.

"When I saw in the paper that 43 people in the little town of Tulia 
population approximately 5,000 had been arrested for selling powder 
cocaine, I thought, boy, we've got a big drug problem in this little town," 
Kiker said. "My wife is quite a bit smarter than I am and her remark was, 
'If 43 people are selling drugs in Tulia who are the buyers?'"

When he found out that 40 of the people arrested were from Tulia's black 
community, Kiker said the drug bust started to "smell bad."

Not everyone in Tulia is angry about the arrests, Kiker said. The sheriff 
and the district attorney were re-elected the year after the bust and today 
things remain pretty quiet. Kiker said there was significant support in 
Swisher County for the harsh sentencing and arrests.

"It's pretty quiet now, but it won't be on July 22," he said.

William Harrell, executive director of the ACLU's Texas chapter, said the 
people of Tulia were victims of a failing war on drugs that needs to be 
re-examined.

Harrell said that in the aftermath of the Tulia drug sting, at least eight 
more incidents of racial targeting were reported in Texas.

"The struggle in Tulia is constant. There are still 20 people in jail who 
are innocent of the crimes they are accused of," Harrell said. "This is 
madness. Innocent people of color, who are poor, are being abused 
systematically."

After the ride, participants will hold a "Never Again Rally" and a march to 
the Swisher County Courthouse in Tulia, organized by the NAACP, the ACLU 
and the Friends of Justice.

The Texas Network of Reform Groups and the Democracy Coalition organized 
the Tulia Freedom Ride. The TNRG consists of the Drug Policy Forum of 
Texas, hemp advocates, Austin Normal, Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, 
Indy Media Austin and independent activists and reformers.

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Related websites:

Drug Policy Forum Of Texas: http://www.mapinc.org/DPFT/

Friends of Justice: http://www.drugsense.org/foj/

Indy Media Austin: http://austin.indymedia.org/

NAACP: www.naacp.org

Students for a Sensible Drug Policy: http://www.ssdp.org/

Texas ACLU: http://www.aclutx.org/

Texas NORML: http://www.normltexas.org/
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MAP posted-by: GD