Last night, political comedian and long-time activist, Randy Credico was enjoying a cool summer evening with his friends barbecuing in the backyard of his Gay Street home in New York City's West Village. After hearing a loud commotion in the street, Credico stepped out of his front door and witnessed New York City police officers arresting a couple of young adults for allegedly smoking marijuana. Credico got into a shouting match with the cops. One of the officers turned out to have a history with Credico and was involved in a similar incident some months back when Credico documented the arrest of some other young adults accused of simple marijuana possession. Following the verbal altercation with officers, Credico was arrested and charged with resisting arrest and making obscene gestures.
Credico is the director of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice . The organization has an ongoing project that involves reporting on and taking photos of undercover detectives who use excessive force in arresting people for simple violations of marijuana laws. Credico is a veteran activist against the drug war and its harmful consequences on society.
He appears in two films about the war on drugs. "60 Spins Around the Sun" chronicles Credico's crusade fighting the New York's draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws . Credico is also featured in "Lockdown USA," a documentary about the 2004 reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws featuring hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons . Credico is the co-founder of the New York Mothers of the Disappeared, a leading activist organization that fought to change New York's harsh and racially discriminatory drug laws.
Across the street from his West Village brownstone is a quiet row of houses that has become a hotspot for marijuana arrests. "People get arrested there all the time," Credico said to me. "I think they should stop these meaningless arrests and use their time and resources to find better ways of going after real criminals."
New York City is the capital of marijuana arrests. The NYPD arrested and jailed nearly 400,000 people for possessing small amounts of marijuana between 1997 and 2007, a tenfold increase in marijuana arrests over the previous decade is a figure marked by startling racial and gender disparities, according to a recent report released by the New York Civil Liberties Union.
The report, The Marijuana Arrest Crusade in New York City: Racial Bias in Police Policy 1997-2007 is the first-ever in-depth study of misdemeanor marijuana arrests in New York City during the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations. Researched and written by Harry G. Levine, a sociologist at Queens College, and Deborah Peterson Small, an attorney and advocate for drug policy reform, the report is based on two years of observations in criminal courts as well as extensive interviews with public defenders, Legal Aid and private attorneys, veteran police officers, current and former prosecutors and judges, and those arrested for possessing marijuana.
Credico called me at 5:00 a.m. from his cell in New York City's notorious "Tombs" to notify me of his arrest. "It's horrible here" he said. "All I did was to try and save a couple of kids from being arrested for smoking pot."