Tension at ganja rally after man arrested

Ras­tas chant­ed for equal rights and jus­tice af­ter po­lice ar­rest­ed a man for pos­ses­sion of cannabis dur­ing the ral­ly or­gan­ised by the All Man­sions of Rasta­fari on Sun­day in San Fer­nan­do.

Eye wit­ness­es claimed the ar­rest­ing of­fi­cer was in­tox­i­cat­ed while on du­ty and called for a breathal­yser test to be ad­min­is­tered in him.

The in­ci­dent prompt­ed a short-lived clash be­tween po­lice and par­tic­i­pants at the ral­ly held at Skin­ner Park.

The crowd’s emo­tions even­tu­al­ly cooled and they re­turned to the space set aside for the event.

Ear­li­er, un­der the watch­ful eye of close to 50 uni­formed po­lice of­fi­cers, the group held its sec­ond na­tion­al cannabis ral­ly.

It is the first fol­low­ing a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion dis­cussing the de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of cannabis or­gan­ised by the Gov­ern­ment.

The first cannabis ral­ly was held in Oc­to­ber at Wood­ford Square in Port-of-Spain.

The Port-of-Spain event was in­ci­dent free ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics from the Trinidad and To­ba­go Po­lice Ser­vice (TTPS).

The num­ber of uni­formed of­fi­cers vis­i­ble at that ral­ly was min­i­mal.

The hand­ful of uni­formed of­fi­cers who were present at the Port-of-Spain event stood on the pe­riph­ery of Wood­ford Square.

The po­lice of­fi­cers from San Fer­nan­do chose a dif­fer­ent ap­proach.

There were sev­er­al marked po­lice ve­hi­cles in­clud­ing a bus parked around the event.

The of­fi­cers al­so walked through­out the crowd.

Bon­go Grease of AMOR said there were at­tempts to shut down yes­ter­day’s ral­ly be­cause the or­gan­is­ers did not have a dance­hall li­cence for the event.

AMOR can­celled some of the en­ter­tain­ers they had card­ed to per­form at the ral­ly to en­sure it could be held.

“Due to last-minute re­quire­ments by se­nior au­thor­i­ties in San Fer­nan­do, AMOR has had to cre­ative­ly ad­dress the en­ter­tain­ment pro­gramme de­signed to fit in line with the ethos of the ral­ly, which is to sen­si­tive the gen­er­al com­mu­ni­ty on the con­ver­sa­tions go­ing around be the is­sue of cannabis le­gal­i­sa­tion,” AMOR stat­ed.

“This is an ed­u­ca­tion­al event to­wards equal rights and jus­tice, “ AMOR stat­ed.

“We must not let Baby­lon re­strict us or re­strain us from what we have to do,” Bon­go Grease said.

“The pow­er of Rasta­fari will pre­vail,” he said.

He said this re­lat­ed to both the ral­ly and le­gal­i­sa­tion of cannabis.

AMOR had its po­si­tion pa­per ti­tled Le­gal­i­sa­tion of Cannabis in Trinidad and To­ba­go: To­wards An Eq­ui­table Frame­work on sale at the event for $65.

He said “de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion” has nev­er been in the lex­i­con of Rasta­fari.

Le­galise it!” he said.

He said mak­ing cannabis il­le­gal has caused the ma­jor­i­ty of prob­lems in this coun­try.

Ven­dors sell­ing items in­clud­ing clothes and food formed the pe­riph­ery of the event while a stage rep­re­sent­ing the three colours of Rasta­fari was on the north­ern end.

The event be­gan 90 min­utes lat­er than ini­tial­ly card­ed and there were sev­er­al tech­ni­cal hic­cups.

But de­spite these is­sues, the event was en­joyed by cannabis ad­vo­cates.

“If we don’t smoke the gan­ja, then how can we speak with knowl­edge about it," Grease said.

- by Joel Julien

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