The 1999 Seattle Hempfest was attended by police estimates of 90,000 people. The day long August event drew an unprecedented crowd that was ignored by the local media, excepting a brief TV mention.
The annual drug war protest, educational day and concert was
marked by the attendance of more families and fewer police. Previously
abundant in the hundreds, law enforcement was only a handful.
Children of all ages were everywhere, signaling the vitality
of a culture that has endured extreme repression and growing
public sentiment that the drug war has failed.
Attendees this year were much more ethnically diverse and less reluctant to enter discussions or take literature. There seemed to be little self-consciousness and plenty of assertiveness regarding drug issues among the mix of people.
Three people were given citations, several indiscreet smokers were told by the police to be cool, and only one arrest and removal from the park took place. There was no violence or any arrests for stealing or other crimes. Peace reigned.
Puget Sound reflected the sunlight all day, with Mt. Ranier clear and cool in the distance. The bands and entertainers were excellent and plentiful, food vendors diverse and efficient. Entry to the mile-long water front park was free.
Political speakers were given ample access to three stages and were more than politely received by the massive crowds. This year Paul Lewin and Nora Callahan spoke from the main stage, warning the thousands of listeners about the consequences of a drug policy that has become a war on Americans.
Public officials stood back and let the organizers do their job, and did they ever! The same volunteers laying out booth locations on Friday were picking up trash on Monday, immensely dedicated, always tactful with vendors, volunteers and the public. The event was a triumph of its kind due to their commitment.
The November Coalition owes and here pays a special thanks to Hempfest Director Vivian William McPeak of Seattle, his large volunteer staff and to all our members who came and "pressed the flesh" to get our message out.