Photographs by Byron Echo photojournalist, Jeff Dawson

Marshal of the 2008 Nimbin Mardi Grass Parade

A media story of the 2008 Nimbin Mardi Grass


The Nimbin Mardi Grass organisers invited captain, Graeme Dunstan to marshal the 2008 Nimbin Mardi Grass Parade of Sunday 4 May 2008.

Being the 35th anniversary of the 1973 Nimbin Aquarius Festival, the seminal counter cultural which shaped Nimbin and set in motion many cultural changes and for which Graeme had served as Director, he was both honoured by this invitation and pleased to do the job.

"Best and most exuberant Mardi Grass Parade ever," Graeme reports but he takes no credit "because the Parade is now 16 years old and basically self marshalling. There are a lot of Nimbin folk who love a parade and they get out and do it without any urging from me."

Graeme also contributed to the Nimbin Mardi Grass by deploying lanterns and flags and writing media releases.

Below are images of the Mardi Grass by Byron Echo photojournalist, Jeff Dawson, mixed with Graeme's cop watch media releases.

They tell an interesting the story.

In Nimbin Marshaling Joyful Dissent

Written for Nimbin Mardi Grass program
(and unpublished) 25 April 2008

May in Nimbin is hemp harvest time, Mardi Grass time. And also a time of remembrance for good days gone by and with us yet ... Aquarius dreaming.

Thirty five years ago, for "ten days in May", 10 - 22 May 1973, Nimbin was occupied by Aquarians, young future dreamers who came from all across the land for an arts festival, funded and promoted by the Australian Union of Students.

We were the cream of the student protest generation who had resisted conscription and ended Australians enlistment in the US War on Vietnam.

It had taken seven years of organising and our protests grew to 100,000s on the streets. We knew for sure we had won the peace when the troops were brought home, conscription ended and the Whitlam Labor government elected in November 1972.

There after the question that challenged us as young activists was: what had we won? What was the meaning of peace in our times?

What were the alternatives to the culture that had prevailed, the Cold War culture of rampant capitalism, militarism and consumerism?

Many were asking these questions and, in that time of cultural exploration and dissent, many were the cultural forms emerging. Collectively these cultural manifestations were known as counter culture, alternative, hippie and, for the more politically committed, yippie.

Johnny Allen and I were paid by AUS to organise the 1973 Aquarius Festival and our first radical step was to convince the Union to let us produce it far away from campuses and cities, far away from protest and the institutions and symbols that evoked protest. We knew what we were against; but what were we for?

Let us share and live our ideals camping out together, we said. We dubbed it a lifestyle festival in a time before the word was appropriated by real estate dealers. A low tech, low impact, counter cultural expo gives a better idea.

Then we set traveling the country and promoting the Festival to various aspects of the counter culture as were manifesting around Australia at that time: healers, musicians, poets, Down to Earthers, foodists, food growers, bakers, meditators, spiritual aspirants of all kinds and persuasions, low tech engineers and architects, ecologists and gardeners plus good time guys and gals of all kinds and sizes.

Nimbin village agreed to host event and for ten days in May about 5,000 young people occupied its streets, parks, halls and fields beside and together got seriously and sublimely high.

The fruit was that many lives were changed and Nimbin village became the counter culture capital of Australia.

Another direct fruit was that cannabis culture took deep root in the hills and streets of Nimbin.

We hippies were pot smokers big time. As student activists we had learned that nothing quite fuels subversion like the rapport in a stoner circle of smarts.

We lived and explored edges and stoned, ideas and laughter just jumped about, anything seems possible and at what ever effort, providing we could just keep stoned and laughing.

In truth the toke was both our our sacrament and our revolution.

Indeed the US Drug War begins with US President Nixon seeking ways to suppress the counter culture which at the time was in open revolt, clashing with cops and rioting in cities all over America, and out to bring Nixon after the invasion of Cambodia he had ordered and the National Guard shooting of students at Kent State University. .

Dana Beale, a New York based yippie organiser, launched the "Impeach Nixon!" campaign that forced him to resign presidential office in disgrace. Today honorable elder, he remains a cannabis activist and is the present day organiser of the annual Million Marijuana March.

As measured in arrest statistics, the US Drug War has always has been a war on cannabis users by the police state. From Nixon's desk it quickly went international and followed the hippies to Nimbin. The infamous Cattle Truck Bust of the Coordination Coop at Tuntable in 1976 was the first major bust operation of the NSW police targeting hippies.

But it truly began with a drug bust at the 1973 Nimbin Aquarius Festival that led to a crowd uprising, the release of a prisoner and the disarming of a cop. On getting the news The Daily Mirror screamed blue murder and the NSW Premier sent the 21st Division (riot squad) to Nimbin with orders to suppress the Aquarius Festival. With baton charges.

To this day Johnny Allen believes the bust that set off the Aquarius Festival crowd, and remember we were no shit hippies, street trained, and volatile, was a police provocation, a US Drug War covert operation.

Whatever, we peace activists held our ground and held our peace. The threats of police violence were turned aside and the Festival proceeded as before, peacefully and artfully.

On the last Saturday of the 1973 Nimbin Aquarius Festival, Doug Anthony, local MP, Leader of the National Party and Deputy Prime Minister, came to Nimbin to open a Sports Day in which there was an epic tug of war - loggers, farmers whoever a local resident on one side and the hippies without limits on the other. And high wire artist, Philippe Petit, walked the rope.

Nimbin magic.

Thirty five years later I am happy to say that, as a counter cultural event, the annual Nimbin Mardi Grass, with all its colour, whimsy, fun, passion and politics is a child and direct heir of the 1973 Aquarius Festival. v And like the Aquarius Festival it is also a target for US Drug War policing.

The Mardi Grass Organising Group has invited me to marshal the 2008 Nimbin Mardi Grass parade.

There is honour and irony in my acceptance of this responsibility.

Honour that my cannabis activist friends have entrusted this old man with the job which means negotiating with cops.

Irony that the job is made so fraught by the fact that this seasons' Local Area Police Commander, "Bluey" Lyons, is a Drug War warrior of high training and ambition who has made it clear by word and deed that he is out to clean up Nimbin (read: "suppress the counter culture"), cannabis prohibition being his platform.

Sing it again, Sam!

No power on Earth will stop us ever loving hippies making art and occupying the streets of our ever loving village.

Deluded is he who thinks he can change Nimbin and its counter cultural ways from the outside with overwhelming police numbers and police aggression.

Too many years in undercover, too many years of US Drug War propaganda, too lies, too many deceptions and too much training with the US Drug Enforcement Agency. Easy to lose the plot.

To Superintendent "Bluey" I say come to the Nimbin Mardi Grass and get real!

On the common ground of public safety I shall be happy to talk to local police . But be assured that the Nimbin Mardi Grass will proceed, police or no police and if necessary we will parade in defiance of them.

Like water we will flow around them, never changing our nature, their grim armour and weaponry, a contrasting backdrop to our joy and its visual contradiction. Let the cameras roll!

The aim of the US Drug War is to break our artful resistance and declare us criminals. Its agents would make us afraid of them and distrustful of each other.

In particular they aim to make public place a mean, contested and fearful place.

To the contrary, we Aquarians, we hippies, aim to make our occupations of public place joyful, artful and safe.

We know from long experience and long practice that the antidote to public fear is public courage and public joy.

So hear me on and all. Come to the Nimbin Mardi Grass Parade and celebrate in Aquarius spirit.

Which is to say, do more than just be there and consume. Participate!

Make a sign, design a costume, wear a hat, walk on stilts, beat a drum, play a saxophone, be seen, be heard ... and with love and joy in your artful hearts.

May a long time sun shine upon you ...

Graeme Dunstan

PS On the weekend after Mardi Grass, Friday 9 to Monday 12 May, I will be conducting an Honorable Elders camp near Nimbin as part of the Aquarius 35th anniversary celebrations.

For old Aquarians and new, indigenous and visitor, it will be a sit upon the Earth, campfire warmed, lantern lit, circle of friends in dialogue on the meaning of honorable eldership in these times.

More information or phone me 0407 951 688

Graeme Dunstan
25 April 2008

Media Release 25 April 2008

Aquarian Elder to marshal
2008 Nimbin Mardi Grass Parade

Graeme Dunstan, one of the principal organisers of the 1973 Nimbin Aquarius Festival, has been invited to marshal the 2008 Nimbin Mardi Grass Parade of Sunday 4 May.

"I am honoured to be given this responsibility by the Nimbin Mardi Grass Organising Group," said Mr Dunstan. "And particularly so in the face of the aggressive Drug War policing to which Nimbin has been subjected in recent weeks.

Dunstan says that the annual Nimbin Mardi Grass is, with all its colour, whimsy, fun, passion and politics,  a child and direct heir of the 1973 Aquarius Festival which, 35 years ago, transformed the nondescript and ailing dairy village into the colourful capital of the Australian counter culture.

Dunstan recalls that the NSW Police tried to suppress that Festival too with overwhelming numbers and aggression ... but failed.

"We hippies held our ground and held our peace," Graeme says. "Like water we flowed around them, staying true to our nature, and the Festival went on as before."

Dunstan said that he is happy to meet and negotiate with local police on the common ground of public safety but gives notice that the 2008 Nimbin Mardi Grass Parade will proceed with or without police approval.

"No power on Earth will stop us ever loving hippies making art and occupying the streets of our ever loving village," he said.

"It seems we are up against a Police Area Commander, Superintendent "Bluey" Lyons, who either cannot bear or cannot hear what Nimbin people are telling him," said Dunstan. "Nor will he learn from the past."

"One must suppose that too many years in Drug War undercover operations taxes one's grip on reality, for poor "Bluey" acts as if he's an agent on a divine mission from another planet if not a foreign government," said Dunstan.

Dunstan is urging "Bluey" to take stress leave, lay aside his epaulettes, get real, lay back and enjoy the Nimbin Mardi Grass Parade as other people do.

Further Information
Graeme Dunstan, 0407 951 688
Michael Balderstone, Mardi Grass Organising Group 02 6689 1848

Media Release 27 April 2008

HEMP protest at Lismore Court House

Cannabis law reform activists will be gathering at Lismore Court on Monday to bear witness to the folly of the Nimbin April Fools Day busts.

Media call: 10.30 am Monday 28 April 2008, outside Lismore Court House.

"The Local Area Command is wasting tax payers money big time," said Nimbin HEMP Embassy spokesperson, Michael Balderstone.

"On April Fools day police came to Nimbin in strength and with heavy hands to harass the street traders particularly the cookie sellers," he said. 

"It was like busting a CWA cake stall, then cooking the crime stats later, " said Balderstone.

"The Nimbin police raids are more like police training games and Police Media Unit location shoots," he said. "But then raids have no impact on the cannabis market and just create hazard of entanglement in criminal justice system for visitors to the region's top tourist attraction."

The protest action will be supported by Graeme Dunstan, captain of, Aquarian elder and recently appointed marshall of the 2008 Mardi Grass parade of next Sunday 4 May.

"For 35 years the creative cannabis culture of Nimbin has been harassed by the endemically corrupt police of an endemically corrupt State government," said Dunstan.

"We are over it," said Dunstan.

Further information
Michael Balderstone 02 6689 7525
Graeme Dunstan 0407 951 688

Media Release 28 April 2008

Cops up the Ante on Nimbin Mardi Grass

Police today informed the organisers of the Nimbin Mardi Grass that they will be making an application to close the Nimbin Museum and the Hemp Bar for 72 hours over Mardi Grass. 

"The police are using a piece of archaic legislation (Section 15C of the Restricted Premises Act 1943) to, in effect. close two of Nimbin's most significant tourist attractions during the busiest weekend of the year," said spokesperson for the Nimbin Mardi Grass Organising Group and Nimbin Museum, Michael Balderstone.

The application will go before a magistrate in the Lismore court on Friday morning.

Balderstone described the action as "antagonistic and provocative."

"The police keep assuring us they want a safe Mardi Grass," he said. "What's the closing of the Museum and the Hemp Bar during Mardi Grass got to do with safety?"  

"If one wanted a safe weekend in Nimbin, one would close the pub," he said.

"But it's another day in Nimbin and another day of Drug War harassment by the Lismore Area Command," said Balderstone.

"The public money being wasted by the local police trying to suppress Australia's second most popular tourism destination is as stupid as it is appalling," he said.

"Recent media debate about trial-ing some kind of legalised cannabis supply has clearly shown the north coast community of NSW, if not all of Australia, is ready for it," he said.

Further information
Michael Balderstone 02 6689 1848
Inspector Steve Clark 02 6626 0799

"Too many police and too little justice."

Photo attached Uncle Bob Marley (left), Nimbin Museum kiosk volunteer, reads notice of the Mardi Grass closure as delivered by Michael Balderstone 29 April 2008. Full resolution on request.

Letter to the Acting Local Area Commander of Police

written and faxed 30 April 2008

Inspector Steve Clark
Acting Commander
Richmond Local Area Command
NSW Police Service

Dear Inspector,

I am given to understand from Michael Balderstone that Area Commander Superintendent Lyons is on stress leave and that you will be commander of police operations during the 2008 Nimbin Mardi Grass.

As the marshal of the 2008 Nimbin Mardi Grass Parade of Sunday 4 May, and in the interest of public safety, I seek a meeting with you to plan the policing of Mardi Grass.

We have noted the statement printed in the Northern Star yesterday that you will be providing "appropriate policing". I want to know what that means.

Given the policing practice that the NSW Police Service deemed appropriate for Sydney APEC and the appropriate policing demonstrated by the Richmond LAC at the April Fools Day busts in Nimbin, we have good cause to be cautious about your sense of balance.

I want you to make public the exact nature and strength of local police resources being rostered on for the Mardi Grass including, the name and numbers of any special units coming to Nimbin from outside the LAC, the number and type of vehicles and aircraft involved, the number of undercover agents and an estimate of the public cost of the operation.

I also want you to reveal the names of any observers who will be present from the US Drug Enforcement Agency or any other US law enforcement agency.

This latter may seem alarmist, but given the history of Drug War policing I have witnessed in Nimbin over the past 35 years, you will understand my distrust.

The sooner we sit down and start talking sense the better,

For peace,

Graeme Dunstan

Report on Mardi Grass Police meeting
emailed to MGOG and cc'ed to local media, Thursday 1 May

howdy doodie, hempsters,

I met with Inspectors Steve Clark and Bill Kenna at 8.45 am this morning; unshaven, unshit and unstoned. I had asked for an early morning meeting and they had insisted. I was not at my best.

In the early morning light of the new Police HQ they proved to be amiable and reasonable men. Big smiles, strong hands and cropped hair.

They assured me that the policing of Mardi Grass would be the same as last year. 

Since i had not been there, I was at the disadvantage of not knowing whether this had been convivial or not. But since I had no memory of a police attack, I assumed it to be what they considered "peaceful Mardi Grass policing". You tell me.

They both affirmed that: "We want a safe, peaceful environment. We want to people to have a good time".

"But illegal behaviour of any kind will be acted upon."

These are the words of what is known in the trade as "enforcement policing" or "zero tolerance". Drug War lingo. It has its roots in the policing that suppressed the resistance of ethnic minorities organisations in New York in the 1980s. It is the antithesis of "community or embedded" policing.

I asked about road blocks and twice they affirmed "no road blocks".

No probs with Mardi Grass Parade, either. "We will sort it out on the day."

The big boys on duty in Nimbin during Mardi Grass will be Inspector David Driver by day, Inspector Greg Moore by night. They will be available to Mardi Grass organisers any time by contacting the Nimbin Police Station.

Steve displayed some aggravation about the Courthouse SpeakOut of last Monday and said he had been there in plain clothes listening. Good!

"Graeme, you were being provocative," he warned.

Shamelessly so.

Provocation is a real and mutual concern however. We both parties at the Nimbin HEMP Party must be cool, I said.

Agent provocateurs in the crowd and acting without knowledge of the Local Area Command could provoke the crowd and set off the police. Such things do happen in the soft and global wars waged by the CIA and the DEA against cannabis users.

This is how it was at the 1973 Nimbin Aquarius Festival.

"How old were you 35 years ago?" i asked Steve, the Acting Commander of the Lismore Area Command.

"Six," he said.

I am a walking history of Drug War policing in the Rainbow Region. I ought to be a police training manual.

May a long time sunshine upon you all,

Graeme Dunstan
Aquarian elder
Marshal of the 2008 Mardi Grass parade
0407 951 688

Media Release 1 May 2008

Excessive Policing for Nimbin Mardi Grass

Graeme Dunstan, the marshal for the 2008 Nimbin Mardi Grass parade, met with the Acting Commander of the Richmond LAC, Superintendent Steve Clark, this morning to negotiate Mardi Grass policing.

He reports that, while the Acting Commander remained secretive about the exact policing resources that he has allocated to policing the event, he had declared most earnestly that he wants the participants in the Nimbin Mardi Grass to have 'a nice peaceful time'."

"Same policing as last year is what is promised," said Dunstan. "Which was too much policing but less aggressive then the former year, thank God."

"My view is we are being softened up to accept excessive policing as normal," said Dunstan. "Our celebrations and occupations of public place have become 'make work' for police officers."

Since late this afternoon, Dunstan reports, Cullen Street has been patrolled by Operations Special Group officers (read: anti terrorism / riot suppressors) all the way from Coffs Harbour.

Dunstan said he was grateful for their presence. "No outbreaks of the War on Terror whatsoever since their arrival," he said. No arrests made.

Dunstan recalls Mardi Grass Festivals in the past that were policed by just two local officers and with no harm and no dramas whatsoever.

"This is a costly difference to the "enforcement policing model" which now prevails in the Richmond LAC and for all public events in NSW - police as a big, expensive and aggressive presence.

Dunstan paid a special tribute to Neville Plush, Nimbin farmer and the former sergeant at Nimbin Station for 10 years.

"Neville in his time was a much appreciated exponent of the negotiated approach, a model of policing that prevailed under Commissioner Peter Ryan in the early 90s and called "community or embedded policing," said Dunstan.

"Neville Plush has seen many Mardi Grasses and many changes in policing policy in NSW," he said

"But as a result of his past good deeds, he is now so deeply grounded in the community of Nimbin, and so aware of its needs, that he has organised to open the Nimbin Showground to camping and parking during Mardi Grass and so provide a useful service and amenity to the Mardi Grass and earn the Show Society a few bucks," he said.

"Good on, him!" said Dunstan.

Further information
Graeme Dunstan 0407 951 688
Neville Plush 0428 891 073

Photo Opportunity Organisers of the Nimbin Mardi Grass will be outside the Lismore Court at 10.30 am Friday 2 May protesting the application of the police to shut down the Nimbin Museum and the Hemp Bar as Restricted Premises during the Mardi Grass.

Peacebus,com will be supporting the protest with a SpeakOut to which Acting Superintendent Steve Clark will be invited to speak about Mardi Grass policing.

Media Release 1 May 2008

Nimbin Mardi Grass overwhelmed by volunteers

Preparations for the Nimbin Mardi Grass proceed at full tilt and Mardi Grass spokes person Michael Balderstone, speaks of "being overwhelmed by young international travelers offering themselves as volunteers."

"It's great to see all these young, suntanned and smart young people plugging into cannabis law reform," he said.

"Hats off to PM Kevin Rudd for his support for cannabis clinics," said Balderstone.

"At least Rudd is moving with the times a little and in the right direction with harm reduction policies," he said.

"Better harm reduction than more spending on Drug War enforcement policing," he said.

But he was critical of the luke warm support for Mardi Grass given by Janelle Saffron, the recently elected Labor member for Page.

"If Janelle doesn't understand the huge popular support for the Nimbin Mardi Grass and cannabis law reform as part of the grass roots shift in politics in this land, she may be as deluded as the Richmond Local Area Police Commander," he said.

"Be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, Janelle," he said

Further information
Michael Balderstone 6689 0326


French travelers roll damiana (mugwort) joints in the Nimbin Museum for free distribution as a decoy for police. Higher resolution on request.

Photo Opportunity
Organisers of the Nimbin Mardi Grass will be outside the Lismore Court at 10.30 am Friday 2 May protesting the application of the police to shut down the Nimbin Museum and the Hemp Bar as Restricted Premises during the Mardi Grass. will be supporting the protest with a SpeakOut to which Acting Superintendent Steve Clark will be invited to speak about Mardi Grass policing.

Media Release 2 May 2008

Nimbin Mardi Grass laughing

When police came to close the Nimbin Museum today they found a big crowd of grinning Mardi Grass participants and no doors. No windows either.

"Person and persons unknown had removed them," said Michael Balderstone, spokesperson for the Nimbin Mardi Grass and the Nimbin Museum.

"In response, the police extended the start up time for the closure order by six hours," he said. "We have located them but there is no way that I can assure the police that once affixed, they won't be removed again by wild boys with screw drivers."

"The police have been very provocative closing the Hemp Bar and the Museum and now people are laughing at them," he said.

"Lots of laughter at Mardi Grass," he reports. "It's now in full flight, the village full of music, smiles, cannabis and goodwill."

Graeme Dunstan, 2008 Mardi Grass parade marshal reports that apart from busting The Plantem and confiscating his suit, police presence this evening has been "admirably low key".

"Maybe they are feeling contrite about their poor treatment of our hero," said Dunstan. "I watched as eight officers escorted him to Nimbin Police Station, three in front, one either side and two behind, while The Plantem thus guarded, proudly held his Cannabis flag high."

"Bad, bad, naughty karma comes of busting The Ghost Who Tokes and stealing his Plantem suit," warns Dunstan.

"For surely the late 'Chicken George', the former Plantem, will be watching for some heavenly realm and planning divine and mischievous vengeance."

"Ooophs, I could be wrong about 'low key', Dunstan said.

"Even as I keyed in those words a patrol of four officers in blue coveralls just came  out of the night and through the Mardi Grass organising office ..."

Further information
Michael Balderstone 02 6689 0326
Graeme Dunstan 0407 951 688

Media Release 3 May 2008

Biggest Nimbin Mardi Grass ever

"Biggest Nimbin Mardi Grass ever," reports Michael Balderstone, spokesperson for the organisers.

"Maybe 10,000 including lots of young international travelers: Brits, Japs, Germans, Koreans, Israelis ... you name it, neo hippies and the Nimbin Mardi Grass this seasons stop over on the neo hippie trail."

"Clearly ending the Drug War is on the agenda for young people everywhere," he said.

All day in Nimbin Hall national and international luminaries in Drug War history and reform have been addressing crowds: Prof Paul Wilson, Dr Alex Wodak, Ed Rosenthaul, John Jiggens.

Outside in Cullen Street, a packed crowd welcomed the arrival of the Kombi Konvoy (56 this year, record 67). In Peace Park at 4:20 pm a record number of joints (840) lit up in solidarity with the Global Marijuana March.

"Give Rudd a bud and tell him to start delivering on cannabis law reform," said Balderstone.

"The opening of the Nimbin Showground for camping and parking has been a great success," he said. "Booked out, lots of campfires and the pleasant buzz of conversation."

"Hats off to Neville Plush, former Nimbin Police sergeant, who got it organised."

Graeme Dunstan, Mardi Grass parade marshall, praised the restraint of the police who, he said, backed off from raiding Mardi Grass HQ last night and again this morning.

"Since then the police have been patrolling as a low key presence in the crowd all day, visible, ready to help, ready to talk, but certainly not harassing," he said.

"Hats off to them too."

Further Information
Michael Balderstone 02 6689 0326
Graeme Dunstan 0407 951 688

Media Release 5 May 2008

Mardi Grass organiser calls for
Summit on Nimbin policing

Michael Balderstone, spokesperson for the Nimbin Mardi Grass has called for a Nimbin policing Summit.

"The Nimbin Mardi Grass has been a huge success in spite of armed police patrols and their Drug / Terror War crowd interdictions," said the Mardi Grass spokesperson.

It was the biggest and best Mardi Grass Parade ever and the famous Ganja Fairies won the coverted $2000 cash prize for the best parade entry for their new costumes and dance routine.

"In tourism terms, it has been a huge success both in terms of tourist dollars to local businesses but also in terms of Nimbin getting an excellent reputation as a tourist destinations."

"The Nimbin Showgrounds provided congenial camping for an estimated 1200 young people, most on them young international travelers having a wonderful time," he said.

"These are young people voting with their feet for cannabis law reform and to the end of Drug / Terror War policing," he said.

"We are onto a winner here in Nimbin but we have to get the police out of our faces," said Balderstone.

"So in the after glow of a successful Mardi Grass and the fading glow of Rudd's 2020 Summit, I am calling for a 2008 Policing Summit."

"I want politicians to be there, local government, state and federal. I want senior NSW police and the NSW Police Association to be there. I want health officers to be there and growers and dealers and tourism operators too," he said.

Further information
Michael Balderstone 02 6689 0326
Graeme Dunstan 0407 951 688

Policing Mardi Grass
- another day, another year in the Drug War

written for the Byron Shire Echo 8 May 2008 (unpublished)

Three aspects of the policing of the 2008 Nimbin Mardi Grass gave organisers cause for praise and gratitude.

First the policing of the alcohol ban in Cullen Street and the tight restrictions applied to the Nimbin Hotel not only reduced drunken behaviour in the streets but also reduced litter.

Second the incidents of assault in the crowd were low and everyone, cops, hempsters and residents alike, are happy about that.

Police of course are claiming full responsibility but maybe the key factor was a happy and peaceful crowd, stoned and grooving on the cannabis culture which the HEMP Embassy represents so artfully.

Maybe less violence if the police presence was less heavy. For sure, given that some of the violence involved reactions to police officers.

Third we hempsters are grateful to the police for reminding us of our mission; to wit, to end prohibition and the 35 year old Drug War which has now evolved into a Terror War waged by police professionals against the rest of us.

Inspector Dave Driver, he of the eyes of glittering intensity and Duty Officer for the Nimbin Mardi Grass, told me that my accusation that the police were warring against Nimbin citizens and their visitors was nonsense.

Maybe my eyes deceived me as i watched blue coverall para militia patrols armed with Glocks and sprays moving through the Mardi Grass crowd like SAS in an Afghanistan village.

Maybe the occupation of Nimbin streets and fields by parading mounted police (= anti crowd cavalry) was meant as a friendly police contribution to Mardi Grass though it has never been an equestrian event and the connection between horses and hemp remains unexplained.

Maybe I lack trust when I come up against police secrecy.

I asked Inspector Dave what his police were doing at Mardi Grass - what their numbers, what their resources? what their tactics? - and was told it was secret information which if released might compromise "operations".

If secret operations isn't war against the people, what is?

I have since read the evidence produced by police to get the Hemp Bar and Nimbin Museum shut down and it is a collation of undercover reports of cannabis dealing witnessed (indeed instigated by) police over six years.

Many, many hours of planning have gone into, much report writing and many meetings of police talking to police in secret - with maybe the odd National Party hack sitting in.

This is what local police culture has become under the aegis of Drug War warrior, Superintendent Bluey Lyons: police talking to police in secret and, so removed from community life has its command become, that it is blind to the aggression of its posturing and the arrogance of its presumptions.

The Nimbin Mardi Grass is an international success story. Given that so much inspired effort and goodwill by so many local people goes into producing it as a pleasing crowd event, artful, joyful and safe, it grates with me that police presume that they have some divine right of intervention and presence at the Mardi Grass.

And it grates with me that Police Media Unit disinformation about 80 arrests gazumphed the post Mardi Grass media nationally. A big and successful cannabis law reform rally had been had, thousands of people voting for an end to prohibition and yet the police claimed centre stage with their Drug War body count news.

The hypocrisy of their moral stance grates with me too.

Just over 10 years ago the Wood Royal Commission into the NSW Police Service found the organisation to be "endemically corrupt". Commissioner Wood recommended drug law reform as the means of restricting the prohibition profits that fuel police corruption and he recommended a major change of police culture.

Commissioner Peter Ryan was imported from the UK to achieve this end with what he called "community" or "embedded" policing.

But Ryan was soon undone by the Costa/Iemma clique, drug law reform (remember the Drug Summit of 1999?) was side lined and instead the NSW Police Service became the NSW Police Force and was rewarded with new weapons and new powers of arrest and surveillance.

At the time of Wood Commission It was thought in that academic training for police officers would lift their literacy and performance. Officers of the long beat experience were retired to make way for these smarter young commanders.

But it hasn't worked out as expected. Academia has proven to be of little influence on police culture. A much more significant influence has been the War of Terror and the training up of a whole new range of police skilled in weaponry, marching up and down, secrecy and hit squad operations.

Drug War and crowd suppression operations suit these cops as snugly as their black leather gloves. This is what we got at Sydney APEC and its what we got at Nimbin Mardi Grass.

So this is what it has come too, friends; an endemically corrupt NSW State government served by an endemically corrupt police Force is search of a Terror War.

But oh, how Nimbin undoes all comers.

All is not well in the ranks. While Bluey fronts the media looking like a fat frog on Vallium, the ship he commands has sprung leaks.

The HEMP Embassy was tipped off about the Aprils Fools Day raids but no one believed the caller. How could we?

But information leaked to the HEMP Embassy from an anonymous source during Mardi Grass suggested that 30 undercovers were patrolling the crowd on Saturday and Sunday and setting up busts of known dealers for the patrols of paramilitia to take out of the crowd.

I announced it on the Mardi Grass PA in Cullen Street, Inspector Driver heard me and when I met him 15 minutes later his first question was: "Where did you get your information?"

At first I thought he was objecting to misinformation and responded saying: "Sorry. Tell me the exact number and I will go back to the PA and correct my error at once."

But no. In his eyes i saw that he was pissed off and that my figure of 30 undercovers was right.

Somewhere someone is laughing and it aint Bluey Lyons.

May a long time sunshine upon us all,

Graeme Dunstan
Aquarian elder
Marshal of the 2008 Nimbin Mardi Grass Parade

On Tuesday 6 May, the media on policing the Nimbin Mardi Grass had forced a response from the NSW Police Commissioner who called on Dr Alex Wodak to put up or shut up on accusations of police corruption made duriung thje Nimbin Mardi Grass.

Doctor urged to present evidence

2008-05-06 16:01:21

NSW Police have called on the Director of Alcohol and Drug Services at St Vincent’s Hospital Doctor Alex Wodak to provide any information he has concerning corrupt police who might be working with criminals in the illegal trade of marijuana.

Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said Dr Wodak, as a respected and responsible physician, had an obligation to bring any knowledge he had of this activity to the relevant authorities.

"I am deeply concerned Dr Wodak's comments have unfairly smeared all police who work hard to uphold the law. That is not right," said Mr Scipione.

"Police have an obligation to crack down on illegal drugs, which is evidenced by the recent Bureau of Crime Research and Statistics report showing in 2007 there were  12,250 charges of possessing or using cannabis, 441 charges of dealing or trafficking in cannabis and 1,082 charges of cultivating cannabis," said Mr Scipione.

"As Commissioner of Police I am determined to tackle head-on any suggestion of police corruption that might exist in this area.

"I have directed the NSWPF Professional Standards Command to contact the doctor and follow up the allegations he has made. I look forward to his on-going support in this most important area," said Mr Scipione.

The Director General of Health, Professor Debora Picone has discussed the matter with the Police Commissioner. Professor Picone has also urged Dr Wodak to assist police and come forward with any evidence he may have.

Anyone who has knowledge of police corruption, especially in the area of supplying or selling drugs is urged to bring it to the attention of the Commissioner of Police or the Police Integrity Commission as a matter of urgency.

Dr Alex Wodak did not respond to this media challenge, because he was off to an overseas conference. But on 9 May he replied to MGOG thus:

Dear All,

I obviously touched on a raw nerve

Getting tough on police corruption is fine by me

But also getting tough on one of the major causes of police corruption seems even better

best wishes,


Dr. Alex Wodak,
Director, Alcohol and Drug Service,
St. Vincent's Hospital,
Darlinghurst, NSW, 2010

Graeme took up with the challenge with the following.

Open Letter to NSW Police
Commissioner Andrew Scipione

written and sent 9 May 2008

Mr Andrew Scipione
NSW Police Force

I want to respond to your call to put up or shut up on police corruption in NSW.

This is why I say the NSW Police Force is on the take.

It devours public funds in show policing, epic assemblies of weaponry and force, for the media cameras. Policing for media cameras works to portray an image of good policing rather than good policing itself. It lies and deceives.

The prevailing Terror War policing is a self justifying show. It deliberately cultivates fear in the community for its own ends.

This is corruption of the public good and a criminal waste of public funds.

Drug war policing is terror policing. Eighty arrests at the Nimbi Mardi Grass is not a victory for the people. Rather it is an attack on the people; war by your police on the people.

Commissioner Scipione I say you are the chief of an endemically corrupt police force that serves and endemically corrupt NSW government.

Graeme Dunstan
Aquarian Elder
Marshal of the 2008 Mardi Grass Parade
0407 951 688

Although sent far and wide this letter elicted not one call. But police were conspicuously absent from Nimbin for the days after. Every day free of police Drug War harrassment is a happy day in Nimbin.

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