Mardi Grass crowd, Big Joint and Obama banner, Cullen Street, Nimbin, Sunday 4 May 2009


Nimbin Mardi Grass 2009

the Year of Polite Force and the Japanese neoHippies
Nimbin, Australia, 2-5 May 2009

What a wonderful event was the 2009 Nimbin Mardi Grass! What a great meeting of extraordinary people! What a mix it was and what a wonderful, artful and colourful, participatory Parade.

Far and away my most rewarding and memorable experience was the companionship of my volunteer crew; eight of them, all young international travelers 22-27 years old: three Swedes, one French and four Japanese. I nurtured my crew like a father, organising the Lantern Camp so that we were well fed, well stoned, productive and happy.

Good for an old man's heart to have the company and respect of young adults and these were delightfully courteous and helpful too.

Former police Sgt Neville Plush, now mover, maker and shaker for the Nimbin Agricultural and Industrial Society, reported a similar experience with the Mardi Grass camp at the Showgrounds; a big success both as a social event and a revenue raiser; over $50K was raised of which $23K went to the HEMP Embassy as part of a Mardi Grass ticket and camp fee deal.

Neville too enjoyed the respect of the young travelers and was stimulated by their company. He told me some of them left promising to return again with their friends to serve as his Showground camp crew next year.

Here is what my volunteers wrote after in my journal:

"Thank you for this wonderful, unforgettable experience of visiting the peace camp ... It was really interesting to be part of all this social movement, as well as helping for it." My Wiman

"Nimbin is the coolest place where people care about you, and you cared about us and we really appreciated that. Keep fighting for your thoughts!" Raphael Bardin.

"Nimbin Mardi Grass 2009 is gonna be one of my best memory. You have done very good job. Arigatou!! Fun is born between me & whatever." Tokyo

"Nimbin is so nice. It is my great memory. Thank you a lot!! I hope to see you again." ciao @ Hiroyuki

"Thank you so much!! for Nimbin (sketch of hemp leaf) I come next year!! for sure (peace sign) See you next year Mardygrass '10 ..." (Jap Flag) Hirofumi

"Mardi Grass (hemp leaves, rainbow and birds in flight) Thank you for everything!! I couldn't be helped so much. but i had a really special one!! Respect! I'm glad to meet you!" Takayuki

Mardi Grass 2009 will be remembered as the year of the Japanese neo hippies for they attended MG in numbers and in style; dreadlocks and flowing clothes of beautiful textures and colours.

For me their company brought alive memories of the counter culture of the 60s and 70s. I knew that they we seeing Nimbin for the first time like the university students who came to the 1973 Aquarius Festival; all heart opening wonder and delight. So I was pleased to conspire in making it so for them.

I got the Jap lads to make new heads for the backpack skellie puppets I had brought to Mardi Grass and showed them how to wear and dance them. They loved having such a participatory role and the crowd loved their dance. Imagine their elation when after, lying on the grass exhausted by their effort and crying to me for water, they learned they had won Best Entry - $500 worth of Happy Highs!

Other nationalities besides Japs were amongst the many young travelers participating in Mardi Grass and this augurs well for the future of the Mardi Grass and tourism in Nimbin generally. The village is now on the map as a must do destination in the same way that Marrakech and Katmandu were for young travelers of my day.

Seems that we have won Mardi Grass. Seventeen years on, the undeniable success in terms of crowd numbers and broad based village support and participation, means its existence is no longer contested by the likes of Police Area Commander Bruce "Bluey" Lyons or his National Party mates.

But are we winning the Drug War?

Twelve months previous, I had supported the Mardi Grass, which at the time was under concerted attack from our US Drug War trained 'Bluey", by setting up the PA outside the Lismore Courthouse and his Area Office and telling him in no uncertain terms that he was deluded to believe he could change the culture of Nimbin by more policing.

Twelve months later i notice that, although the policing of Mardi Grass is no less excessive and aggressive, Bluey, is less vociferous and gung-ho. His career tained by the negative reaction and the bad media resulting from the 2008 April Fools Day raid, he is looking retirement in the face and it seems to me that he has lost his enthusiasm for subjugating the cannabis culture of Nimbin.

But Bluey has wrought a change to Nimbin culture which must be acknowledged.

The outcome of a constant police presence in a small village (a roster of nine cops for a village of 200 houses) is the raising of fear. Cullen Street people are much more afraid now. When cops patrol in the HEMP Embassy shop and the old Hemp Bar, no one blinks let alone challenges their unwanted presence.

And that was generally true of the Mardi Grass crowd too.

Many were the reports and images of aggressive and violent police crowd interdictions but few were the challenges. When individuals were attacked, searched and bullied by the police patrols, those around them pretended they were somewhere else.

I say we betray the Mardi Grass patrons by failing to organise resistance to police intimidation of our cannabis culture and our protest rally.

Our patrons come to the Mardi Grass wanting to get stoned and enjoy themselves. The myth we propagate suggests that they can do this without going away with a bruising, a fine or a police record.

Local people and Mardi Grass organisers know where to find pot and smoke without being exposed to police undercovers and patrols. But not our visitors. In truth we abandon them the predations of the cops.

Fear at the core is how i see it. Internalised fear and repression.

And from where will resistance come?

Not Jungle Patrol that's for sure. This Mardi Grass I had more rudeness, obstruction, violence and threats from JP than from any interaction i have had from cops since the baton charge at the Melbourne s11.

Seems to me that Jungle Patrol now puts itself above the Mardi Grass (literally in the physical sense of their pub veranda overview of the crowd) and the Mardi Grass organisers. They seem to see themselves as more aligned with the special powers and responsibilities of the emergency services organisations - ambulance, fire, SES and police.

Our souls take on the flavors of those they are near. Managerial drift is what has happened here. Some of the influences that come from mixing with good folk engaged in emergency services have no doubt been positive. But mixing with an endemically corrupt police force engaged in a Drug War, a war against the People, is a different matter.

Remember that the NSW ALP under Costa sacked Commissioner Peter Ryan and turned his community policing project on its head; top down policing it became; enforcement policing, they called it. Oppression is what they do and that's their job however nice their manners.

So when i find Jungle Patrol acting as Council DA enforcers and message bearers for cops, rather than responding to the needs of the Mardi Grass organisers and protecting the crowd from police incursions and assaults, I reckon its time to think again about Jungle Patrol as a community policing experiment.

Viva the Polite Force!

This innovation began as a spoof on the April Fools Day raid of 1 April 2008. To commemorate the raid this year, mock police costumes were made up from navy blue coveralls and peak caps. The blue caps with POLITE printed in white on the front were a big hit.

For 1 April, photos were posed of the Polite Force on guard outside the Hemp Bar standing about like the cops were 12 months previously. For the Mardi Grass the joke was extended to street theatre and Jungle Patrol equipped with 2D plywood sniffer dogs which Elspeth Jones and others made and painted up.

It was a delightful visual gag. And it was more than that. Ridicule is a great down-sizer and by following the cop patrols and bearing witness, Polite Policepersons were able to neutralise and lighten up some of the threat which the presence of armed (Glocks, sprays and tasars) cop patrols represent.

Indeed it was Polite Officers, Hempseed Amanda and Welsh Steve who protected the Mardi Grass organising HQ behind the Nimbin HEMP Embassy from invasion by police patrols. On two occasions Steve refused entry to the Duty Officer, Inspector Nicole Bruce!

Good on 'em. Hemp heros! And we need more of them.

This is the truth of liberation politics: liberty is won with courage. And the antidote to public fear is public courage.

Everyone standing up alive!

Graeme Dunstan
15 May 2009


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