The Sniffer Dog Trials of Rusty Harris

Rusty Harris' long running challenge to sniffer dog policing in the Rainbow Region of New South Wales, Australia, was adjourned again when he appeared before the Lismore magistrate's court on 18 February 2004; the 15th such adjournment since cannabis possession charges were laid against him in March 2001.

After spending $4,000 on solicitor Ralph James, Rusty has ditched him and is mounting a common law defence under the advice of Malcolm McClure, founder of UPMART (United People's Movement Against Road Tolls) and nation wide presenter of UPMART Freedom Seminars and Common Law Courses.

Magistrate Mr Chris Bone, in setting the next appearance date as 23 June, has given Rusty plenty of time to prepare. He told the court he would come out of retirement to hear the case.

For Rusty's supporters, it's a case of another court appearance, another opportunity to rally in protest against US Drug War policing. Thinking global, acting local.

For peace! For justice! For the Earth!

Graeme Dunstan

Letter to the Northern Rivers Echo 16 Feb 2004

Rusty in Court, Hemp in the Park, Helicopters in the Hills.

Rusty Harris, primary producer of Barkers Vale, appeared before the Lismore Court last Thursday 12 February and was adjourned again in response to charges arising from the first police sniffer dog operation in Byron Bay, 9 March 2001. Rusty has challenged the legality of the police dog search and it was the 14th adjournment, the first before the Lismore court.

Which did not sit that day. Not till the day before did Rusty hear that back in November the hearing date had been changed from 12 to 18 February . He and his supporters did the appearance anyway. Any excuse for a speak out and any excuse for a Free HEMP Awareness Festival.

Rusty is a resistance hero of a breed that, in this time of war, of corporate piracy and propaganda, of corporate courtier politicians and US global tyranny, is hard to find. He is a local cause celebre and his court appearances cause for celebration.

Each court appearance has been associated with a justice speak-out, with colour, carnival and great music, the participating crowd growing with each adjournment. The previous Free HEMP Awareness Festival occupied Railway Park, Byron Bay, through out the day last 23 October and entertained 1000s of people. Backpackers, young international tourists from all around the globe, loved it. A major tourism event!

In Lismore the rainbow crowd, which gathered in Pritchard Park across the Wilson River from the courthouse in North Lismore for a rainbow-ed HEMP Awareness Festival, never exceeded 120. The police helicopter was in the hills and much fear and paranoia was in the air.

Amongst that number were some 20 young Japanese males from Kyoto and Tokyo who were holidaying on the Gold Coast and had heard about it at a dance party in the hills. They loved the laid back vibe and the freely circulating cannabis. As that enchanted day wore on, serious cultural exchange got underway with the local lads via Frisbee and soccer.

Fierce words spoken in public place, the speak-out at the Courthouse was something to behold. Across the road from the courthouse and under the steeple of the Lismore Anglican Cathedral, truth was spoken loudly on the PA.

Rusty is appealing to the common law and the common man. "Get a real job!" is what he has to say to the cannabis prohibition enforcing police and magistrates. "Get the people out of the drug war jails, the children out of the detention centres, and the cows out of the creek." Loudly he asks: why? Why am I being persecuted for having a useful plant and medicine while the corporate gold miners pour cyanide in our rivers and corporate beef farmers foul our water ways with their cattle?

"We are the people," he says. "And judgement day is coming."

Michael Balderstone from the HEMP Embassy also spoke out. He said that coming through Nimbin on the way to the courthouse, he had passed a convoy of five police vehicles which was off to meet the police helicopter and included some 15 officers in camouflage combat fatigues, two sniffer dogs and a pantechnicon truck for carrying off the cannabis they intended to pirate. He was later to learn that even as he spoke, the raids were at his very own MO in the Tweed Valley, .

Michael described the US Drug War as a bad joke. He said that the end result of helicopter cannabis eradication operations is to increase the price for organic bush buds, to force cannabis production into the hydro closets and kids onto the cheaper imported white powder drugs like amphetamine and heroin.

"It's all about pharmaceutical corporations seeking to monopolise the medicines of pain management," he said. But he had good news. The US Drug War had recently lost ground in Canada where cannabis has been rescheduled and personal possession is no longer an arrestible offence.

He also had ironic news. Q: What is the government with the best record for heroin reduction? A: The Taliban, who had reduced the world supply by three quarters. But now they are no more and, thanks to the intervention of the US Army, heroin production in Afghanistan is now back at record levels.

The HEMP Awareness Festival in Pritchard Park went on into a lantern-lit evening with a succession of beautiful songs and music from Bo Kann, Monkey & Fish, Martin Preedy, Earth Reggae, Evolove two song women from Israel where Rusty has cult status amongst the peace movement. The Chai Tent, familiar to folks from The Channon Market, was aflutter with colour flags. Little rainbow warriors proudly paraded silken rainbow flags through the bright sunshine and it all felt quite perfect.

Through out the day, Rusty and his partner Gitte presided from behind a merchandising stall where supporters could buy Rusty stamps and postcards. Networking, networking, networking, in the sweet nectar of friendship.

We were children in a garden, in an oasis of shade, peace and kindness; a living manifestation of Rusty's prophetic calling: "The Earth must be a garden." Performance poet Gina Lakosta gave voice to it in a poem she had composed in honour of Rusty, an affirmation for the road ahead, walking to the garden together, an exhortation, an incantation born of love: "Just keep walking, just keep walking to the garden".

As the shadows grew long the new blue police US manufactured helicopter came hovering on its way to the ambulance heliport. The crowd jeered and Rusty shouted: "Get a real job!" and shook his fist at the sky.

Warring on the poor in the name of the US Alliance and the furtherance of US corporate advantage, we wondered how many millions of dollars the police had stripped from the local economy that day, how much fear and paranoia generated. We wondered if our protest was no more than powerless fists shaking in the air.

I took heart in remembering that a bunch of friends bearing fearless witness for truth has always had influence for good. For sure I know where I want to stand in these times: besides friends with the courage to speak up and speak out for justice.

Graeme Dunstan

Rusty Harris and Gitte at their stall Pritchard Park lismore 12  Febraury 2004

Media Release 4 February 2004

Rusty Harris in Court, Free HEMP Festival in Park

MORE than five hundred people are expected to attend the Free HEMP Awareness Festival which will gather in Pritchard Park, North Lismore, when sniffer dog resistance hero, Rusty Harris, appears before the Lismore Court on 12 February 2004.

It will be the 14th court appearance of Mr Harris, primary producer from Barkers Vale, to answer charges arising from the first police sniffer dog operation in Byron Bay, March 2001.

Previous appearances have been before the Byron Court and each appearance has been an occasion for colourful protest and carnival, the participating crowd growing with each adjournment. The last Free HEMP Awareness Festival occupied Railway Park, Byron Bay, and entertained 1000s of people through out the day of 23 October 2003 and into the evening. A major tourism event!

"Support for Mr Harris' courageous challenge to sniffer dog policing has created a broad based alliance of peace activists, cannabis law reformers, environmentalists, civil libertarians and anti­corporate resisters", said supporter Graeme Dunstan of

"In a time of war, corporate piracy and propaganda, this is a peoples' resistance movement, standing up and speaking out in Lismore's backyard", said Mr Dunstan. "Thinking globally, acting locally."

"These people see local US Drug War policing as just another aspect of the general betrayal and surrender by our corporate courtier governments to the dictates of the USA; just another collaboration in just another US war against the poor, just another face to the lies, the violence, the liberty-stripping, and the piracy of the US corporate super rich."

Like previous actions in support of Mr Harris, crowd management will be negotiated with the local police and Council officers but they will proceed as a permit and public liability insurance free events.

"My supporters will be gathering to exercise two fundamental liberties: freedom of assembly and freedom of speech," said Mr Harris. "We say that public liability insurance is a corporate tax on the public use of public place and we aint gonna pay."

Rusty Harris in Railway Park Byron Bay 11  October 2003

Rusty Harris and Gitte with supporters outside Byron courthouse 10 July 2004

Further information

Background Story
First big action: Rusty Crucified Easter 2001
Rusty Harris website
Rusty Harris 0427 953 344
Graeme Dunstan 0415 843 751


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