According to Chief Inspector Mr. Joe Sullivan of the Philadelphia Police Department, who was recently awarded at City Hall for his public service, a mass of mostly black and brown activists protesting injustice during rush hour is equivalent to 300 mostly non-black weed smokers who last week in Center City consumed marijuana in public, and in front of police officers, without receiving a citation.
Dismissing the idea that the pop-up weed party at Eakins Oval was the result of white privilege, Mr. Sullivan said the gathering done to celebrate the two-year anniversary of the legislation that decriminalized marijuana was in fact not a celebration but rather a protest, thus the rules of engagement usually applied to citizens exercising their First Amendment right under the Constitution were extended to citizens who had no right under the law to do what they did without consequence, yet did so nonetheless.
Even more offensive than the Mayor’s admission that other neighborhoods shouldn’t have the expectation to engage in a similar act, was the false equivalence that Mr. Sullivan incoherently engaged in. For the record, hundreds of people consuming an illegal drug can’t, and shouldn’t be, compared to hundreds of individuals abiding by the law to air a grievance. Furthermore, Mr. Sullivan was ill-prepared and, frankly, unqualified to discuss this topic with me because he wasn’t on the scene that day, and apparently he hadn’t bothered to analyze any of the media coverage.
Among his initial responses to me was that officers needed probable cause – “we have to see the person smoking marijuana,” said Mr. Sullivan, who’s a few rungs lower than the Police Commissioner – before confronting the peaceful and mostly intoxicated mob who were filmed by the news media consuming and enjoying an illegal, though decriminalized, substance. Mr. Sullivan admitted he had never seen such an activity done in a black neighborhood but, when asked why that might be, offered no real response, though he did attempt to pivot into a diatribe of his long history of public service.
Neither officials in City Hall nor anyone at the police department has articulated a suitable response to Weedgate.
And, instead of simply acknowledging wrongdoing – Mr. Sullivan did say he listened to my concerns and would aim to do better in the future but that provides me and others little comfort and no sense of justice – and attempting to atone for such an egregious act of preferential treatment, the members of Philadelphia government I’ve spoken to have stumbled and stuttered over their tongues to defend the indefensible and explain the inexplicable.
It’s been a week since the high-profile celebration occurred and the government had no intentions of addressing it, though many people in black and brown communities were not only talking about the weed party, but were bewildered by it.
For such blatant criminality and white privilege to occur with no action from the City, particularly during a time where the issue of racism and discrimination in Center City Philadelphia is a front and center conversation forced upon the establishment by black and brown activists, is disappointing, negligent, racially insensitive and amateurish beyond comprehension.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
The role of men is changing in the 21st century. Want to keep up? Get the best stories from The Good Men Project delivered straight to your inbox, here.
Photo courtesy of the author.