Transcript Of My Interview With The Organizers of Ottawa’s 420-2012

April 20th, 2012 saw the largest congregation of pot smokers ever assembled on the front lawn of Ottawa’s Parliament Hill – over 5500 people.
But how did this come about?

I discussed it with two of the organizers – Graham Kitmer and Claude Gallipeau – ten days later.

The sound is worse-than-awful, so here is the entire transcript:

Russell Barth: So… so who started the event….? For 420, 2012?
Graham Kitmer: I did.
Russell Barth: Ok, so how did you do that?
Graham Kitmer: I just….  I dunno, every year that this happens… at Parliament Hill and Major Hill (sic), and I, just thought “There’s gotta be a better way to do this.”… and it was kinda like, you’re always thinking; “Yeah, well, there’s gotta be a better way, why doesn’t someone do it?”, and then it was like “Well, why don’t I do it?
Russell Barth: Yeah… excellent.
Graham Kitmer: Y’know, and my room mate was a big help. His name’s John. So, he was just kind of like, I asked him to help, he was like “Yeah, sure.”
Russell Barth: So you set up a facebook group and…
Graham Kitmer: I set up a facebook group and I talked to just some people to help out… uh, they weren’t like directly involved, but, uh, volunteer with NORML Canada… so that was like able to provide me with more information, to really solidify, like, why I am doing this. It’s not like I just went out on a whim and said “Oh I like to smoke pot. That’s fun.” There’s background, you know, the educational aspect.
Russell Barth: Well, that’s – that’s always been the problem, is, trying to figure out a way to get half the crowd to show up here. I mean, tradition is that people go to Major’s Hill Park, and then half the people come here, y’know, afterwards or during, there never seems to get a consensus….
Graham Kitmer: I always found here was like, people come here to say “I smoked at Parliament Hill.”, and then they’d scurry over to Major Hill because there was, like, drum circles… and weird characters walking around…..
Claude Gallipeau: … costumes…
Graham Kitmer: … the big fat joints…
Russell Barth: The crazy stuff.
Graham Kitmer: Yeah…
Russell Barth: And I always realized that, because half of that was going on here anyway, we may as well try to bring that all to The Hill. And the reason I thought it was more important… myself…. to have it here, was, uh, this is the Seat Of Power.
Claude Gallipeau: Exactly.
Russell Barth: As far as I know, there are no other countries in the world where, y’know, the Seat Of Power has people smoking pot right on the front lawn. This is not happening in London, England. This is not happening in Paris, France. This is not happening in Washington, D.C.
Claude Gallipeau: On The White House grass…
Russell Barth: …so… no, exact, or The White House or on the front lawn of Congress or whatever…. so, that’s why I thought, you know, when I saw the facebook group come up, I’d already made a video just hoping people would catch on. It was funny `cause there was a spike – on 4/20 – I got nineteen hundred views… on that one day.
Claude Gallipeau: Wow.
Russell Barth: Of people just watching that thing, about, you know, coming over here and staying… so, um, So you guys got… what, did you go to the park first, or did you come here first, or what happened on the day?
Claude Gallipeau: Myself I came here first, and it was nice because this is something that I’d never attended before, and it’s always something that, I always viewed had, uh, very little organization… so it was always a real grass roots effort… and, um, I actually met Graham through his facebook event that he had created, because I wanted to do something to help out with the event, so finally I found him as a contact, and uh… I showed up here, initially, and uh, around two o’clock…. I’d estimate that five hundred to a thousand people had already arrived.
Russell Barth: Wow – two o’clock.
Claude Gallipeau: Yeah…
Russell Barth: What time did you arrive at the park or arrive here?
Graham Kitmer: Um, I showed up at the park around one o’clock, and we were setting up music, and just gonna…. I guess the idea was kind of rally people there, then march here…. because I never wanted it to just – I never wanted to take away from Parliament Hill, the whole idea was to bring people to Parliament Hill, and we thought, “Well, how can we do that?”, we thought, advertising and just being here we didn’t think we’d get people here, but if we were there, and started a march, we thought that might be the best way. But we were there, the cops – police officers – were just, kind of, really not wanting us to be there.
Claude Gallipeau: That was at Major’s Hill?
Graham Kitmer: Yeah, and they just, you know, typical; “Well, you know, are you promoting kids to smoke pot?”. We’re like “No, not at all. I don;t know why you are jumping to conclusions.” When they don’t know what they’re talking about they have to kind of go, I guess, to their comfort zone, so…. it’s always interesting, I sometimes just, talk to police, just on the street…. and if they’re, I always find – not always, but a lot of the times – you get a younger guy with an older guy, and the older guy – or girl, sorry –
Russell Barth: “Officer”.
Graham Kitmer: The older person, is usually just kind of angry about the subject, you know, just “What do you think about marijuana?”, and the younger person takes a more educated… “Well, you know…. it’s better with (unintelligible) approach…”… which I found interesting.
Russell Barth: The thing I’ve noticed with the police is, they, they find it as a sing of personal disrespect, a lot of times, too. It’s like “Well, you’re breaking the law right in front of me. Does my uniform mean nothing to you?” And, that’s part of the reason – I think – uh, that pot needs to be legalized, is because you’re pitting your teenagers against your kids – uh,uh… against your cops. You’re pitting your cops against your teenagers.
Claude Gallipeau: And your kids, even against your own parents.
Russell Barth: Yeah, and kids against your parents, so, I mean, prohibition is basically causing fights between kids and parents, kids and cops, kids and teachers, kids and other kids, kids and the community, kids and dealers. And this is why I think, that’s why when I got up and started talking, and I said, y’know, pPeople have asked me if “Are you promoting pot use to kids?”, well, no… but, I’m promoting a healthy lifestyle, that includes using marijuana.
Claude Gallipeau: I actually see it the other way, I see prohibition, more, promoting pot to kids, because the only reason why there were drug dealers in my school when I went to high school, and all my other friends at their high schools, the only reason why there’s drug dealers there is because of prohibition.
Russell Barth: Exactly. Exactly, And, y’know, you couldn’t get rid of dealers because as soon as one guy got popped….
Claude Gallipeau: Exactly, more than happy to take their place….
Russell Barth: “Where am I gonna get drugs? Where am I gonna get drugs?” and some other guy is like; “Well, maybe I can hook you up…..” and then suddenly, he’s the new guy….
Claude Gallipeau: Exactly.
Russell Barth: You know, and the cops realize this, the cops who come to the school realize this, that’s why…
Claude Gallipeau: Yeah, and they search their students with canine units – IN the schools.
Russell Barth: And this is, this is fostering a lot more disrespect and resentment for the police…
Claude Gallipeau: Exactly.
Russell Barth: Which I don’t think is healthy.
Claude Gallipeau: No. Not really.
Russell Barth: Kids shouldn’t be thumbing their nose at the cops. Kids shouldn’t be disrespecting cops, but at the same time, I don’t think they should have to live under these kinds of authoritarian situations in schools.
Claude Gallipeau: Yes, absolutely.
Russell Barth: … where they’re being treated like drug users just because, y’know, a third of the class is using drugs. And um, you know, when I was in high school, I’m 43 years old, so when I was in high school it was, y’know, the early to mid eighties, and…. maybe you had three or four kids out of thirty that were users. I mean they weren’t, you know, your sort of “stoner”, the slack-jawed stoner you see a lot of kids `round now… Now you talk to some teenagers and they are like “Oh, yeah, half the school is on drugs.”
Claude Gallipeau: Yeah.
Russell Barth: “A third of my school is on drugs.”
Claude Gallipeau: Yeah.
Russell Barth: And that’s….. that’s not good…
Claude Gallipeau: Yeah.
Russell Barth: Y’know, it’s not good, and it’s not so much…. y’know “Kids shouldn’t be smoking pot.”, it’s more a case of, well, use things responsibly.
Claude Gallipeau: Exactly.
Russell Barth: Whether it’s Red Bull, or marijuana, or ecstasy, or sex…. y’know….
Graham Kitmer: Food.
Claude Gallipeau: Or their own food.
Russell Barth: Food! Exactly!
Graham Kitmer: Just – overeating.
Russell Barth: And that is the real problem, it diabetes and obesity and pot didn’t cause that.
Claude Gallipeau: No.
Graham Kitmer: No.
Russell Barth: But, um – getting back to four twenty…. did you guys, I mean, you must have done some postering and stuff…?
Graham Kitmer: Yep.
Claude Gallipeau: Yeah, that’s where I tried to help out, really, because, previously, there’s no – like I said – there’s no organization, there’s no marketing initiative. I tried to get the word out by doing a bit of postering throughout the downtown core…. and I think that helped a lot just to get, just, the word out, seeing that consistent message, so that people really believed in the event.
Russell Barth: And I think the downtown kids, y’know, communicate with the suburban kids too.
Claude Gallipeau: Exactly.
Russell Barth: And suburban kids come down, they see it when they come shopping or whatever….
Claude Gallipeau: Exactly.
Russell Barth: But I was… I was really astonished. I didn’t think we’d get that many people.
Graham Kitmer: Yeah there – we had over… over two thousand posters… three thousand…. and right before… I did a bunch of them all around… mostly around downtown Ottawa, like… you’re not going to get in the car and drive over to Orleans…
Russell Barth: No, no, you’re not going to go over to Nepean and Barrhaven.
Graham Kitmer: But, I did a lot on Carleton University and Ottawa U, and then I had five, six other friends, just kind of putting them places. And people like – it’s almost like people are intimidated to do it. So it’s just, like “Leave them on the bus. Just leave `em on the bus, leave `em on the O-Train.”
Russell Barth: Yeah.
Graham Kitmer: Hopefully they will just stay there for the whole day.
Russell Barth: Now, I went over to Major’s Hill Park first. I got there about three o’clock, and I found about 20 cops, talking to about 20 kids, in three squads, and they were making gestures like “Can you get up.”, “It’s over there.”, and “You’re not supposed to be here.”, and “Come on.”, you know, this kind of stuff. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I could see all these kinds of gestures going on….. and the kids weren’t moving. So, um…. you know, I…. I told them “Yeah, sure, if that’s what you’re doing, it is over at the Hill, and you can tell them from me, I’m one of the speakers.” I didn’t want to overstep my authority but I felt…. y’know, I may as well….
Claude Gallipeau: Saying the message was from you would give more meaning to the kids, there.
Russell Barth: Yeah, I mean if the cops – well that’s what I told one of the cops, I said “Tell them ‘Yeah there is this long-haired guy in a camouflage shirt that says MEDICINAL. He told me.'”… that’s gonna carry a lot more weight, hopefully, with the participants.
Claude Gallipeau: If they know it was from you instead of the cops.
Russell Barth: Instead of just the cops… kids are gonna think they’re being scammed. So um…. the thing that I… when he told us it was all over here… and we started walking this way, there were just throngs of people, y’know, going back and forth on Rideau Street, and I was telling people “No. It’s at The Hill… We got here at quarter after three, there must have been fifteen hundred people here. And, you know, the police were standing around like a bunch of parents at a dance, looking grouchy but not really able to do much…
Claude Gallipeau: Unintended chaperones…..
Russell Barth: And, after the, y’know, after the smoke thing…. at five o’clock I was interviewed on the radio, and they were talking about, you know the DJ asked me, well, “What message do you have for kids coming to one of these events?”… and, I noticed during this, that teenaged girls are safer in this throng of fifty five hundred pot smokers, than they would be with fifteen drunk guys at a party.
Claude Gallipeau: Yeah…
Russell Barth: I mean, if I knew my teenager was going to a party with a bunch of guys that were 17-19, I would be scared. If I knew my fifteen year old daughter was coming down here to smoke pot, at four o’clock on a Friday afternoon… ? I’d go “Alright, well, there’s a lot of cops around….”
Claude Gallipeau: Yeah…
Russell Barth: “She shouldn’t be smoking pot, but, it’s safer there…”
Claude Gallipeau: Yeah…
Russell Barth: And we saw no violence, we saw no creepiness. We saw one or two, sort of “unfortunate” people…
Graham Kitmer: Excentrics….
Russell Barth: Excentrics, who weren’t really part of the four twenty crowd….
Claude Gallipeau: No…
Russell Barth: … y’know, with a toonie in their hand, trying to bum a joint, which is not cool….. and people saying “Hey can I get a hit offa that?” you that’s….. that’s Bad Form….
Claude Gallipeau: Absolutely…
Graham Kitmer: (Luaghs) That was in your article….
Russell Barth: It’s like going to a restaurant and…….. you’re mooching food off of someone at a restaurant, basically….
Claude Gallipeau: Juts don’t do it….
Graham Kitmer: Yeah…..
Russell Barth: If somebody offers, fine, but….. that’s the thing, I think that if people…
Claude Gallipeau: BYOB….
Russell Barth: Exactly, yeah… and I think if people are coming down this on, uh….. y’know, Saturday, April 20th, 2013….. uh, I think it is gonna be huge, and I think, um…
Claude Gallipeau: Weather permitting…..
Russell Barth: Weather permitting, yeah, of course….
Claude Gallipeau: Amazing how much that influences people…..
Russell Barth: Well, yeah. And, I mean, Ottawa the weather can be drastic.
Claude Gallipeau: Yeah….
Russell Barth: I mean, we had a really lucky time, it was like 12 degrees on four twenty…
Graham Kitmer: Yeah, and it was supposed to be like a ninety percent chance of rain, and then it was like, when it was down to 80, I was like “Alright, maybe we got something here…..”
Claude Gallipeau: It looked great that morning, even….
Russell Barth: It was a good time…
Claude Gallipeau: It was a really good time….
Russell Barth: That’s why I think, if we don’t plan too much…. you know, put up a big stage, and bands, and big banner and all this kind of stuff…. it could be a waste of money.
Claude Gallipeau: Absolutely…
Russell Barth: We could get snow.
Claude Gallipeau: Yeah!
Russell Barth: And nobody shows up… except the die-hards, you know, so……
Claude Gallipeau: Yeah….
Russell Barth: Um… I think it’ll be a good time….
Claude Gallipeau: Absolutely…
Graham Kitmer: Yeah.
Russell Barth: And hopefully we’ll see you guys…
Claude Gallipeau: The set-up this year was great….
Russell Barth: So – until next time: Claude Gallipeau…. and Graham Kitmer……. and um, we hope to see you all again at Four Twenty, Twenty-Thirteen… Parliament Hill….



About russellbarth

Trying to end marijuana prohibition, and educate people about marijuana, diet, prohibition, and sustainable living.
This entry was posted in 420, Activism, Harm Reduction, Marijuana, Ottawa, Parliament Hill, Politics and mental illness, protest and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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