Marijuana advocate Pebbles Trippet on the drug cops' recent adventures in Covelo...
Covelo is unique in its extreme isolation and poverty. There is one road into town and no other way out except via dirt roads into the National Forest. With 27% of residents reportedly living below the poverty line, an estimated 90% of the 1000 households living in the valley grow marijuana to survive.
For this reason, the people of Covelo are a vulnerable population with little access to the media or even the outside world; the nearest towns -- Willits and Laytonville -- are both over an hour away. They are sitting ducks.
Law enforcement conducts marijuana raids there every year, generally at harvest when they can do the most damage. It's easy for sheriff's deputies to slide in there with or without a warrant, ignore a doctor's recommendation and seize a family's plants, children, cash, bank accounts, all the trimmers in sight and call it a good day for public safety.
This year's mass marijuana raids on Covelo and terrorizing of the townspeople lasted three days from Sept 28-30, while separate law enforcement teams fanned out into the National Forest with sheriff's deputies, federal agents and imbedded media, side by side. National Geographic and Rolling Stone were media of choice, on hand for show-and-tell -- an ideal situation for law enforcement! They can wreak havoc on the townspeople while simultaneously rounding up thousands of plants from public forestland at great expense to taxpayers, pointing fingers at mass commercial grows, while using the media to distract from the tornado that flattened the town.
The Mendocino Medical Marijuana Advisory Board (MMMAB) called a meeting there in concert with local activists to find out first hand what happened and to offer support. There were about 25 people who gathered at the Library Commons, most of whom were arrested or knew people who were arrested. All of them spoke of being terrorized by three days of fly-overs prior to the raids. They described their beleaguered home in war terms .
"They come every year but this time it was 100 times worse than anything Covelo has ever experienced. I'm speaking of the devastating impact on the town, the people who live here, and the people on the reservation. The reservation was hit hard. The town was too. We are already very poor and now what little we had has been taken."
People described the three day raid as unprecedented in scope. Relentless fly-overs for days with four helicopters flying low over gardens, or just above tree tops, gathering pre-raid information, terrorizing people into submission with a show of force from the air before entering their homes.
Many expressed panic that the helicopters would land in their back yards and arrest them. Several people left their homes to escape potential arrest.
One couple had scratches on their arms from hiding in the blackberry bushes overnight.
Apparently the Reservation was hardest hit. Deputies wiped out a large portion of the gardens on Indian land.
Some homes surrounding the Reservation were apparently left alone because they owned land that was not on the Reservation.
Everyone expressed fear -- fear for their children, fear for their future, and fury at law enforcement.
They also expressed bewilderment at their situation.
What can they do about the marijuana victimization this small isolated outpost faces every year? It's comparable to mass arrests in Siberia. Who will know?
There is no way of knowing what's happening there unless you are there.
Victimization of Native Americans has been going on for centuries, starting when Columbus invaded America.
These marijuana raids are the modern version of that age-old invasion, using unconstitutional marijuana laws as the tool to gain access into people's homes and gardens and ruin their lives.
MMMAB was invited back for another meeting next month.
A 3 person committee was set up to assess the situation and begin outreach to the Native American population.
A resident offered her cell phone to gather information: 707-354-0176.
A local videoist has offered to make a film of our interviews.
Looking through the current issue of Mendocino Country Independent, you will find dozens of photos of the people who were raided and arrested, mostly people of color.
Hispanics, Native Americans, Asians and some whites/hippies/other.
Who is responsible? Since it was apparently a multi-agency raid led by COMMET,
where deputies report to the state Attorney General, it is unclear how involved the local sheriff's office was.
Sheriff Tom Allman reports there were no medical grows.
However, we met many medical patients who were stunned to be arrested, and stunned again to be charged and prosecuted.
They were confident they were in compliance with local and state guidelines.
They asked, "Do their doctor's authorizations mean nothing?
Do the sheriff's promises of protection if we follow the guidelines mean nothing?"