Despite being surrounded by about 12 CSU police officers on foot, circling squad cars, curious observers and an overexcited drug-detecting dog, two to three joints were still discretely passed around a circle of marijuana-promoting students on the CSU Oval Monday afternoon.
A group of about 40 students met under a smoky gray sky to act out their own form of civil disobedience and peacefully campaign for the legalization of marijuana, encircled by the pale, faded greens and burnt oranges of the autumn leaves.
Protest organizer Travis Campbell, a sophomore liberal arts major, said this protest was all about “self-medication as opposed to legal pills and safe recreation as opposed to drunk driving and belligerency with alcohol.”
The police avoided comment as the group grew in number and expanded in rainbow-colored t-shirts and hats.
A standoff ensued.
Police tightened the circle and nervous pot-smokers exchanged stories of Boulder’s annual Hemp Fest, in which hundreds of smokers gather to “toke” in public to celebrate their favorite illegal pastime on April 20.
“I saw a bunch of kids get under one of those rainbow parachutes that little kids play with and smoke a bowl under there,” said Kim Foss, a freshman liberal arts student, who said she expected a larger turnout at the Oval.
The police had obviously seen the flyers that organizers handed out in the Lory Student Center, Durward and Corbett Halls, and came in force.
Many students were compelled to leave at the sight of so much navy blue.
“We’re going to go smoke weed somewhere else,” shouted Billy Sevier, a freshman political science student, as he left the Oval with a group of friends.
Campbell could see that he was losing support and decided to rally the group in a tighter circle in the center of the Oval.
And though it appeared that with the police presence no one would be smoking anything more than tobacco, the crowd of about 50 remaining protestors moved into the center of the Oval — and, packed into a tight circle, a small handful were able to avoid the eye of the law.
A faint and barely recognizable smell of burning marijuana diffused into the air from the circle’s center.
“The point of civil disobedience is to break the law civilly — if I get arrested, I get arrested,” Campbell said.
He said that because Amendment 44, which would have legalized marijuana in Colorado, did not pass in 2006, peaceful protest is the only remaining option.
“The movement tried to go through the legal system and it didn’t work, so, according to John Rawls, you then have to suggest a method of civil disobedience,” he said.
Police remained close, watching every cigarette that was lit with unyielding attentiveness.
Walking toward the western-most side of the Oval afterwards, the group huddled around a tree, several among them lighting and passing a joint low and discretely enough to evade the attention of the watchful policemen.
Police were, however, filming every moment with a hand-held video camera; whether or not they had a vantage point that allowed them to catch the puff-and-pass of the joint is unknown.
In recent years, Boulder police have used pictures to identify and bring later charges to people in similar demonstrations, but CSU police would not say what they intend to do with their recordings.
Eventually, police ordered the protestors to leave the Oval, as they had no permit to be there.
Campbell tried to argue that their gathering was peaceful, but, without a permit, they were forced off the campus.
A largely disappointed group disbanded without incident.
“I thought there would be more people, and that it would be more chill,” freshman Faith Pramuk said as she walked away from the protestors.
“Walking away is like admitting defeat,” she said.
Senior Reporter Trevor Simonton can be reached at email@example.com.