BOULDER — Attorneys for the estate of slain rapper Notorious B.I.G. are providing legal advice to students after a notorious celebration at the University of Colorado at Boulder turned into a big problem for some CU students
Every April 20, several hundred CU students go to Farrand Field to smoke marijuana and bond with friends and classmates. Last year, the CU Police Department turned on the sprinklers at 4:20 p.m. to rid the field of smokers.
This year, however, they tried a different tactic – and it’s causing an uproar.
After a “No Trespassing” sign failed to deter would-be smokers, campus police officers donned tie-dye shirts and other undercover protection, and then took pictures of as many smokers as possible that day. The pictures are now posted on a Web site where other students can identify those on the field and make $50 for it.
“I think it’s dirty, the way the police are trying to bribe people into tattling on each other,” said CU student Rebeka Belles. “But $50 is a lot of money, so a lot of people have been snitching on each other.”
The CU police department declined to comment for this story.
“The sign they posted to keep students out was a cute attempt to protect themselves, but what they did was wrong,” said civil rights attorney Robert Frank.
Frank and fellow lawyer Perry Sanders Jr., both attorneys for the estate of Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace, visited CU on Thursday to answer students’ questions about the April 20 incident.
“This is a clear and classic First Amendment case. And what a chilling effect on free speech this was,” Frank said.
The pair maintains that the university is infringing on students’ civil rights by attempting to bar them from peacefully assembling and offered free legal advice to any student who was “identified.”
“Events like this (meeting) need to happen in order to protest the ridiculous drug laws in this country,” Sanders said.
Benjamin Bock was the first smoker to be identified on the Web site. His motive for joining the celebration was devoid of the current politics surrounding marijuana – civil rights and a possible statewide legalization ballot measure.
“I didn’t have any political agenda,” he said. “I just wanted to smoke pot with my friends.”
Mason Tvert, campaign director of the pro-legalization SAFER (Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation) campaign, was also there to support the students.
“I’m not surprised by CU’s actions in this case,” Tvert said. “It’s clear that they would rather see their students drinking, instead of engaging in a safer activity. It’s absurd. After all, you would never see pictures on a Web site after a tailgate party. They’re just trying to scare students.”
The SAFER initiative passed at CU 68-32.
The students who have been identified – 73 of the 200 posted as of Sunday, according to the Web site – have been or will be charged with a $100 fine for trespassing.
“You can do three things,” Frank said. “You can take political action, personal action or contact your lawyer for legal advice.”
Many students, however, believed it would be cheaper just to pay the fine rather than legal fees.
“I don’t think it’s right that people are being fined,” Belles said, “but I also don’t know any college students who can afford an attorney.”