CU’s tactics to remove the annual 4/20 gathering on Norlin Quad managed to subdue the festivities on campus, though enforcement measures could not silence those in opposition to the changes.
Friday, April 20, marked a day of change in CU’s recent history as university administration cracked down on the annual gathering by closing down campus to unauthorized visitors, taping off Norlin Quad and spraying fish-based fertilizer on its lawns, and providing a free concert featuring hip-hop artist Wycelf Jean.
With only three arrests made, a total of 11 summonses issued for trespassing and one summons for possession of less than two ounces of marijuana, university officials said that the enforcement measures were successful.
“We have not seen the crowd we’ve seen today in previous years,” Ryan Huff, CU Police Department spokesperson, said. “The vast, vast majority of interactions with the public have been very peaceful.”
Three students were arrested on the north side of Norlin Quad at approximately 1:20 p.m., according to a CUPD news release: Jonathan DuComb Edwards, a 21-year-old senior philosophy major; John Mark Demopoulos, a 25-year-old junior astronomy and physics major; and Gabriel M. Kuettel, a 24-year-old senior international affairs major.
Huff said that the officers asked the three students to leave Norlin Quad after they crossed police tape and sat in the grass area. The students refused to show identification, were arrested without incident and taken to Boulder County Jail.
“It’s an investment,” Huff said of the police presence on campus. “You have to bring a lot of police officers, you have to do a lot of messaging ahead of time. The hope is that it’s money well spent. The gathering could end soon.”
CU spokesperson Bronson Hilliard said during an afternoon press conference on Norlin Quad that the university was successful in curtailing the 4/20 gathering. Details on how much money was spent for security and other measures, which comes out of the budget for university operations, will be released early this week. Hilliard said that he suspects it will be at least double of what was spent last year.
“It would be important for us, after this is over, to assess its effectiveness and look at what worked and what didn’t,” he said. “We’ve got a whole lot of analyses to do of that before I make any prediction for next year.”
Hilliard said that through all of the measures taken to remove the gathering, the university’s goal remains to keep the activity away from campus and prevent disruption caused by huge crowds – not to make a statement about marijuana use.
“This is not about marijuana,” Hilliard said. “It’s not about the war on drugs, it’s not about ‘cracking down’ on marijuana. It’s about a crowd that’s gotten too big and too unsafe for the conditions here. It was simply saying that campus can no longer accommodate a crowd of that size.”
“It can’t be denied the 4/20 issue is not good for image of the university and no one is trying to deny that, but that is not the rational for why we are doing this and that has not been our message to the campus.”
The quiet hours of the early afternoon came to an abrupt end as a large group of protestors entered campus after marching through the Hill area, according to a CUPD news release. The crowd of approximately 300 people occupied the lawn area near the Duane Physics and Astrophysics Building with an audience of about 400 people surrounding the spectacle.
A protest proceeded on the lawn area and the smell of marijuana was strong as puffs of smoke emerged above the crowd. Protestors chanted and encouraged spectators to join in, and the gathering ended without incident after about 30 minutes.
“Marijuana Max”, a 24-year-old Boulder County resident, made it onto the field by the Duane Physics building without identification and said that he was protesting against the university’s curtailment of what he sees as a forum for free speech.
“I think it’s really unfortunate that CU has shut its borders down to people to participate in a civil disobedient protest, which is really not harmful, non-violent,” Max said. “I think they should support their students in their rights and civil liberties and maybe help them organize the event so its safer for larger crowds instead of shutting it down.”
Max said that he has been advocating for the national legalization of marijuana, since he has a medical marijuana card himself and benefits from its use for medicinal purposes.
“I’ve been using cannabis medicinally for some mental and physical disabilities that I have instead of taking harmful pharmaceuticals that would really hurt me otherwise,” he said.
The brother of artist Wyclef Jean, Samuel Jean, arrived at the Duane Physics field in a golf cart just after 4 p.m. and encouraged students to come to Jean’s performance at Coors Events Center, which was occurring at the same time of the protest. Jean’s brother also smoked with the crowd.
Chris Anderson, a 19-year-old freshman economics major, was well-dressed in a suit and tie, and said he was influenced to do so by the Facebook event page “Stay Classy CU.” The event page, created by sophomore Andrew Trujillo, states that students should dress formally on Friday in an effort to “show that CU can be a classy and not just baked.”
“I know a lot of people who see this as an issue of the right to assembly,” Anderson said. “In my opinion, it’s just breaking the law. It doesn’t matter if you’re smoking weed or drinking.”
Hilliard said that the university has been and will continue to be an institution that upholds free speech, and that prohibiting an obstructive gathering should not infringe upon people voicing their opinion.
“I think that free speech has a long tradition at CU-Boulder, I think it’s alive and well,” Hilliard said. “I think one day limiting a crowd because it obstructs other peoples’ rights to learn and teach and research is not really free speech issue.”
Luke Ewing, a 21-year-old junior philosophy major, said that the the strict measures taken by administration to remove the protest from campus had the effect of empowering protestors and their cause.
“CU actually managed to make the smoke-out into a legitimate protest by actually giving the activists something to risk, where in years past it has been a party.”
Contact CU Independent Breaking News Editor Nora Keating at Nora.email@example.com.