ITALIAN MEMBER OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ARRESTED IN BRITISH CANNABIS CAFE CASE
Transnational Radical Party (http://www.radicalparty.org) member and Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Marco Cappato was arrested in a civil disobedience action Thursday in Stockport, England, home of British marijuana activist Colin Davies' groundbreaking "Dutch Experience" cannabis cafe. Davies has been held in Strangeways Prison since his November 20 arrest on cannabis trafficking charges. Cappato presented a small packet of cannabis to the Stockport police and was promptly arrested. Cappato, fellow Radical Party MEP Maurizion Turco and Radical Party board member Ottavio Marzocchi had traveled to the Manchester area to support Davies and British MEP Chris Davies (no relation), who himself was arrested last week in a similar act of civil disobedience as part of the ongoing antiprohibitionist mobilization surrounding police actions against the cafe and its owner (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/212.html#businessasusual).
Cappato was still being held by police at press time.
"He [Cappato] heard about Colin Davies, and came over partly to support me and partly to make a further gesture in support of a change in the drug laws," MEP Chris Davies told Reuters. Davies pleaded not guilty at Stockport Magistrates' Court after being arrested for presenting police with a tiny quantity of cannabis stuck to a postage stamp. "I want a jury to consider the broader issue about whether laws of this kind should be in place," he said. The arrests of MEPs Cappato and Davies are only the latest in a series of protests that have broken out since the Dutch Experience was raided and Colin Davies arrested last month. In fact, MEP Davies' arrest was part of a march of dozens of cannabis supporters.
Civil disobedience against prohibitionist laws is nothing new for the Transnational Radical Party, either. The party, with members in 43 countries, offices in four, and official consultative status with the United Nations, advocates Gandhian nonviolent tactics to achieve change on a number of issues ranging from abolishing the death penalty to antimilitarism to ending drug prohibition.
Radical Party members have taken part in many civil disobedience actions against drug prohibition since the party's founding in 1965. In 1975, Marco Pannella, Radical Party founder and MEP, was arrested in Italy after publicly and deliberately smoking a joint. From prison, he led a campaign to persuade the Italian parliament to decriminalize drug consumption. That tradition of civil disobedience on behalf of drug reform has continued ever since.
In 1989, the Transnational Radical Party founded the International Antiprohibitionist League, an association of scientists, drug experts, journalists and politicians from all over the world whose aim is to work for the reform of prohibitionist laws on drugs. In 1993, Radical Party leader and European Union commissioner Emma Bonino was arrested in New York City for distributing sterile syringes to drug users. Since the mid-1990s, numerous party members have been arrested for handing out chunks of hashish in Rome, including one notorious incident in which a party member gave 200 grams to the anchorperson of a popular live TV news program. At this time, some 35 Radical Party members, including four MEPs, await trial for drug-related civil disobedience actions.
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