Six years ago the Danish Drug Users’ Union (BrugerForeningen) established a memorial site at which to mark International Drug Users’ Remembrance Day. An inscribed stone and a tree at the corner of a small, scraggly triangular piece of grass on a street parallel to Copenhagen’s main open drug scene. I’ve attended all but one of these ceremonies and every year a new visual device is used to indicate the number of officially recorded ‘overdoses’ in Denmark in the preceding year. This year the grass was covered with rows of small white crosses, 275 of them. Each marking a sad, utterly gratuitous loss of life, sitting amidst the crosses before the ceremony trying to think of what to say I was struck by the sheer obscenity of the spectacle and what it represented. 275 victims of the utterly immoral, pointless, war on drugs. Each of these crosses didn’t represent a drug related death but a prohibition caused death, collateral damage.
I imagined the day sometime in the future when the International Court of Justice in the Hague will convene a session to try war criminals from the war on drugs which celebrates its grisly centenary this year (marking one hundred years since the 1909 Opium Convention in Shanghai). Antonio Maria da Costa will be denounced as a war criminal, Thaksin Shinawatra will be denounced as a war criminal, as will Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George Bush I and II, and so many other nameless bureaucrats ‘just following orders’ whilst they destabilize states, drive peasants from their lands, pump countless billions into the hands of international organized crime, all the time driving an epidemic of blood borne viruses. Billions that could be used to provide clean needles to all those who need them, treatment to those who want it, and cheap, clean heroin, cocaine, and stimulants to those of us who want them.
I tried to speak of these things but words failed me a little. Vito Georgievski the Macedonian General Secretary of INPUD and Mikael Johansson from the Swedish Drug Users’ Union each spoke to the plight of drug users in countries with particularly harsh drug control regimes, Jørgen, President of BrugerForeningen spoke of the imbecilic politicking surrounding the upcoming heroin trial in Denmark; Johnny Cash’s great onslaught on prisons, ‘San Quentin’ was given a rousing rendition, and the day was wound up by a communal, and sometimes less than tuneful, singing of a song popular amongst the Danish resistance to the Nazis; its final verse is especially poignant and appropriate as we, out, proud, drug users continue our resistance to the war that is being waged upon us. The lyrics are:
Fight for all that you hold dear,
Fight to the death if necessary
Then neither life nor death will seem too hard.
Eliot Albert, Copenhagen 22 July 2009