Everyone reconvened at Hiller Park where more new faces showed up to listen to one of the women speak and hand out papers. More people were showing up even after I left from taking pictures and listening in for another half hour. A pretty eventful day I'd say over all. I even got off more than a dozen Coastal Noise T-shirts to some of the activists and signers. So if you see someone out in the streets wearing one of those shirts, you can take comfort in knowing they are most likely a super friendly, pro-cannabis supporter.
Hearing the news that they were being moved again, they walked across the parking lot to a small grassy area, still on the property, and continued on with their meeting. I remained at the entrance and took a seat on the ground to snap a few pictures from afar. After a time, the crowd began to disperse and get into their cars. I stood and made my way over to one of the woman in charge. This is how I met Renea Hulett.
"Where is everyone going?" I asked.
She told me the crowd was moving to Hiller Park to continue the meeting so as not to cause further disturbance. She would stay behind to educate people about the petition and direct them to Hiller. I told her who I was and about the podcast I did with Kelly Jacobs. We talked for a few minutes as I asked questions about the event and what her process was like when giving people information about Initiative #48. It was not long before one of the workers from the library came out to inform Renea that they had confirmed her reservation with their boss and we could move inside. She quickly made phone calls and then headed to the entrance. I held back from the small group of activists as they reentered the building. I came back in and logged on to a computer nearby the librarian's desk, to check on some information about Mississippi registration processes in our state and, totally unintentionally, overheard more comments made by the staff. A new woman was complaining about how crack pipes were going to follow soon and there was no way Mississippi would ever legalize marijuana, even when another person commented on its rapid growth throughout the country. "It will never happen," she insisted.
I moved to the meeting room which was beginning to fill with people who sat listening to another group leader about how to gather signatures for the petition. I sat at a table by myself in the back of the room and set up a recorder, my camera, and a notepad. After ten minutes, all of the folks from Hiller Park began to pile in, along with other new faces. Signs were quickly put up in the windows telling people about the meeting inside. Another ten minutes later, one of the activists stormed and told us "we basically have to get the fuck out right now." Apparently, the boss figure who had just okay'd them only a half hour ago had suddenly decided they no longer wanted the group meeting in the library because they were not aware they would be "putting up signs". Everyone quickly signed a petition just as the police showed up. Hiller Park was talked about again and then bodies began to file out. Personally, I kind of wanted to be thrown out, but it wasn't my party so I let it be.
I entered the building, camera bag over my shoulder, to return some CD's I had checked out (some old delta blues albums and two Mozart compilations) but, despite standing at the front desk for almost a whole minute, the two attendants standing on the other side felt it more worth while to gossip over the meeting that was about to begin. I had planned on speaking with them directly about what was going on but when I heard the older woman negatively commenting on the whole situation, I went ghost instead. I smiled and turned my CD's over to her and then walked to some books nearby the front desk. The head figures of the group entered with signs and petitions in hand.
"Oh...here they come." The old woman remarked under her breath.
After listening to the women converse for a time, while I pretended to read the back cover of some books I could give a shit about, I quickly learned that there was a dispute going on about whether or not the group would be allowed in to do what they had reserved the room for. The group leader tried to persuade the librarian to let them continue and that the reservation was already taken care of. The librarian said she couldn't verify anything and no one could reach her boss. There were talks of the police being called, the rights of the people on public property, and alternative accommodations. The tension was building before anything had even really begun.
Finally, the group leader walked out to converse with the others. Again, the librarian began whispering to her co-workers about "them trying to legalize weed" and "what about the children?" and "We can't let them do that" and so on. I hung around for a little while longer before making my way outside the front door where several people had began to gather around the activists who were informing them of the current situation, while at the same time explaining how to fill out a petition. Again, I opted out of joining in and instead stood off to the side, making it look like I had no interest in whatever was going on. Someone came out and told them they couldn't stand around there. The parking lot had nearly every space filled up as more people of all ages arrived to sign up. There were teenagers who wanted to know how to get registered to vote, senior citizens with their grandkids, men and women in dress attire, and a few people who looked like they could use a bath. One of the woman who was putting on the event even had her daughter, close to two years old, who ran around under the eye of another adult who followed her about. In fact, I think there were more mothers there than anything else. A pretty diverse group to say the least.
But real quick, let me say something to the one's that needed a bath. Listen guy, take a bath before you come to the marijuana rally. If you have folks trying to do something that is legitimate and has a good look out in the public eye, don't show up looking like a pot head, you know what I'm saying? You are going to be the one's getting singled out by the nay sayers who are looking for the characters to use as a stereotype for the rest of the group. Skip your next gram and buy some Dove products.
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Sun Herald-"Supporters Aim to Put Marijuana on 2016 Ballot"
"Mississippi Judge Predicts State Will Legalize Marijuana"