Manchester is preparing to join almost 100 cities worldwide in calling for an end to the criminalisation of drug users. Tomorrow (Thursday), June 26th, will see thousands of activists take to streets across the globe as part of the ‘Support. Don’t Punish‘ campaign in order to highlight drug policies which they say cause health crises, social instability and mass incarceration.
Mass demonstrations and other actions are planned in London, Paris, Moscow and many more, including Manchester. The actions will vary from city to city – with street art, dance displays, concerts, public meetings and workshops. The Manchester action, armed with flyers and posters, will be asking people to get involved with the ‘Support. Don’t Punish’ ‘selfie’ campaign, which has already seen thousands take to social media to show their support, including high profile figures such as comedian and recovering drug addict Russell Brand.
Organisers of the Manchester event include students from Manchester Metropolitan University and members of Students for Sensible Drugs Policy (SSDP) UK. Ciaran Weir from SSDP UK told us “It’s hugely important that Manchester makes a contribution on this amazing day.”
“We want the people of the city to come down and show the world that we oppose the harmful and damaging so-called ‘war on drugs’. We want to shatter some of the misconceptions. After all, over a third of people in the UK will use drugs during their lifetime.
“Supporting drug policy reform doesn’t mean you have to agree with those who choose to take drugs – it means you are supporting global health, basic human rights and the safer environment for our children.”
“The problem of legal highs, for example, will continue to grow at an alarming rate, which current drug policy can’t deal with. As one substance gets banned, a few more pop up in its place. We need to educate and empower young people to make safer drug choices.
“The UK is one of the biggest consumers of drugs in the European Union. We need to be on the frontline when discussing drug policy issues, as they affect everyone living in the UK.”
The list of high-profile figures calling for an end to the war on drugs is growing fast. Brad Pitt, Sir Richard Branson, Kofi Annan and Russell Brand, to name just a few, have each shown their support.
Tomorrow’s protests are scheduled for June 26th as this is also the United Nations’ International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking – a day which, according to ‘Support. Don’t Punish’ campaigners, is used by many governments “to celebrate the war on drugs, to justify violent crackdowns and to promote harsh punishments … it has been used in the past for public executions and beatings of drug offenders in some countries.”
The ‘Support. Don’t Punish: Global Day of Action’ seeks to reclaim this day and promote a more effective and humane approach to drugs that is based on public health and human rights. Organised by a coalition of NGOs, the campaign calls on governments to end the “expensive and counter-productive war on drugs.” According to estimates, the drug war costs in excess of $100 billion annually to enforce and has failed to reduce drug markets or drug use.
The Manchester ‘Support. Don’t Punish’ action will take place between 11am – 3pm in Piccadilly Gardens. Check out @SDPcampaign on Twitter. Tweet your selfies using the hashtags #SupportDontPunish and #MCR
For more information and resources about the campaign, visit www.supportdontpunish.org
Neil Harrison is co-Editor in Chief at Humanity Hallows. Follow him on Twitter @looseriver