On their annual Criminal Justice Week, students of the University of Iowa organized a “Meth Lab” on Monday, protested the Patriot Act on Tuesday, addressed US incarceration rates on Wednesday, and hosted a Comedy Night on Thursday. On Friday, prior to the 4/20 “cannabis day”, they gave away… a pot of brownies, containing statistics related to drugs regulation.
“Restore the 4th” was an activism event against the Patriot Act (Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism). The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” This requires warrants to be obtained before making searches under a judge’s discretion of “probable cause” that the person in question is involved in criminal activity. The Patriot Act was passed after 9/11 defining “domestic terrorism” as activities within the United States that involve acts dangerous to human life that appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping. The controversy of the Patriot Act is surrounded by issues of privacy and government surveillance.
“As a group we stand against the Patriot Act and any other legislation that takes away the freedoms Americans hold. It is understandable to be afraid as a result of the 9/11 attacks, but that is not justification for the abolishment of the rights our founding fathers fought for,” said Kevin Sobieski, Outreach Director for Young Americans for Liberty.
The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration with 655 incarcerated people per 100,000 population. Many of them are convicted for non-violent offenses. Students For Liberty ambassador Abby Rice believes these events will spark bipartisan dialogue surrounding the failures of the War on Drugs and mass incarceration of nonviolent offenders.
“Throughout history, time and time again, prohibition has been an ineffective strategy. It’s not only a waste of taxpayers’ money, but also incarcerates egregious numbers of nonviolent individuals”, — she said.
Thursday, the organization hosted a comedy night with the goal to either turn up or down the heat of political debate on campus, resulting in more students fired up about activism, or bridge the gap of different ideologies.
On Friday activists distributed “Pot Brownies” for the day before April 20th. The brownies were in large garden pots with information and statistics about the drug war attached. Members with the group handed out brownies with the hope to reduce the limitations on drugs like marijuana, while also recruiting potential new members for their group. Students with the organization were hoping to bring new members in as an effort to inspire a legitimate change from lawmakers.
KCRG, the ABC-affiliated television station serving the Eastern Iowa television, came and did a reporting of the event for their Friday evening news.
“If you’re on a college campus and you’re just yelling things at people, a lot of times they’re not going to be very responsive,” said Devin Lynch, the State Chair for Iowa’s Young Americans for Liberty chapter. “But if you have some sort of gimmick, like a pot brownie, people will be may more responsive, we can get more people’s contact info, get them more involved, and actually make change.”
Criminal Justice Week has been an annual occurrence since the University of Iowa chapter of Young Americans for Liberty was founded in 2009, with a generally favorable response from the student body and with it’s 10th anniversary become a tradition for Students For Liberty as well.