Let's face it, the original Tea Party was back in Boston Harbor in 1773, and was organized and carried out secretly by Freemasons from the St. Andrew's Lodge.
But I'm not talking about that party, I mean the first Tea Party revival that overtook the country and created a wave of citizen action. I'm talking about the HIGH TIMES Freedom Fighters, created and promoted by HIGH TIMES magazine in 1986, the group that launched the hemp movement. Jack Herer was among the original members (and so was Gatewood Galbraith, Elvy Musikka, and Debby Goldsberry).
At the time, I was writing a humor column in HIGH TIMES called "My Amerika" by Ed Hassle. It was a parody of a hilarious column in the Weekly World News by Ed Anger, who was the Stephen Colbert of his time. My favorite deejay, Bill Kelly, read from that column every week on his garage rock tribute show on WFMU.
Ed Hassle was a hippie fascist pot grower who believed in UFO's and listened exclusively to the Grateful Dead. Like Jack Herer, he wore tie-dyes almost exclusively. Hassle was an attack-dog on anything he felt violated the rules of the counterculture. Some readers thought he was real and didn't realize I was making fun of hippie fascism.
One day Ed Hassle received a letter in the mail from a HIGH TIMES reader indicating the annual Ann Arbor Hash Bash was coming up in a few months and the event was about to die out. It suggested Ed show up and try to revive the event.
So I had Ed Hassle start The HIGH TIMES Freedom Fighters and we created fullpage ads asking people to join up. You could win a free trip to the Cannabis Cup just by paying the once-only induction fee of $15. Ed encouraged people to dress in colonial outfits and bring drums to the diag on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor. At first, it was supposed to be a one-time only publicity stunt to bring awareness to the fact that many of the founding fathers grew hemp.
We found a broken-down old school bus, invited some top New York City graffiti artists to paint it, and drove it to Ann Arbor. Around this same time, I started a garage-rock revival band called the Soul Assassins (DJ Muggs would later take the name to much greater fame). The HIGH TIMES staff and our local friends piled into the bus and we drove into a freak snow storm that soon halted all traffic. Only a few miles out of New York City we picked up a police cruiser on our tail, which eventually morphed into an all-black SUV with blacked-out windows.
What started as a publicity stunt grew almost overnight to become the largest legalization group in the country. We organized major events in a number of states, including the Boston Freedom rally, Yes, we brought the Tea Party to its hometown, and the first year of the rally, over 100,000 attended, which made it the largest polical event of the year, although it got zero press outside Boston.
After all the major leaders had their homes broken into mysteriously, and the largest benefactor (Rodger Belknap) was railroaded into jail in West Virginia, I decided to get out of politics and turned the membership list over to NORML. At that point, the hemp movement had gone from total obscurity to becoming a recognized issue in the mainstream media and I felt we had accomplished a lot. It was time to get the target off my back and raise a family.
But the Freedom Fighters have always lived on in spirit, and they live on in the magazine, in the monthly Freedom Fighter of the Month column, and with the induction of the Freedom Fighter of the Year at the HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cup. Over the past few years, many former members have asked me if I would organize a reunion.
The Freedom Fighters were most famous for organizing free kitchens at campgrounds near major rallies, and also having one of the best free kitchens at the winter Rainbow Family Gathering in Ocala, Florida. This summer, the national Rainbow Family Gathering will be held in Washington State. An activist who lives near the expected site has offered to host a Freedom Fighter reunion right before the gathering, so a bunch of hemp activists can go into the gathering and setup a Freedom Fighter camp (and hold a memorial service for Jack Herer, who loved Rainbow, although he was not the greatest camper).
This is not just for the original Freedom Fighters, but for anyone who shares the goals and aspirations of achieving total pot legalization. Let me know if you're interested in attending.