That’s something Goldberg would claim was all an act in his attempt to prove Tamaccio was actually a degenerate who wanted his fellow protesters to “overwhelm” the Philadelphia police.
The federal prosecutor wanted three years of probation and, potentially, a loss of access to people who smoke marijuana and participate in Smokedown protests. Because a park ranger reported an injury after arresting Tamaccio, alleging the activist had rammed into the ranger’s shoulder, Goldberg advocated for the comparably stiff penalty.
“He’s on video saying ‘F the police’ and ‘overwhelm them,’” Goldberg said. The U.S. attorney also entered into evidence a meme on The Panic Hour’s Facebook page depicting a bearded lizard holding a toy police car with the words “Fuck The Police” at the top.
Goldberg asked Tamaccio if he’d made the picture. Tamaccio said he did not, and that 23 members of the troupe had access to the Facebook page, so it could have been anyone.
Many of Tamaccio’s supporters and fellow protesters sitting in the gallery began making comments under their breath at this point, noting that the police were Facebook stalkers and that social media is perhaps not the best depiction of one’s true intentions. Tamaccio noted several times that he had complete respect for the police and the work they do.
He also admitted that he’d smoked marijuana during his pre-sentencing period (about four times, he said)—though he had not eaten any (and that question was asked).
On whether he planned on attending more Smokedown Prohibition gatherings, he said he wasn’t sure. He also wasn’t sure if there would be any more in the future. “One year, perhaps, is enough of a statement,” he told the U.S. attorney.
A point Goldberg was very clear on was the fact that Tamaccio’s sentencing was not about whether or not marijuana should be legal. He also said it should not be about the First Amendment, since Tamaccio did, in fact, admit to breaking other laws.
“He doesn’t get to say ‘I like this law, but I don’t like this law,’” said Goldberg.
“And he should stay at the back of the bus, too,” one protester whispered from behind me in the gallery.
After being handed a sentence by U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Perkin of one year probation, no drugs, rigorous drug testing and not entering within 100 feet of Independence Mall if there is a demonstration promoting a so-called criminal act (he had previously been barred from walking across the mall, period), it was noted there’d be restrictions.
“I won’t accept arguments of second hand smoke,” said Perkin—especially, it was implied, since Tamaccio’s roommate, Rachael Friedman, is a fellow pot activist.
“I feel like, in some capacity, justice was served, and I’m more than willing to take this year of probation and stick by the guidelines strictly so I can retain my freedom,” Tamaccio told PW after the sentence was handed down. “We will continue to work on legalizing marijuana in Pennsylvania and across the country.”
He has 30 days to appeal, but assured PW he would rather take the year.
Outside, fellow activists remained defiant.
“I feel as though [the sentence] is unfair,” said Vanessa Maria, a former member of The Panic Hour. “I think it is our right, our duty, to continue to break unjust laws. For every N.A. Poe that they arrest, convict and sentence, one more person will step forward and take their place and continue this fight for as long as it takes.”
Maria also took issue with The Panic Hour’s Facebook page being used as evidence, calling it “very interesting.”
Chris Goldstein, a leader at PhillyNORML, will be in court for his own case of possessing a controlled substance on Dec. 23, and he says his main issue is the inconsistency of the police in addressing the protesters.
“We did this through April and … you heard the U.S. attorney in court say, ‘We don’t choose which laws to enforce and which to not.’ The park rangers had chosen not to enforce prohibition laws and chose not to arrest us on April 20,” said Goldstein, who also admitted to having smoked a joint without incident in front of a park ranger in June (he would be arrested, though, in July for the same thing). “That’s the point here, too: We never expected zero tolerance.”
But is Smokedown Prohibition going away?
Election Day 2014: Tues., Nov. 4