420 day has been occurring in Hyde Park for several years now in protest to Cannabis Prohibition. This is an account of what happened when I ventured into the famous event on the 20th of April 2013
I woke up late, not just a little late, but overslept big time. I had wanted to get down to London for about 10 o’clock in order to get something to eat and then slowly make my way towards the north east corner of Hyde Park for a special little gathering that was going to be occurring at noon until around 8 o’clock.
Cannabis smokers from across the country coming together in the beautiful scenery of Hyde Park for the annual 420 day smoke up. In tradition with the original legend in which American stoner’s would meet after school at 4:20 and smoke their stash, the smoke up is scheduled to do the same and when that time comes around you can bet that everyone’s differences disappear and heavy bouts of laughter ensue, if only for an hour or so.
After a short train journey in which we witnessed the tragic separation of man from wife (She didn’t make the door!) we arrived at Marble Arch and made our way towards our destination. The smell hit us instantly and we immediately recognised where we needed to be. The crowds already there were huge and growing by the minute as we entered the park. Thousands upon thousands of pale, red-eyed little stoner’s lined the gated walls along the entrance and we soon realised finding somewhere to sit would be essential if we didn’t want to spend the day strolling around aimlessly. After a quick scout around we found a nice little spot in the sun and parked ourselves there ready to engage in the days traditions.
If I had been worried about the thought of smoking illegal drugs in an extremely public setting, these thoughts soon evaporated away as I noticed just how many of my fellow attendees were already blazing away so blatantly. As I looked around I suddenly noticed something that surprised me, there wasn’t a police man or woman in sight. No one around to keep order if this thing turned ugly, I began to wonder if there was a reason for this? Where there too many of us? If anyone was arrested for smoking Cannabis surely that would mean we would all be arrested? And I doubt given the number of people in attendance the metropolitan police force even has enough officers to carry away such a large number of offenders.
No. What is more likely to have happened is they decided to watch from a distance, realising how desperately outnumbered they would be in any attempt to disrupt or intervene with the gathering. They stuck with the safer option and to their credit it paid off. To my knowledge there were no arrests or even complaints (although I’m sure there were some Ill-wished mutterings under the breath of certain passers through).
By the time 4:20pm came the mood was relaxed and enjoyable and everyone seemed to be getting in the mood for more drugs. The countdown to twenty past four began with only ten seconds to go and when it hit zero a chorus of cheers rung around the occupied corner followed by the noise of thousands of lighters being lit and the first big toke on that specially pre-prepared 420 joint. By 4:22pm the air was a thick haze and regardless of whether you were smoking a joint or not, that feeling of stoned intoxication had crept up on the majority of people.
As for organized protest, there was nothing. Unfortunately, for those that showed up looking to seriously address the prohibition laws that so many disagree with, the majority of those that turned up seemed to be purely there for a ‘smoke up’, a chance to throw two fingers up at all those who looked down on their favourite recreation and be as blatant and anti-establishment as they could without really doing a damn thing. Of the tens of thousands of people gathered in Hyde Park that day I saw only one placard that meekly stated ‘Fight crime Not Cannabis’. I had assumed before my arrival that there would have been hundreds maybe thousands willing to march on into the capital and demand their voices be heard but this was not even close to the reality of the day. Hipsters and wannabe’s around every corner seemed to choke the life out of those few who turned up to genuinely protest and soon they were swallowed up all together by a generation of kids of who don’t even seem to understand what they should care about, let alone why.
Of the 20-25,000 that I saw there at one time, the majority of them could have been no older than 25. 16-18 year old’s walking around looking for a place to fit in. I even saw what appeared to be a boy no older than 10 or 11 walking around with a spliff in his mouth as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Pre-pubescent teens where by far the majority in the crowd and by the looks of some of them they may not yet have reached puberty at all.
Overall it was a fun day out smoking weed in a public place but that,s as far as it went. Anyone looking for anything slightly resembling real activism would have been bitterly disappointed by the little to no effort put forward by the countless smokers in terms of protesting the archaic Cannabis laws that have plagued our country since the 1970’s. In terms of unity the day was a great success people travelled from across the globe to come to London and experience our culture and many of those that had were present in Hyde Park at the time of the event. From Colorado to Queensland, Canada to the Canary islands, people from all over the planet took the time to show up and mingle with each other, which is a good first step, but only a first step. If any of these people truly care about legalisation or decriminalisation then they should seriously consider putting the active back in activism and stop being such stereotypical ‘Stoner’s’.