Apr. 5, 00
Journey For Justice - Florida Style - Summary By Our Hero Kay Lee
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Although the Journey marched loudly and firmly into Florida's capitol on March 30th, I just arrived home late last night. I've got so many mixed emotions that it is difficult to sort them out so soon, but I want everyone to know the uncompassionate conflicts these patients overcame this week in their effort to share the truth of bad policies with the people. And make no mistake. . . we were definitely in a war zone all the way across Florida.
The small band of people traveling as the Journey for Justice had to fight battle after difficult battle to get their message of change all the way to the capitol. We had no way of knowing if we were out there alone. Little access to any of our normal methods of communication left us feeling a bit isolated from the rest of you. It's easy when you are rolling at 4 miles an hour through rural America to feel disconnected to anyone but the animals and people you pass on the road.
But, God bless the people. Florida law enforcement has been the meanest of the three states the Journey has traveled through, but the support from the people was just as consistent as Ohio and Wisconsin. Cheers, waves, thumbs up, and car horns greeted us everywhere. Not once in the many times we stopped for supplies did the people fail to gather round us and tell us their stories, ask questions or ask for literature.
Three of us stopped at one tiny station to gas up on the way home with no signs on the car at all, and were swamped with nearly 20 people wanting to sign the Florida initiative petitions. One convenience store owner came ranting out of his building at us as we parked for lunch beneath the trees: "You can't hand out that trash on my property," he roared. We quietly and truthfully answered, "We are not passing out anything - The people are coming up to ask us for it." He walked back inside and left us alone.
In our six traveling days, the caravan was stopped at least a dozen times by law enforcement, and most times they were not friendly. Did that daunt the patients' spirits? No way. It was exhilarating to use the first amendment to its full capacity. If the American people ever let freedom of speech be taken from them, they will lose the most valuable resource they have. When the police pulled us into a mall parking lot, Kevin and Jodi handled the cops, while the rest of us spread out, talking to the public and passing out literature.
Columbia county was very harsh, threatening to search Ross' truck, to which we just said no. Law enforcement there seemed just as determined to end our journey as the following county, Swaunee, did. When the interdiction team set up roadblocks and dogs at the county line where we had to leave Swaunee County, we eluded their trap by swinging quickly into a motel parking lot. We checked in while the local cops set up observation at either end of the lot and across the street. Kevin made late night phone calls to the journey lawyers, Gary Eddinger and ##### Wilson, and the next morning we began to load up to get out of the county. The cops converged on us in the motel lot, calling our DOT papers 'forged,' and telling us we were not going on through their county. The patients stood strong, we called him a liar in the nicest way, and were finally told to "get out of here and stay off the road." So we did . . . Walking right into the hands of the Madison county enforcers on the other side of the line who were, thank goodness, very kind. We sure needed the break.
We protested at prisons, demonstrated at courthouses and envisioned enlightenment descending upon the churches. We called out "We are not criminals, all we want is God's Medicine (Genesis 1:29)." At some of the churches, the worshipers waved and smiled, at others, they scowled or looked bewildered. At Jefferson 'Correctional' our advance team were told to stay away. We went anyway, using the bullhorn to talk to a crowd of maybe 40 guards. At first they turned country music on loudly, trying not to hear us, but we persisted and got louder until they couldn't help but hear us. We told them we knew what was going on inside, we told them we were going to Tallahassee and were telling the people about the brutality and corruption, and that the people were listening! We called out to the prisoners our concern. We told the guards that we cared about them too, but that things have got to change. We told them that people do care and that together we can make prison a healing place.
The patients walked through a thunderstorm that took our wheelchairs off the road and made the prison cell too dangerous to ride in. The public cheered us. When asked for permission to search all along the trip, the patients answered no. The cops sneered and sometimes jeered. When threatened, the patients stood their ground. All the efforts to deter us from our mission failed. When we marched into Tallahassee, we WERE triumphant... We gathered the day before the march at Tom Brown Park in Tallahassee, directly behind the Women's prison on Capitol Circle. We parked our little moving cell on the hill and everyone lined up with the drums to chant to the women: "If there is no victim, there is not crime. Why are these women doing time?" We could see some inmates tiny in the distance waving white towels(?) in the air, thanking us from afar for caring enough to come. We called out on the megaphone, "All you women over there, we just want you to know we care."
When prison guards in a white truck made a direct path to where we stood facing them, we beat our drums in challenge and we looked them straight in the eyes. Just yards from us, they abruptly turned around and went back the way they came. Then, as it grew dark, we moved to the front gates of the prison to hold our planned candlelight vigil. We lined the little brick wall with candles, and focused our energy on all inside the walls. The rain again picked up, and tired but satisfied that the ladies had heard us, we started back to the caravan parked in the field across the road. That's when the journey suffered its first and only casualty. Ray 'Berry' Kreiger was the third person to cross the road, and would have been safe, except for the petite maul seizure that made him hesitate for the moment it took the little gold car to slide through the rain and plow into him. There was a lot of blood from a head wound, and it was easy to see both legs were broken. Although in shock, all the patients remained calm. We called 911, a couple of us held Ray, others attempted to comfort the hysterical lady who hit him, and some gathered in the vehicles below out of the rain and out of the way, until the cops and ambulance got there and forced us all to back off. Hostile Officer Knight was on the scene, staring at us with hate-filled eyes, forcing the screaming lady to sit alone in the bent car, snatching Ray's bags from our hands. He is the one who later wrote the report that stated, "While searching for identification, I smelled a strong odor of marijuana emanating from the backpack . . ." One roach was found wrapped in two layers of baggies. We were lucky it was not more. Our song for Ray's job on all journeys has been, "Roaches, roaches everywhere we go. Let's call Ray Berry: Roach Control!"
I rode wet and cold to Tallahassee Community Hospital in the front of the ambulance not knowing how Ray Berry was doing in the back. The driver just said that although she was going to run the lights and siren, she was going to drive slow for fear of damaging Ray's legs further. Emergency surgery was done, 33 clamps in his head, one leg in a cast, and the other sporting a torturous device with screws digging into the bone. And Ray Berry slept through the night.
That evening, gathered in the hotel, we worked to pull each other out of shock. The energy, the spirit seemed to be gone. But as we talked about Ray's determination to travel the third journey as he had the first two, our courage began to come back. We talked about the reactions of the people who had heard our message, and our spirits rose.
The following day, we stopped traffic for nearly two hours as our parade wound its enthusiastic way to the capitol, accompanied by a crowd of supporters from colleges in Tallahassee and Georgia. We called out long and clear with perfect rhythm, "We don't know but we been told, Brother Jeb ain't got no soul... We don't know but we been told, he wants to put us in the hole. . .We are not criminals! All we want is our medicine! STOP THE DRUG WAR! Now!" People were bouncing in their cars to the beat as they drove by, and I bet some of them were still humming when they got home. When we finished on the capitol lawn, some of us went to the hospital to see Ray. The first nurse we came to told us that the cops were there to arrest him for the joint found in his boot. The two arresting officers were trying valiantly to talk to their supervisor on the phone, begging him not to make them arrest Ray, but Sgt. Blanketship of the Tallahassee P.D. demanded that Ray be physically brought to his jail. There were tears in one officer's eyes and the nurses were stunned. For one joint and one roach, they removed Ray's catheter and transported him on a stretcher by ambulance to the county jail.
The officers were more than kind, leading us there and showing us where to stand to get video footage of them unloading Ray's stretcher and entering the jail. We called through the night to make sure they knew he had seizures, to make sure he had medicine, to make sure they knew that thousands of people were watching. Finally, after midnight, they moved him to a medical cell. They begged us to get him out, saying they were not fit to care for him, but there was nothing we could do until morning. His bond hearing was at 8:30 the following morning, and we were able to film the prosecutor saying that she could not believe the police had brought him there. Ray, in absentia, was released under his own recognizance and the judge said he would include orders for Ray not to use marijuana.
The prosecutor said, "Your honor, he is not from here and the laws on medical marijuana are not the same everywhere. I recommend the order be not to use where illegal." The judge approved it and it was over. The patients had to get back to their own homes, but since the journey is never over until the last patient is headed home, three of us stayed with Ray. We filmed Ray's return to the emergency room, and when it looked like it was going to be awhile, we left to try to arrange a way to get him back home. We got a call from the hospital saying that, after holding him in the emergency room for nine hours, they were releasing him. His family in Ohio and those of us left in Tallahassee argued with the hospital, trying to get them to wait until the next day so we could find a larger vehicle, a wheelchair, and ticket home, but they refused. "We cannot justify to medicare keeping him here another night." We replied, "We hope you are prepared to justify putting him out of your hospital to his attorneys." All we had was Richard "Tiny" Reed's old Cadillac and even with the seat all the way back, we had no idea how we were going to get Ray in the car. Tiny has a serious heart condition, among other illnesses, and Eddie Smith is an AIDS patient who just recovered from a near death experience. There was no way the three of us could lift him. So, two of us drove to the hospital and found Ray Berry sitting alone, propped up in a wheelchair outside the emergency room doors. His hair was still matted with blood, and they had not even given him a sponge bath in the three days of his stay. His clothes had been cut off him and he was dressed only in the open backed gown from the hospital. He looked like a wild man, but his face relaxed when he saw us.
We went inside and insisted the staff load him because we did not want to risk further injury trying to squeeze him in the door, and it took them 15 or 20 minutes, with a minimum of moans from Ray. We want to say thank you to Shane, a hospital intern who sympathized with the plight of marijuana patients in general and Ray Berry's situation in particular. I cannot say all the ways he helped us, but without his help, Ray's trip home would have been much more difficult. When we got him back to the motel, the fire department kindly came out and helped us get Ray into bed, then returned the following morning to help us get him up for the trip home.
We discovered that Yellow Cab Company in Tallahassee has a medical transport van and that's how we got Ray to the airport in the wheelchair that was gifted to us. Delta panicked when they saw his condition. Many kind employees of the airline arranged the lift that raised Ray Berry and the wheelchair up into the plane. They were fearful of taking charge of him, but had no extra seat for me to go with him. Ray is Epileptic, and also the possibility of jarring his legs, increased bleeding and effects of medications at high altitudes really worried them. Finally the plane took off with Ray aboard, but we wouldn't rest easy until his family called saying his was safe in their hands.
We arrived home late yesterday afternoon, but didn't hear from Ray's family until the call came this morning. He was due to arrive home yesterday at 3:00pm but seems there was a lightening storm and the plane had to land unexpectedly to avoid mishap. He was finally delivered safely to his family at nine o'clock last night. This way Ray's first flight. He says he never wants to ride a plane again, but vows he'll definitely be part of the next journey.
Everyone is home now, the Florida journey is finally over. In all there are less than fifty people who have traveled with the Journey for Justice for an entire trip. One patient who has done two journeys said, "I try to explain to people what the journey is like, but if they haven't been on one, they just can't understand." I don't know . . . Ask the courageous patients why they'd do another one tomorrow and most of them can't put it into words. It is healing and empowerment for them. It raises the their spirits and gives them hope to see how much support is out there for us. The obstacles we face make us more determined than ever to risk everything to put a face to the pain, to help our fellow man understand that bad laws hurt good people.
I believe our courage commitment, honesty and passion touches the people we meet on the road in a special way, and awakens the compassion in even some of the hardest hearts. There is good work being done here, and I hope those involved in the movement of truth will continue to support the sick among us who are fighting for their own lives as they stand up for the rights and freedom of every American.
Better yet, come on the next journey with us. I personally want to salute Kevin Aplin and Jodi James, the two young Florida people who hosted this journey. Because of their commitment and ability, I was able for the first time to experience the trip as a patient. With no experience, they did a wonderful job with a difficult trip. Thank you to all those who helped us in so many ways. You, too, are our heros.

Shared April 4, 2000 Kay Lee, Journey for Justice