Rock Island Argus
May 21, 1996

Hemp Fest
may move to
private land

By John Kanthak
Staff writer

      DAVENPORT -- Hemp Fest organizer Bob Moldenhauer said Monday he may move next year's event to private property after the mass arrests at Saturday's festival -- arrests he says were intended solely to silence him.
      This is a vendetta against me -- it's not about the Hemp Fest anymore," he said. "What happened Saturday afternoon was a well-orchestrated effort, pre-planned by the Davenport Police Department."
      Not true, police Lt. Dave Struckman said Monday. Officers made arrests and closed Credit Island Park only because some participants blatantly were breaking laws and inciting riot, he said.
      A melee began after police tried to arrest four people allegedly smoking a marijuana cigarette, according to reports. Others in the crowd began throwing bottles and rocks at police and using loudspeakers to encourage people to resist arrest, police said. Mr. Moldenhauer said police arrested him and the others to keep him and others from talking to the crowd about Libertarian philosophies and decriminalization of marijuana.
      "They wanted to silence me, to keep me from telling people that government does not really exist," he said. "It's just a private corporation that takes our money, and that's it."
      Nobody silenced Mr. Moldenhauer, Lt. Struckman said.
      "We gave him a forum," he said. "He had an hour and a half to exercise his right to free speech. He could talk about anti-government, pro-marijuana or whatever. But we had told these folks that we would not sit back and let them violate the law."
      Some fest-goers openly were smoking marijuana, even though police were nearby and had supplied an "amnesty barrel" in which the public could dump their marijuana as they entered, Lt. Struckman said.
      "Our officers would have loved to have been there and not had to do a damned thing," he said, "but it was too blatant to overlook."
      Police estimate 300 to 400 people attended the event. Thirty-three were arrested on charges ranging from possession of controlled substances to assault. During the melee, a 36-year-old Davenport police officer had his leg broken when Christopher Rice, 28, of Rock Island allegedly fought being arrested, according to police reports.
      Michael Winterlin, 21, of Bettendorf was charged with assault on a police officer, disorderly conduct and interference with official acts after he allegedly taunted police, chanted obscenities against the police, spit in the face of one officer and punched another in the chest, according to police reports.
      "That's inciting a riot," Lt. Struckman said.
      Officers employed a chemical spray to subdue the crowd, but Mr. Moldenhauer said reports of its use were exaggerated.
      "I only saw one (officer)P using it, and I was standing right downwind from him," he said. "If he'd bee using a lot of it, I'd have known. It was just an intimidation tactic."
      Jennifer Cooper of Moline said police handled festival-goers too roughly.
      "People who weren't moving fast enough got kicked around and roughed up," she said. "One guy was still getting kicked after he was cuffed and on the ground."
      Lt. Struckman said the police department has received no complaints about officer's deportment during Saturday's arrests.
      Fest organizers rented a city park shelter under an individual's name instead of trying to get a permit for the fest from the city, according to Scott County Sheriff Mike Bladel, whose deputies assisted city police at the park.
      "We weren't told we needed a permit," Mr. Moldenhauer said. "The city wanted things to occur just as they did. I think next year we might move the fest to private property. Then the police won't have any excuses for this kind of thing."
      That wouldn't stop police from making drug arrests, Lt. Struckman said.
      "Even on private property, there are things called 'laws,'" he said. "It may be private property, but if you open the event to the general public, it becomes sort of public domain. Police could still be there under-cover."
      In Mr. Moldenhauer's view, marijuana use is not prohibited by law in Iowa.
      "Under Iowa law, a person is defined as a legal entity," he said. "But according to Black's legal dictionary, a legal entity is not a natural person. So you can have all the pot you want because you're not a person."

Image file: 'They want to silence me, to keep me from telling people that the government does not really exist.' Bob Moldenhauer