Volume 78 / Number 3 - June 18 - 24, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since

Pot activist busts on police for arrest in pot bust

By Lucas Mann

At 7 o’clock on the evening of Thurs., June 12, Randy Credico, a longtime comedian and marijuana activist, was having a barbeque in the backyard of his apartment on 13 Gay St., when he heard a commotion and went out to the street to see five police cars surrounding two teenagers and the officers arresting the youths for smoking marijuana. This was not the first time that that Credico had seen such a scene; in fact, it was just another incident in what he feels is an “epidemic” in his neighborhood.

“I take pictures of the cops arresting these kids in front of my place,” he said. “Kids come to this street because they think it’s quiet, but the police wait for them to get arrests. This is a hungry unit — they need to pile up arrest numbers.”

Last Thursday evening, Credico did not take out his camera, but he did yell at the officers, something, he said, to the effect of, “Why don’t you go arrest real criminals?” According to Credico, he was handcuffed only a minute later, with the cuffs on their tightest grip, arrested and taken to the Sixth Precinct. He would end his night in Central Booking, at 100 Centre St.

“He was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest,” said a police spokesperson. “It had to do with an officer making a lawful drug arrest and this person interfered.” The arrest report did not specify how Credico interfered.

“The resisting arrest isn’t true,” Credico insisted, just minutes after being released on Friday. “For what? It’s a complete friggin’ lie. I have witnesses who were on that street.” As for disorderly conduct, he said, “They got me for language. I may have used a ‘f--k,’ but believe me, they do, too.”

One witness, a local resident and friend of Credico’s named Gary Goodrow, described what he saw, saying: “They were hassling some young kids and Randy objected, which is his right. The cops immediately got hysterical. There was no reason to arrest him.”

Credico believes that the real reasons for the arrest have to do with the fact that the police know who he is and have been looking to retaliate.

“The other day, a cop car turns the wrong way down Waverly, drives up to me, and the cop tells me they know I’ve been telling kids to move away from the street when they’re going to smoke,” Credico said. “He said they would arrest me for interfering with an investigation. He said, ‘We’re gonna get you and it’s gonna make my day.’ He did his Clint Eastwood.”

Credico recalled another recent occasion where he said another officer from the unit, a special narcotics unit within the Sixth Precinct — whose officers he described as “out of a scary, steroided, Long Island gym” — said to him, “Oh, you’re the guy who hates us.”

Credico said that he does not hate the police officers, but he is furious at a system that he charges centers around racial profiling in its drug arrests citywide, but, particularly, right at his front door.

“The kids they are always trying to arrest are black and Latino kids,” he said. “When I was in jail [after his arrest last week], I was almost the only white guy in there the whole night. And most of the people in there were young kids who were booked for pot. There were three Mexican day laborers who got arrested for having a beer on the street. There was this one yuppie white kid at the Sixth Precinct who was arrested for some kind of disturbance outside a club. He was crying the whole time and the police let him use his cell phone. And they let him smoke a cigarette in the holding cell — in a government building. He got out in an hour and a half.”

An officer at the Sixth Precinct said that the name and description that Credico gave of the female officer who cuffed him — an Officer Kelly — did not match anyone in the precinct and that the narcotics officers could not comment on an arrest.

Anthony Papa, communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance and a friend of Credico’s, agreed that the activist’s arrest and its circumstances were part of a larger, problematic police climate in New York.

Citing a report recently released at the New York Civil Liberties Union, Papa said, “New York City is the capital of marijuana arrests. The N.Y.P.D. arrested and jailed nearly 400,000 people for possessing small amounts of marijuana between 1997 and 2007, a tenfold increase in marijuana arrests over the previous decade and a figure marked by startling racial and gender disparities.”

Released, showered but not having slept for 36 hours, Credico was not about to let the issue go. He was a longtime friend of William Kunstler, the radical lawyer, and was a vocal advocate in Kunstler’s campaigns to eliminate the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Although Kunstler is dead, his wife Margaret is Credico’s lawyer and they’re discussing the possibility of a civil suit.

“Malicious prosecution, false arrest — he certainly has a case,” Margaret Kunstler said. “We’re not sure if we are going to pursue it or not. A lawsuit is a big time commitment. We are not sure if our time isn’t better used continuing to document these arrests.”

Either way, Credico says he will continue to take photos of the police.

“I consider it my civic duty,” he said.

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