A story I read recently in the Drug War Chronicle took me back over those same 40 years to a law enforcement atrocity in Michigan that’s been all but forgotten in the dreadful annals of the War on Drugs: the felony prosecution of a guy named Richard Songer for holding the Goose Lake rock festival on his property outside of Jackson in the summer of 1970. Police and prosecutors claimed the venue was meant to be a place where drugs could be sold and distributed.
Mark Deming commemorated the Goose Lake festival with a story in the Metro Times (“Goose Lake memories,” July 2, 2008) that explained: “The Goose Lake festival was the brainchild of Richard Songer, a Southfield native who’d made a fortune in construction, building many of Michigan’s highways, ramps and bridges. He purchased 350 acres near Goose Lake, just outside Jackson, and in 1970, Songer, then 35 years old, decided to transform the property into a park. He told the press: ‘It’s a dream of mine to put together some place for the young people to go.’
“With that in mind, Songer planned to … stage a series of concerts, starting with a three-day rock festival to take place Aug. 7-9.” But the typically widespread ingestion of proscribed substances by festivalgoers triggered a police response that set off a veritable law enforcement conflagration culminating in Songer’s prosecution as a narcotics felon.
Songer was indicted in October 1970 by the Jackson County Citizens Grand Jury and charged with aiding and abetting the sale of heroin and marijuana, and having heroin and marijuana under his control without a license. He was found not guilty by a jury in December 1971 after undergoing a brutal felony prosecution that, under 1971 statutes, would have resulted in a mandatory minimum 20-year sentence upon conviction.
In his conclusion, Sinclair succinctly identifies the root problem of these tragedies and their solution:
Fellow Americans, how long will we put up with these abuses? They’re conducting this piratical activity in our names, and it’s been going this way for 40 years. Richard Songer beat his case in the end, and we must pray that Jimmy Tebeau is equally vindicated. Stop the War on Drugs!
I encourage you to read the whole thing here.