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Florida Freedom Festival speakers want war on drugs to end

BRADENTON -- Americans are losing their freedoms as the war on drugs continues was the main theme of the new event.

How U.S. freedoms are constrained and what to do about it was the main topic of discussion Saturday at the first Florida Freedom Festival at the Riverwalk Pavilion and Mosaic Amphitheater.

Jeff Gray of Photography Is Not A Crime spoke about people's rights in recording police or government officials.

"The most important thing that I like to do is show people how they can assert their rights," Gray said. "The most important thing you do when you talk to any public official is to record the conversation."

Gray said his experience is officials don't like being recorded, which usually means they have something to hide, he said.

His tips for preserving personal freedoms:

Always make sure not to trespass.

Ask questions.

Don't scream or curse.

Never physically resist law enforcement.

Make sure recording devices have enough batteries.

Make sure any firearms are being carried legally.

Organizer Donald Collison with the Libertarian Party of Manatee County said he

was pleased with the inaugural event's success. Collison said the crowd of several dozen seemed receptive to the message.

"Today, freedom is about having a good time," said Adam Kokesh, writer of the book called "Freedom!" "It's about living free."

Bradenton officers at the event walked away when Kokesh spoke about police brutality, he said.

"That's a sore spot for them," Collison said.

It wasn't all serious debate about freedom. The event featured a lineups of bands, including local favorite Big Daddy, as well as games for children, food and craft vendors.

While some enjoyed festivities in the Riverwalk Pavilion, the second annual Know Your Rights Summit was also taking place at nearby Mosaic Stage along the Riverwalk.

Speakers at the summit included Parrish resident, Robert Jordan, a well-known supporter of legalizing medical marijuana. Jordan is also a leader in the Florida Cannabis Action Network along with his wife, Cathy Jordan, a longtime sufferer of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, who smokes marijuana to combat the effects of the debilitating disease.

"I have one fight in me and that's to get medical marijuana out," Robert Jordan said.

Jordan urged anyone busted for marijuana not to accept a plea deal. Jordan detailed how he refused to accept pretrial diversion and demanded a jury trial after the Manatee County Sheriff's Office raided his home, confiscated marijuana plants and filed charges. The charges were later dropped.

Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.