A Republican congressman from California this week posted videos of himself bulldozing unauthorized cannabis crops in a remote part of the state, a move according to local Hmong farmers is likely to stoke racial tensions that have escalated during a major forest fire that continues to burn in the region.
Representative Doug LaMalfa’s office posted to YouTube a number of videos originally filmed in May that show him visiting seized pot farms in Siskiyou County before using a bulldozer to destroy greenhouses and seedlings. cannabis, operations he has long condemned as destructive to the environment.
Outdoor crops are illegal in this county and often lack sewage systems and other environmental safety measures. But local farmer advocates say the timing of the videos – weeks after law enforcement officers shot dead a 35-year-old Hmong man during a mandatory forest fire evacuation – is problematic, just like the language of the congressman.
“I love the smell of diesel in the afternoon. It smells of victory, ”LaMalfa says in one of the videos, quoting from the Vietnam War movie“ Apocalypse Now ”.
LaMalfa has been a staunch opponent of cannabis reform in Congress and has already drafted legislation to increase penalties for illegal cultivation and provide local law enforcement agencies with more resources to eradicate the crops. In a statement released with the four videos, LaMalfa said the rapid growth in “illegal cartel cultivation operations” is overwhelming Siskiyou County.
“Garbage, illegally used pesticides, human waste and fuel cover the ground which has been scraped from all organic matter with nothing but dust,” the statement read. “Nothing in the organized crime that grows in Siskiyou County is legal. These cultivation sites are destroying our environment. Local wildlife is now non-existent in the area. This level of crime cannot be tolerated.”
California state officials have increased funding in recent years to crack down on the illicit cannabis market, which is worth more than $ 8 billion a year, industry analysts say. Local authorities estimate that there are more than 4,000 cultivation sites in the Mount Shasta area of Siskiyou County. They are home to around 6,000 people, the vast majority of whom are Hmong.
In a statement given to The Sacramento Bee, an attorney for Hmong producers said LaMalfa’s statement “sounds like a divisive message that may ignite tensions instead of improving them.”
Most Hmong Americans came to the United States as refugees in the late 1970s as a result of the Vietnam War. Thousands of Laotian Hmong fled to Thailand after the war before resettling in the United States after being persecuted by the Laotian government for their perceived support for the Americans.
According to the US Census Bureau, approximately 330,000 Hmong Americans live in the United States, primarily in California and Minnesota.
Racial tensions are already high in Siskiyou County, where crews have battled the 26,000-acre lava fire for weeks. Hmong farmers have accused firefighters of refusing to put out fires that have approached cannabis crops. The police retorted that the farmers were blocking the access roads and throwing stones at the approaching firefighters.
At the end of last month, several law enforcement officers shot dead Soobleej Hawj, 35, at the scene. Police said Hawj ignored orders to move away from the fire evacuation area and pointed a handgun at officers, but some eyewitnesses disputed this story. The agents were put on administrative leave.
Members of the Hmong community also filed a federal lawsuit against the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies, claiming they violated due process of farmers and the rights of farmers. illegal search and seizure.
They held rallies last week in the Yreka County seat to demand justice for Hawj and protest a local ordinance that prevents water from being shipped to the Mount Shasta area. They say it prevents farmers from growing food crops and swimming.
These gatherings were supported by a member of Sacramento City Council and two members of the St. Paul, Minnesota City Council.