Harvest Season, 1983.
The day the music died. No one knew what the sound was, no one except the Vietnam vets. They knew the sound of a helicopter anywhere. Rumors abound about terrified hill folks shooting their M1 Garands at the eye in the sky, floating above their crops like some overgrown mosquito.
C.A.M.P. had arrived.
The Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, as it was officially known, was a marijuana eradication program funded by then President Reagan’s War on Drugs. The coppers called it The Sinesemilla Strikeforce. The community was taken by complete surprise. The tactics used were paramilitary style, and there was no discrimination: everyone was a target. The relationship with law enforcement deteriorated quickly from there.
You can read the report by the DEA (barf) here:
As an example, check out this excerpt about this ’83 raids from “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces,” By Radley Balko” where they talk about the raids in Denny:
“Describing the 1984 operation, the journalist Dan Buam writes, “For a soli month, the clatter of helicopters was never absent from Humboldt County. Roadblocks starter hauling whole families out of cars and holding them at gunpoint while searching their vehicles without warrant. CAMP troops went house to house kicking in doors and ransacking homes, again without warrant.
In his book the great drug war, Arnold Trebach writes that in 1983 and 1984 DEA Agent Bill Ruzzamenti claimed that the entire town of Denny, California was so hostile to the drug warriors that he’d need to virtually occupy the area with a small army. Denny residents Eric Massett and his wide Rebecca Sue told Trebach that when they pulled out of their driveway during a CAMP raid in 1983, there were six men in camouflage pointing rifles at them They fled into town, where CAMP officials then put up roadblocks to keep everyone in town while they conducted their eradication campaign. When CAMP left, a military convoy drove out of the small village, guns trained on the townspeople. The couple told Trebach that one then was waving a .45 as the others chanted, “War on Drugs! War on Drugs!
Denny is in Trinity county, just on the other side of the Humboldt-Trinity boarder. Denny is famous in the Triangle because in the 1970s there was a “mining war” between civilians and the Forest Service in which two people died. The sheriffs (notoriously) had to retreat and call the National Guard.
Situated along the banks of the New River, the National Guard was called in to remove a large number of gold miners illegally living on forest service lands in the area. The mining wars garnered Denny its reputation as a town barricaded by locals to keep the government out, hence the nonsense in ’83 with CAMP.
You can see videos of the gold miner here:
Feel free to check out Humboldt State Universities catalog of the annual CAMP reports, if you feel like reading a tear-jerker, lol…
My experience with CAMP was working in Whitethorn, in 2004-2006, and talking with locals. One of the actual arrests (there were about 1,000 arrests in 1983 by CAMP investigators) took place there, on Paradise Ridge. The entire valley floor was covered. At the time, large grows were around 50,000-100,000 plants. The landowner managed to escape to Israel, from where he was eventually extradited. The land is now owned by a friend of mine.
The picture is from the local Humboldt Paper, The Times Standard, published July 21, 1983. (Thanks to Milt Phegley for digging it up!)