The announcement that President Barack Obama will be speaking at CU-Boulder's Norlin Quad on Sunday marks the first time this particular campus spot has made headlines since April -- when the news was very different. Note that Norlin Quad is the site of CU's annual 4/20 event -- or it was until this year, when officials cordoned it off, spread it with stinky fish fertilizer and arrested three people who stepped on it.
Months before April 20, administrators, working in conjunction with student government representatives, announced a plan to shrink the annual pot bacchanal by closing off campus access to outsiders and declaring Norlin Quad off-limits. And to make that patch of green even more inhospitable, crews placed fish fertilizer on it.
"It's made of ocean fish that subsist on a diet of highly organic plankton," CU-Boulder spokesman Bronson Hilliard (disclosure: a longtime friend) told us at the time. "It's a very nutrient-rich fertilizer that we apply to the grounds of CU every spring and early summer. And this year, we simply made the decision to apply the first batch of it on Norlin Quad, for obvious reasons." He added that "it's not toxic, it's not harmful, it's totally organic, it doesn't have any chemicals in it, and it's not pleasant to breath."
Indeed, the fertilizer reeks for 24 to 48 hours after application. Yet three CU students -- Gabriel Kuettel, Jonathan Edwards and John Demopoulos -- chose to venture onto the Quad anyhow to protest what they saw as an infringement on their First Amendment rights -- and were promptly arrested for trespassing.
Afterward, attorney Sean McAllister agreed to represent the trio pro bono, and in an interview with Westword, he maintained that CU's campus closure was fascist -- a claim Hilliard rejected with extreme prejudice while defending the university's record for protecting, and prizing, free speech.
Presumably, there'll be plenty of the latter at the Quad on Sunday between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., when Obama is expected to speak shortly before heading to Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention. But will any of the attendees dare to light up?
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Here are photos by Westword's Britt Chester of this year's 4/20 event.
More of Britt Chester's photos from 4/20 at CU-Boulder below. More of Britt Chester's photos from 4/20 at CU-Boulder below.
More from our Marijuana archive: "Photos: Smoky scenes from 4/20 marijuana smoke-out in Civic Center Park."