Crack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy (2021) - full transcript

[woman 1] It didn't matter
how good of a person you were...

or how well you took care of your kids.

All of that goes out the window.

You won't even realize it,
because you're so busy getting high.

I lost everything.


It's a story that has to be told.

♪ Here it is, bam! ♪

♪ In your face, god damn ♪

♪ This is a dope jam... ♪

This is crack.

You think
it's the glamour drug of the '80s?

♪ I'm talking about bass ♪

Evidence of heavy money and heavy,
violent drug traffic is all around.

The reporting played right into all
of these stereotypes and this narrative.

This baby girl was born
addicted to cocaine.

[news anchor] They have now
reached school-age.

A whole generation
has been condemned to death.

They are not just gangs of kids anymore.
They are super-predators.

[man 1] Drugs got blamed
for all of the conditions

that the society had allowed to fester
and were unwilling to confront.

We must be intolerant of drug use
and drug sellers.

Take my word for it,
this scourge will stop!

♪ I'm talking 'bout bass ♪

[woman 2] We are still picking up
the pieces of the '80s today.


Because the responses were not designed
to help the people that were in trouble.

Just say, "No."

It doesn't make any difference.
Whether they delivered the kilo themselves

or they turned their heads
while somebody else delivered it,

they're just as guilty.

The crack era changed everything
about the Black community,

and it changed, eventually,
everything about America.

[crowd cheering]

With a deep awareness
of the responsibility

conferred by your trust...

I accept your nomination
for the Presidency of the United States.

[crowd cheering]

[Elizabeth Hinton] Reagan comes in
on this promise of wealth for all...

improving the lives for all,
especially disenchanted white voters.

let us make this a new beginning.

[Hinton] And his way to do that was

to stimulate a free market that would
help lift people out of poverty.

For those without job opportunities,
we'll stimulate new opportunities,

particularly in the inner cities
where they live.

For those who've abandoned hope,

we'll restore hope and we'll welcome them
into a great national crusade

to make America great again.

[Kool & The Gang's "Celebration" playing]

♪ Whoo-hoo ♪

♪ A celebration ♪

[Nelson George] In the '80s,
you began seeing money flow.

I always think about Wall Street

and Gordon Gekko,
played by Michael Douglas.

Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.

[George] It's the beginning
of the return of the city.

You have that sense of optimism.

Clubs are filling up again.

♪ Celebrate good times, come on ♪

[Geroge] It was a lifestyle
of celebration,

and coke was part of that lifestyle.

[Alan Charles] The first time
that I did a line of cocaine...

I felt like...

"Oh, my God!

Where has this stuff been?"

[Felipe Luciano] It was the glitzy drug,
people dancing all the time.

Sometimes I would stay up
for three nights.

Just drink water and keep going.

It was accepted.

It was accepted in the jazz world,
it was accepted in the pop world.

It was the social drug of the elite.

Lots of people in my industry do it.

There's a lot of pressure,
and they're making an awful lot of money.

-[reporter] Have you ever tried it?
-A couple times.

I love cocaine.

I couldn't wait to finish college
and make money

'cause I wanted that lifestyle.

[Natoka Williams] The movie Scarface
made it so popular to do cocaine.

We would be in the clubs
and have our $100 bills

and try to imitate Scarface.

It was, like, a glamorous thing to do,

'cause it was, like,
"People that get money do this."

[Koe Rodriguez] Cocaine was
a luxury back then.

It was like, people that were
driving Mercedes-Benzes

or BMWs were the ones
that were sniffing coke.

You know, that was not...
That particular drug, powder cocaine,

was not accessible
to inner-city people of color

because it was too expensive.

We couldn't afford it.

What comes with Reagan
is the proliferation of wealth for a few

at the expense of the many.

The Reagan administration takes

half a million people
off the welfare rolls,

one million people from food stamps,

2.6 million American children
from lunch programs.

We see millions of more people
coming into extreme poverty.

[reporter 1] The line stretched
around three sides of the block

at the state job service office
this morning.

[reporter 2] Almost 8.5 million Americans
are without jobs.

[Dr. Carl Hart] 1982 is one
of the highest rates of unemployment

in the United States, ever.

And then Black communities' unemployment,
always twice that of the white community.

So, people were catching hell.

["The Message" playing]

♪ Broken glass everywhere ♪

♪ People pissin' on the stairs
You know they just don't care ♪

♪ I can't take the smell
Can't take the noise ♪

♪ Got no money to move out
I guess I got no choice ♪

Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel
painted a really crisp picture

of what we were dealing with
in inner cities.

♪ It's like a jungle sometimes ♪

♪ It makes me wonder
How I keep from going under ♪

♪ It's like a jungle sometimes ♪

♪ It makes me wonder
How I keep from going under ♪

[Samson Styles] I grew up
in a very impoverished neighborhood.

The regular family there
was on food stamps.

Wasn't even paying for food
with real money.

It was paper money with,
you know, brown, purple and...

Looking like you're in
a third-world country

if you're going to spend
your money for food.

We didn't have money,

so a lot of times,
we were home ourselves, the kids.

So we'd go to the corner store and steal.

Or we'd go to the Safeway to earn money
by carrying people's groceries home.

And sometimes we would walk with someone,
carrying their groceries home,

we'd run off with the bags.

I mean, we...
A lot of it was about survival.

Sometimes I had to wear my sister's jeans,
hand-me-down jeans.

You know, it's this classic picture
of me in the fifth grade.

I'm sitting Indian-style
in the front with all the boys.

Everyone's hands is on their laps,

and mine's is on my two shoes
because I had holes in my shoes.

Sometimes we didn't have lights, gas.

You know, we had roaches
in the house, mice.

It was pretty bad.

I don't think we really understand
the trauma of poverty.

And I think any way, any thing,
any method we can employ

to escape the fact that we are broke
and oppressed, we will do.

Between 1982 and 1984,

the amount of cocaine coming into
the United States increases by 50%.

[reporter 1] Agents know the cocaine
was shipped to Philadelphia,

then trucked to New York.

[reporter 2] Tons came through
South Florida.

[reporter 3] Drugs pouring
into the country.

There is more cocaine available today
than almost any time in our history.

[Hinton] We get 63 tons of cocaine
coming into the US.

The consequence
of this massive insurgence of cocaine

is that the price of cocaine falls.

Despite our best efforts,

illegal cocaine is coming into our country
at alarming levels,

and four to five million people
regularly use it.

One Cuban cigar couldn't make it
into the United States.

One little Cuban cigar.

But you can't stop these tons
of cocaine from coming in?

It was definitely bigger
than just the streets.

And tonight's special segment looks at
the invasion of drugs across the border.

And the United States has used
very few resources to fight back.

It was coming vis-à-vis Central America,
vis-à-vis the Bahamas,

and it was coming in multiple routes,
multiple modes,

such as airplane, boats, etc.,
so it was coming in from all directions.

And everyone had a hand in it.

[crowd cheering]

Then this bomb explodes
that will affect the whole country.

[news anchor] Fire department paramedics
found writer and comedian Richard Pryor

wandering dazed, badly burned
over the upper half of his body

near his Los Angeles-area home last night.

[George] This news report came in
about Richard Pryor

getting burnt up with this pipe.

He had used freebase, which is
a combination of cocaine and ether.

And when he ignited it, whether it was
on a cigarette, we don't know,

the ether exploded, causing his clothes
to be engulfed in flames.

Y'all did some nasty ass jokes on my ass.

[audience laughs]

"What's that?"
"Richard Pryor running down the street."

[George] I didn't know what freebase was.

And Richard Pryor
burning himself up with it

was kind of the wake-up call
to a lot of people

that there was this other kind of way
of using cocaine.

Cocaine is a molecule.

It's called "cocaine hydrochloride."

And the hydrochloride portion is a salt.

And you can't smoke it
if that hydrochloride portion is on,

so you gotta get rid of the salt.

So, with freebasing, we figured out
how to just get rid of the salt,

and now you just have the base.

So we call it "freebase."

The base is free and you can smoke it.

Crack is the same thing.

[Rick Ross] Most people,
when they buy the powder,

they would cook it for themselves.

Almost like being a scientist.

You know, it took a lot of...

mixing and...


What I figured out is that...

people preferred
not to go through all that process.

They would prefer
to have it already rocked up.

And they call it "crack."

["N.Y. State of Mind" plays]

♪ Yeah, yeah ♪

♪ Ayo, Black, it's time, word ♪

♪ I know this crackhead who said
She gotta smoke nice rock ♪

♪ And if it's good, she'll bring you
Customers and measuring pots ♪

♪ But yo, you gotta slide on... ♪

[reporter] The inhaled cocaine vapor

goes straight from the glass pipe stem
to the brain.

[Hart] It's more efficient,

the drug is put immediately
into the bloodstream,

because the lungs
have a large area of blood,

so the effects are felt,
like, immediately.

[reporter] In five to 15 seconds,
the crack user is high.

I can get up from here now
and walk to the moon, okay?

I can get up and walk to the moon.

I'm good now. I'm good to go.

[Brian Barger] Cocaine was made
more available by making crack

and by being able to sell it
for five or ten dollars a hit.

So, poor people now could get access

to what previously had been
considered a rich man's drug.

[George] It happened really fast.

It seemed like,
"Boom. There's 20 crackheads."

[Ross] The first hit they took,
the rest of their life

they would be trying
to get that hit again.

They'd just keep going over and over,

trying to get that same feeling
they got the first time...

which they can never get back.

The level of euphoria was just multiplied.

The effect is almost simultaneous.

I'm tongue-twisted
because there's no words

to describe how I felt at that point.

It made me feel like
I was on top of the world.

It's like having an orgasm.

Once you take that first hit...

it's over.

From that point on, I was addicted,
and all I wanted to do was smoke.

Everything just go...

[mimics time slowing]


[Styles] I was still in high school,
and I needed to make some money.

I was having a baby on the way
and, you know, things were hard.

My mother was like, "Just get a job."

[woman 1in commercial] Hey.
Isn't that Calvin?

[woman 2] I haven't seen him for a while.

[woman 1] I heard he got a job.

[Styles] Yeah, I remember that commercial
that they had of Calvin and they said,

"Well, you could be like Calvin."

[woman 1] Now that you mention it,
there is something different about him.

[woman 2] Looks like responsibility's
been good for him.

[woman 1] I'm just glad somebody believed
in him enough to give him a chance.

[woman 2] Wonder where he's working.

Welcome to McDonald's. May I help you?

I remember seeing that commercial.
I was like, "I worked there."

You only made $3.35 an hour.

That was minimum wage, $3.35 an hour.

And then the government's
taking taxes out of that.

Man, fuck Calvin, man.

'Cause that ain't gonna work for me,
you know?

So, my man came to me and he said,
"I got a way for you to make some money."

And he introduced the crack to me.

They was in vials. Little vials.

I asked him, "What is it?"
He's like, "It's cocaine cooked up."

And he was like,
"They smoke it and they go crazy."

He gave me a 100-pack.

And no more than, like, 20, 30 minutes,
that was gone.

[man] The stem talks to you.

Walk away from the stem,
it's saying, calling you back,

"Come here.

Come, spend the rest of your money."

[Ross] People would come
with a handful of money,

like "Oh, I just want a 20,"
and they would buy 20 and...

And, you know,
after I had learned the business,

I was like, "He's gonna come back."

And, eventually, by the end of the night,

they had spent every dime
they had in their hand.

That first day, I might have made
a few hundred dollars.

From then, I was like,
"Yo, this is what I'm selling right here.

I can make money quick."

Crack, crack. Everywhere you go, crack.
You don't hear no dope, hardly.

You don't hear no coke anymore, hardly.

The only thing you hear
is people selling crack, crack, crack.

[Styles] When crack came along,
it was like, "Yo, this is it right here."

This is what we were waiting for.

It was like the gold rush. It was like
a gold rush that hit the hood.

[Pierce] The police didn't care.
They didn't care.

The majority had the attitude of,

"Let me just do my shift,
and get the hell out of this community."

You know, it's, like... free run.
'Cause we know we ain't getting arrested.

Cops don't damn care.

[reporter] Suburbanites come
to this neighborhood in New York

every Friday night,
in search of weekend supplies.

Here, curb service is available.

There was so many people on the street
buying crack at the time,

it was just unbelievable.

People would be sitting in their cars,
blowing the horn for them to hurry up

and sell to the other person
so they could move up.

They would actually have traffic jams
to coming in and buy drugs.

Where was these people coming from?

And I lived in a neighborhood
that was all Black, 99% Black.

-[driver] You got crack?
-Yeah... but maybe tonight.

[Pegues] White people was coming,
Spanish people was coming.

There was people coming
from all over to buy this wonder drug.

[child] They come around here
from New Jersey and all those places

to get drugs here.

-[reporter] Where do they come from?
-From New Jersey!

I think that crack was widely seen
as a drug of the inner city,

widely seen as an "urban" problem,

and that meant Black and Latino people
were using it and selling it.

I was a crack addict,
so I knew, based on my own experience,

that this addiction crosses
all kinds of socioeconomic lines.

[man] Hey. Money's money, you know?

That's just the straight-out truth.
Money is money.

I don't care if you're two years old.

You gonna give me $35 for some crack,
I'mma give it to you.

I've seen people sell crack
to their own mother.

You know? Like, "Yo, she's gonna
get it from somewhere, you know?

I might as well give it to her."

We were just being street capitalists.

That's exactly what we were being,
street capitalists...

that didn't care about anything
but making money.

♪ From sun up, sun down ♪

♪ We getting money, money, money, money ♪

In the days of heroin
and all the other drugs,

you had to be brought into that.

The mafia was involved.

You couldn't just sell that stuff, right?

With crack, it was sort of...
There was no middle man.

You didn't need
anybody's authorization for that.

Know what I mean?
You just needed a little hustle.

You had to be a little savvy,
and you could make that happen yourself.

[Hinton] If you have the money,
even if you're young,

to invest a couple hundred dollars' worth
of cocaine, you can...

Making off rock, you can easily
set up a small shop on the corner,

and all of a sudden, groups of,
particularly, young men

can find a way to support themselves,
support their families, and survive.

I put together a small crew that I had
of the dudes that was in my age group.

And we basically locked
our two buildings down.

And then we locked it down
to, like, the projects at one time,

that nobody can really sell throughout
the project unless it was coming from us.

And this was at a young age.
I'm a teenager.

[Hart] I left Miami in 1984.

I was headed to the Air Force.

And then, when I came back home
on visits to see my friends,

all of them, they were 18, 19,

and they were on the corner slinging,
you know?

Telling me how much loot they were making
with this, you know, rock. Crack.

And at 18, 19, 20,
you feel like you the man.

Everybody wanted in.

Kids were turning into kingpins overnight.

A kid that was broke in the projects,
wearing his brother's clothes to school,

now he's driving a BMW.

There was an entire economy
built around crack-cocaine.

I wasn't even old enough to drive
and I bought a car, cash.

I didn't know how to drive.

I'm driving up to the high school
to show it off.

"Yeah, I got a car."

[Pegues] We went from making
a couple hundred dollars a day

to thousands of dollars a day.

I was in there for money,
clothes, jewelry, and girls.

And it started... It was fun.
It was very fun. I had a bunch of fun.

I could do what I want.

I got anything I want.

I remember, I was counting my sneakers.

I had up to, like, 75 pairs of sneakers.

All new.
You wear them one or two times,

then you just get new ones.

I had a ball.

♪ You could say what you want ♪

♪ Erry day getting money, money
Money, money ♪

[man 1] $150,000, cash!

[man 2] Can we throw these ones away,
man, since we got $500,000?

[man 1] I'll tell you what we can do.
We can give it to the poor.

[man 2] That's exactly what I say, too.

At that time, I was doing...

About a million dollars every day,
at that time, would go through my hands.

And my profit would probably be
anywhere from 200 to 300,000, you know,

off of a million-dollar deal.

I was one of the richest guys in LA.

Definitely, probably,
the youngest richest guy in LA.

I bought things like a motel,
I bought a theater,

body shop, junkyard, shoe store,
a beauty salon, tire and wheel shop.

And, you know, I had about 15 to 20 guys
around here that was millionaires,

that... I taught them.

I made selling drugs fashionable.

♪ Erry day getting money, money
Money, money ♪

At that time, there was
so many people getting money,

and everybody wanted to be on top.

You had the user that was addicted,

and then you had dealers
that were addicted to the money.

That was the problem.

[reporter] Handguns, rifles,
a bow and arrow,

and even a 50-caliber rifle
with armor-piercing bullets.

Police say street gangs run
the crack-cocaine trade in Roosevelt

and now recruit in high schools
and middle schools.

Many of these young men and teenagers
armed up to obtain or protect their turf.

They got semiautomatic handguns,
in some cases, AK-47s.

Very high-powered weaponry.

You're giving a kid $100,000,

you're giving him automatic weapons,
and you're giving him power.

You're saying,
"You run this entire five-block stretch."

What's a 16-year-old kid know about that?

What crack did
is crack gave more people guns.

More people could afford guns. And...

more people started
to settle their differences with guns.

[Styles] Now, you're not only
trying to survive,

you're trying to thrive
in a pool full of sharks.

So, that means you have to be
the biggest, baddest shark.

And you still might get
your head popped off.

They got Uzis.
You know, they got Glock handguns.

So, of course we got sloppy,
things happened, you know, as a result.

That's when, really,
the proverbial shit hit the fan.

[woman screaming]


[Pegues] We was making so much money.
It was fun.

And then...

[woman wailing] wasn't fun anymore.

[reporter 1] As the drug trade
has escalated, so has the violence.

Virtually every night,
police pick up bodies.

[reporter 2] Six shootings occurred
at about 1:00 in the morning,

and officers who arrived on the scene
said they found a bloodbath.

[Styles] I can't count on my hands

the amount of people
that I've seen actually get killed.

That was normal. That was so normal.

We started being desensitized

to our people that we were close to,

[reporter] In northern Manhattan,

crack-related killings are blamed
for a 63% rise in the murder rate.

[reporter 2] Last year, there was a record
555 homicides in Los Angeles.

[reporter 3] 387 people died
in Los Angeles County.

[reporter 4] The District of Columbia
is the murder capital of the country.

[Rodriguez] The police were never around
in the inner city.

They were, like, you know,

that scene in The Godfather
where the guy says,

"Let 'em kill each other.
They're animals anyway."

They didn't wanna be bothered
with this whole epidemic.

So if they weren't around before,
they really weren't around now.

[reporter] Officials say
the price of cocaine has declined.

Increased violence is the result
of greater competition to make money.

[Credle] Drug dealers were getting
robbed, kidnapped.

They were taken out to the park.

We found them wrapped up in duct tape.

[eerie music playing]

[Taylor-Bragg] It was a war out there.

I was shot in my back,
about an inch or two from my spine,

and it exited my chest.

I decided if I was going to die,

I wasn't gonna be under a white sheet.

So, I got up, got in a cab,
and I took myself to the hospital.

'Cause had I laid there,
I'd have smothered to death,

'cause I was bleeding internally
and my lungs were filling up.

Being in the streets made me very hard.

I had to act a certain way and be tough

so nobody would think
they could take advantage of me.

It robs you of your true self,
because you become this hardened guy 24/7.

You can't show any weakness.

Then it's like,
"What is considered weakness?"

Laughing, you know, at a joke

that you may
have rolled over laughing at...

You just gotta... [chuckles dryly]

And hold all the rest of that in.

You may go to a party.

You wanna dance to the song,
but you can't dance,

'cause other killers are looking,
and they'll take that as weakness.

"Oh, he's too emotional."

There were guys who were,
I'm talking, feared.

When I say, "feared," I mean feared.

There were guys who some police officers
wouldn't even mess with,

because these guys were just...

Just... They were monsters.

And these are the same people,
who, a few years ago,

were guys who you can take to church,
guys who you can...

You let them date your sister.

The next thing you know...

You're either seeing them
laying on the ground, filled with bullets,

or you're sitting in front of them
in the office,

because they just...
brutally just murdered someone.

[reporter] 14-year-old David Rosario,
a boy with learning disabilities,

was cut down by a bullet in the chest
as he rode his bicycle.

Police believe the boy died
in the crossfire of rival drug dealers.

[church bell tolling]

[Felecia Pullen]
There were lots of funerals.

Every time you would go past
some of the funeral homes

and you see the young people outside,
you knew.

That was another body count
as a result of the drugs.

I did a lot of services for young people.
Some in the church,

many in local funeral homes
all around this community.

It hurts, man.

And you wish you had
the right answer at the right time.

But you often do not.

[Charles B. Rangel] It's tragic
when a mother tells me

that she took her nine-year-old son
to a funeral,

and her kid said, "Please don't dress me
like our buddy, with a shirt and tie, Mom.

I wanna be dressed
so that my friends will recognize me."

A nine-year-old kid planning
his funeral with his mother,

going to a funeral with someone
that he went to school with.

[Castaneda] It was, for people
who lived in these neighborhoods,

a horrible, terrible time.

And many of them had longstanding ties

to the places and neighborhoods
where they lived.

They couldn't afford to just up and leave.

So they lived with the stress
of living in, basically, a combat zone.

People were afraid
to leave those homes that, at one time,

they'd be out on the front stoop,
just hanging out, gossiping.

They couldn't do it no more,
'cause now bullets are flying around.

[reporter 1] Are you afraid
when you go out at night?


There's a lot of crack dealers.
They'll be shooting.

I'll stay in the house.
I don't wanna get shot.

I don't even walk the streets
around here at night.

When I come in, I lock my door,
and this is where I stay.

[reporter 2] Citizens are pleading.

-[woman 1] I would appreciate...
-[man] If something could be done.

-[woman 2] At least take a drive by.
-[reporter 2] Begging...

-[woman 1] It's making me nervous.
-...for help in their neighborhoods.

[woman] You look down

and you'll see a sale going on
while the police just turned his head.

[Pegues] One day,
I come out for my shift.

I have 300 vials of crack,

and the blue-and-whites roll up,
right inside the park, right up to me.

He takes the bag.
"Show me what's in the bag."

I give him the bag and I'm like,
"Damn. I'm going to jail forever."

I'm thinking, should I run right now?
'Cause, yo, I'm dead.

And the guy goes...

He looks in the bag, the cop.
There's two cops.

He throws the bag back at me,
and looks at me and says,

"Tell your boss I did you a favor."

So, I run over to his house, like,
"Yo, you ain't gonna believe this shit.

I just got popped by the cops.
The whole package."

He's like, "What you talking about?

Man, we paying them off.
Man, get your ass back out there."

So, I'm like, "You serious?"

He's like, "Get back out there to work.
We're losing money."

And that's how I found out
we was paying off the police.

♪ It's like that
And that's the way it is ♪

♪ Because it's like that
And that's the way it is ♪

There was so much money floating
that it corrupted almost everyone.

It corrupted the whole neighborhood
in some form or fashion.

A long investigation into
the New York City Police Department

has uncovered a network of corruption
that extends deep within its ranks.

♪ Money is the key
To end all your woes ♪

♪ Your ups, your downs... ♪

Seven other Miami officers went on trial

accused of ripping off
other cocaine dealers

and dealing drugs themselves.

-♪ It's like that ♪
-♪ What? ♪

♪ And that's the way it is ♪

[reporter] Fourteen officers were indicted
for shaking down drug dealers,

stealing their dope, then reselling it.

Nationwide, 351 law enforcement officials
were charged with drug-related corruption.

♪ Because it's like that
And that's the way it is ♪

♪ You know it's like that... ♪

[senator] What would you steal?

Money, drugs, and guns.
Whatever was there.

I remember reaching
into a box full of cocaine

and taking out two big handfuls

and putting them in my pocket
and walking out.

It's not that difficult to take money
and drugs from any drug dealer.

He's standing on the corner.

He's got drugs.
He's knows he's going to jail if you want.

So, instead of sending him to jail,
you take his drugs and money.

Were you ever afraid that one of
your fellow officers might turn you in?


[senator] Why not?

'Cause it was the blue wall of silence.

Cops don't tell on cops.

-♪ It's like that ♪
-♪ What? ♪

♪ And that's the way it is ♪

[Luciano] We knew that they were in on it.

We knew that they were taking payments
openly, sometimes.

We knew that they could not be trusted.

We knew that
they were dealing on the side.

So, you can't blame Black folk
for not putting faith in the police.

-[dealer 1] What you need?
-[dealer 2] Yeah, how much you need?

[man 1] Yeah, give me one. Give me one.

[Susan Burton] In the Bible,
they talk about the locusts coming

and converging on all the wheat
and taking and killing all the crops.

-[man 2] You got 25?
-[man 3] How much?

[Burton] Crack devastated our community.

[dealer 3] Here you go, $20.

[Credle] Crack was like a virus.

As if something was in the air.

[man 4] I used to sell crack myself.

[Credle] It changed an entire culture.

-[dealer 4] This is crack.
-[man 5] Wait a minute. I wanna get high.

[dealer 4] Yeah, I know.

[Rodriguez] The blocks were all decimated.
Now, there's just trash everywhere.

It looked like a scene
from a George Romero film.

Night of the Living Dead.

[man 6] All right.

-[man 7] Vials...
-[woman] How many do you want?

-[man 8] Well, I use crack.
-[man laughs]

[Louisa Waverpool] Crack changed
my whole personality.

It made me don't care about people.

-I know, man.
-You got two for 20?

How many you need?

[Pierce] I saw myself
going down more and more,

but I wouldn't and I couldn't stop.

-What does he want?
-What you need?

[Waverpool] I start losing weight,
losing weight.

My waist's getting skinny.
My shirt's getting too big.

-How many you need?
-You got 25?

[Pierce] Some of us tried
to hide it at first,

but when it got worse,
we didn't care who saw us.

-What you need?
-What's up, man?

I ain't been home in four days.

Ain't got no sleep in four days.
I've been eating.

Weigh 95 pounds.

[reporter] You have kids?

Yeah. I got one. Eleven.

-[reporter] Eleven-year-old?
-Mm-hmm. Boy.

-Where is he?
-He's with my mother.

Last time you saw him?

A year and half ago.

What's his name?


Do you miss him?

Yes, I do.

[George] That drug separated people
from themselves.

And in so doing,
separated them from their families.

And it felt like the... range of the drug,

in terms of its impact,
was wider on women.

[Burton] I had a son.

He was five years old.

And he was killed.

My grief and my rage consumed me,

and crack helped me to escape.

When I used the crack,

I experienced this silence.

All of the chatter, all of the pain,
all of the hurt,

all of the grief was gone...

for that period.

[Pierce] When I started using this,
I was working. You understand?

I had just had my first daughter.

You know, my first apartment
and everything.

Soon as I get home from work, she'd eat,
I'd wash her up, I'd check her homework.

"Go take your bath."
Then we're going to bed.

That used to be our routine
until I started messing with that crack.

It got so far out of control...
to where I lost my children.

You know, my sister had to take my kids.

I had just had my third daughter.
She was a newborn.


She don't even know me.

So many women that were mothers and aunts
that was just doing anything for crack.

Once they started on that particular drug,
it was just a wrap.

Once you're addicted,
you need to make money.

A man could go out and beat someone up.

A man could go out and rob.

A man could go and do a B&E,
breaking and entering.

Women couldn't.
At least, they thought they couldn't.

You would see women
selling their children's toys.

You would see them doing the unthinkable,

that they probably would not have done

if they were not under
the influence of crack.

[woman] I had to have sex with other guys.
Like, prostitute or whatever.

It's the drugs.

I mean, you're not in control.

I seen women have sex
with three men at one time,

four men at one time,
five men at one time.

When you didn't have the money,

they might take you on the roof
to have sex with you.

You might do it in the elevator.

Anywhere they want to do it,
you're gonna, 'cause you want that crack.

On my block,
we actually had an abandoned van.

We had a van.
So some of the drug dealers would...

Women would come up and be like,
"Yo, I'll suck you off for one."

Depending on how they look...

If they really cracked out,
you ain't mess with them.

If they was in the beginning,
gave them one,

did whatever you did and left. It was...

And women was doing that.

You know, I was even guilty of that
at one time, too.

I looked at it as, you know...

Somebody gotta do it.

Might as well be me
that capitalized off of it.

[eerie music playing]

When you lose a woman to this drug...

you lose a mother, you lose a provider.

When the woman is destroyed,
the community is just destroyed.

Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!

Don't take my mother, please!

Mommy! Don't take my mother, please!

[speaks indistinctly]

[Burton] Why was our community saturated

with such a devastating chemical?

I've heard of chemical warfare...

and that was kinda like
chemical warfare...

on Black communities.

Where did it come from?

And most of all... why?

[announcer] This is an NBC News
Special Report.

From the White House,
President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan.

A message on drugs.

Drugs take away the dream

from every child's heart
and replace it with a nightmare.

Nancy has been intensely involved
in the effort to fight drug abuse.

Not long ago,

I was asked by a group of children
what to do if they were offered drugs.

And I answered, "Just say, 'No.'"

♪ We're the LA Lakers
And we're here to say ♪

♪ That the drugs are killing every day ♪

♪ Cocaine and crack
It's all got to go ♪

♪ We got to learn to just say no! ♪

[Harry Levine] The "Just Say No" campaign
was unprecedented

in its scope and its intensity.

That's right.
Say no to crack so you can live.

If you've gotta die for something...

this sure as hell ain't it.

Crack isn't just wrong.

It could be dead wrong.

The anti-crack campaign was the biggest
anti-drug campaign in American history.

-♪ Don't need it ♪
-♪ Say no ♪

-♪ Don't need it ♪
-♪ Say no ♪

♪ Just say no to drugs
Defeat it ♪

This is your brain.

This is drugs.


This is your brain on drugs.

Any questions?

What will you do
when someone offers you drugs?

[crowd] Just say no!

I can't hear you. Louder!

[crowd] Just say no!

[Nancy laughing] That's wonderful.


That's your slogan? "Say no to drugs"?

What about helping the inner cities

with the problems where
they don't have to say no to drugs?

To us in the community,
it's just political.

The "Just Say No" to drugs campaign
by Nancy Reagan...

It was...
It felt extraordinarily hypocritical...

because this was happening
at a time when the US government was

turning a blind eye to cocaine smuggling
into the United States.

I was getting my cocaine from Nicaraguans,

the majority of it.

You know, there was other sources
that I have gotten cocaine from,

but my main source was Nicaraguans.

Central America was going
through violent civil wars at the time,

in Guatemala, Honduras,
El Salvador and Nicaragua.

[guns firing]

[Barger] The United States had supported
a dictatorship in Nicaragua.

That government was overthrown
by the Sandinista movement in 1979.

It was pretty much a ragtag band
of leftists and Marxists.

The Sandinista dictatorship of Nicaragua,
with full Cuban-Soviet Bloc support,

not only persecutes its people,
the church, and denies a free press,

but arms and provides bases
for communist terrorists

attacking neighboring states.

The United States said,
"We're not gonna tolerate

Marxists in Central America,"

so they started working
with bands of guerrillas...

facilitating them to take on
the Marxist government in Nicaragua.

Those were the Contras.

They were fed, fueled and paid for
by the United States government.

President Reagan
was holding press conferences

and doing speeches
almost on a daily basis.

Those freedom fighters
are inside Nicaragua today

because we made a commitment to them.

He was hailing the Contras

as being the moral equivalents
of our Founding Fathers.

Are we going to cut them off now
and leave them defenseless?

If we do, who will ever trust
in the United States of America again?

Congress does not want to support
a civil war in Central America.

I oppose any aide and assistance
to the Contras.

I believe that the American people
do not want wider war.

I believe the American people
want to give peace a chance.

The time has come

to put this policy of this administration
of support to Contras to bed.

This was a policy
that was born in deception,

born in lies, born in cover-ups.

Before we invest one more dime
in Central America,

let's take care of the people
who live in this country.

[Sterling] So, Congress says we cannot use
federal money to support the Contras.

Can't buy them weapons,
can't buy them uniforms,

can't buy them ammunition.

At that point, the Reagan administration
began to look

for alternative sources of funding.

And one of those sources of funding became
profits from the sale of arms to Iran.

We started selling
missiles and rockets to Iran, illegally,

and taking the profit
that amounted to 15, 30 million dollars,

that could be shifted to pay

for what was now an illegal Contra war
that Congress would not fund.

We worked with pilots
who were flying aid down to the Contras.

And US officials
not just looked the other way,

but collaborated with just about
any unsavory and dirty individual.

[Barger] I was working
for the Associated Press

on the story about the US involvement
with the Contra rebels in Nicaragua,

we kept hearing these stories,

and it was all kind of
in the realm of disbelief for me.

We had more than three dozen sources

describing one or another element
of cocaine smuggling

by the Nicaraguan Contras.


[Barger] John Kerry was newly elected
to the United States Senate

when we published our story,

and he sent some of his staff out
to start looking into this.

Today, we are going to proceed to tell
a piece of the Contra drug story.

After the guns were unloaded,
was something loaded into the airplane?

Yes. I loaded about 17 duffel bags

and five or six, uh...

two-foot square boxes in the aircraft.

-[Kerry] What was in the duffel bags?
-Coke. Cocaine.

And in the boxes?


This was a scandal
of very large proportions.

The White House involved
in secretly funneling guns

to a rebel group in Central America...

financed by sales of missiles to Iran.

At least turning a blind eye
to cocaine smuggling

into the United States
to finance this secret and illegal war.

[dramatic music plays]

[Mattes] It was a perfect template
for drug smuggling.

When you shipped guns to Central America,

you could unload the guns
and put on duffel bags full of cocaine,

fly it back to the United States.

It profited for the Contras.

It profited for the smugglers.

It was a cozy arrangement
that worked for everyone,

except the American people.

[Kornbluh] The Reagan administration
either looked the other way,

knew about,
or collaborated with drug smugglers

in their quest to overthrow
the Sandinista government.

Our goal was to defeat communism
in Central America,

and if that meant drugs got in
and the youth of America used them,

well, that was the way it was gonna be.

[announcer 1] So Bias comes out
for the steal.

Nice move by Lenny Bias!
And gets the score and it...

One big turning point was Len Bias,

a basketball star
at the University of Maryland.

[announcer 2] Lead catch. Adrian Branch.
Great feed back to Bias!

Everybody in Washington,
we knew who Len Bias was.

People loved him.
He was an attractive and clean-cut guy.

[announcer 3] Bias at the baseline,
goes by Hale, reverse!

-[commentator] Oh, my!
-[announcer] Holy cow! What a shot!

[Sterling] And his big rival
in the conference

was down in North Carolina.

[announcer] And Michael Jordan
guarding Len Bias.

Big ball game.
Double clutch and he made it.

Two of the finest athletes in the country,

Michael Jordan and Bias,
going up side-by-side.

Bias just out-hung him.

[Sterling] His dream was
to play for the Celtics.

The Boston Celtics select

Len Bias of the University of Maryland.

[Sterling] And their top pick
was Len Bias.

He goes back to his dormitory
at the University of Maryland, and...

he's partying down with his friends.

[man on phone] Send someone
as soon as you can.

It's no joke.

We're giving him mouth-to-mouth.

This is Len Bias.

You have to get him back to life.

There's no way he can die.

Send someone quick.

A local success story
took a tragic turn this morning.

Len Bias,
the Maryland University basketball star,

on his way to becoming
a world champion Boston Celtic,

died of an apparent heart attack today

at Leland Memorial Hospital
in Prince George's County.

[reporter] If police were shocked to hear
the news of Len Bias's sudden death,

they were just as shocked to hear
crack may have been involved.

Right now, police say
the case is labeled "suspicious",

and that's all they're saying in public.

Tonight, NBC's Jim Kaiserski reports
how the Len Bias tragedy

is bringing the message home,
cocaine kills.

[eerie music playing]

[Hinton] When the media gets hold
of the story, the assumption is...

that Len Bias had been smoking crack...

and that had been responsible
for his death.

Then he really becomes
the kind of poster child for crack

and the beginning
of a new national discussion.

The American media
had gotten a hold of "crack" now.

And now it had taken
a different trajectory or narrative.

Not only did they say he smoked crack,

they said it was
his first time smoking crack.

"This is how powerful and dangerous
this drug was," they said.

At Len Bias's funeral, Jesse Jackson says,

"Dope has taken more Black lives
than the Ku Klux Klan rope."

The following week, Don Rogers,

the cornerback for the Cleveland Browns...

he dies of a cocaine-related death.

They alluded to the fact
that he had crack.

This is what the narrative was.

"It's an epidemic! Of young Black men...

strong athletes, dying from cocaine."

So all over the country, people went,
"Cocaine." "Cocaine." "Cocaine!"

The media is going bananas.

The crack problem
has become a crack crisis,

and it's spreading nationwide.

Two words that were used
again and again for crack

were "epidemic" and "plague."

"The drug epidemic is as dangerous
as any terrorist that we face.

It is serious.
It is an epidemic and it can kill."

Just some of what was said
to House and Senate committees...

They were used to scare people.

Politicians used them to scare people.
The media used them to scare people.

And it worked.

[reporter] The drug so powerful,
it will empty the money from your pockets,

make you sell the watch off your wrist,
the clothes off your back...

Or kill your mother.

[Sterling] If I want
to show the drug problem,

send the camera crew
down to Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue,

and we'll show some young Black men

sitting on a stoop
or standing in front of a store.

"There's the crack problem!
There they are! There they are!"

What CBS News called Crack Street

clearly stretches into cities and towns
across the nation.

[reporter] Los Angeles gangs
have franchised crack operations

in more than 25 cities.

Towns as unlikely as Omaha,
Kansas City, Denver.

Even York, Pennsylvania.
Bedrock Middle America.

The media was generating these frenzies
about crack and its impact,

who was using crack and where.

Police in Kansas City, Missouri
are searching this morning

for a woman who swapped her infant son
for $20 worth of crack-cocaine.

The four-month-old boy
was turned over to social workers.

We see stereotypes about
the, kind of, pathology of Black women

and Black women mothers,
poor Black women mothers,

get translated in the context of crack.

The crack plague is showing
a new and frightening dimension,

the damage it does
to the children of crack addicts.

Investigative report tonight,
cocaine kids.

Infants born to cocaine-addict mothers.

[Geraldo Rivera] Her mother was
so stoned at the time of delivery,

she didn't realize until sometime
the next day that she had given birth.

The whole crack baby thing
was based largely on one paper published

by a guy named Ira Chasnoff,
a Chicago pediatrician.

[Lynn M. Paltrow] Ira Chasnoff suggested
that there were extreme and unique harms

from prenatal exposure to cocaine.

His research,
based on approximately 23 babies,

could not, should not, ever have led

to the kind of alarm
and reporting that happened.

-Drug babies--
-Coke babies--

Crack kids.
They have now reached school age.

[Paltrow] There was
hyperventilating reporting

in everything from the New York Times

to "Crack Kids" in TIME Magazine.

And you had headlines such as,

"Crack Babies:
The Worst Threat Is Mom Herself."

And those stories featured
pictures of Black children.

[sighs] It's hard
to really talk about this,

'cause it was such bullshit.

Stuff like that actually paraded
as real information.

And so that played a large role
in this notion of "crack babies."

Of course, we now know it was a lie.
We now know that.

It was the epidemic that was not.

[Dan Rather] One hundred thousand
crack babies are being born each year.

And now it appears
they may be damaged for life.

[reporter] A potential horror story
as these children reach school age.

In a few short years, these children may
comprise as many as 60% of students

in some inner-city classes.

[Hinton] In reality,
only two to three percent of children born

during this period were discovered
to have any cocaine in their system.

The real, kind of, maternal issue

had to do much more
with alcohol abuse and marijuana.

Yet that's what gets sold
to the American public,

and also introduces
a new kind of level of criminalization.

in the lives of Black women

living in communities
that are already being targeted.


[Jennifer Johnson] I was abandoned
by my children's father

and I felt very alone and isolated.

In my crisis,

I shared with my doctor that, you know,
I had a substance abuse issue.

And he literally turned my case
over to the police.

Despite the fact that she was
completely honest about her drug problem

in the hope that medical people,
the healthcare system,

would somehow connect her
to treatment she needed,

instead she was arrested
and charged with child abuse

and delivery of drugs to a minor,

as if she were a drug dealer
or a drug peddler.

[reporter] Last year, a Florida woman
was convicted of administering

cocaine to a minor, 
via the umbilical cord.

Several other states
are trying the same thing.

[Paltrow] We believe
it was the first time a prosecutor

charged a woman
with dealing drugs to her newborn

in the 60 seconds after the baby was born,

but while the umbilical cord
was still attached.

They had no direct evidence whatsoever

that in fact there was
any transfer of anything.

So, what was being punished?
What was the crime?

I was able to deliver two healthy babies.

Despite the myth
and scientific misinformation.

But my family was being divided.

And my kids went
to long-term relative care, out of state.

It was devastating.

The judge had
no understanding of addiction,

which was, she didn't have choice,
she didn't have control.

She needed help. She asked for help.

She wasn't able to get that help.
It was never offered to her.

It didn't exist
at the time she was asking.

Around the same time,

a white nurse named Shirley Brown

at the Medical University
of South Carolina

began drug-testing
her Black patient base.

And she would secretly search pregnant
Black women for evidence of cocaine use.

You wanna just tell me
how you obtain your drugs? Is it...

Do you buy them? Do you trade it for sex?

What are these questions going in?

I mean, who you gonna give
these answers to?

These answers are for me.

[Paltrow] She made that
available to the police

and helped the police
come to the women's bedside

and take them out of the beds,

either while they were still pregnant
or shortly after they had delivered,

while they were still bleeding
from having delivered their babies.

[sad instrumental music playing]

[Asha Bandele] It was a concerted effort
to criminalize Black women.

The way you could
criminalize Black women,

or you could criminalize
virtually any woman,

is by saying she's harming children.
And that's what they did then.

Sheryl! Come on!

[dogs barking]

Keep your baby out the street.

She gonna get hit one of these days.

You got some blow? You got some rock?
I'll suck your dick.

Just keep the baby out the streets.


[Bandele] Popular culture
picked up on the idea

that the primary user of crack
was this pathological Black woman

who loved crack
more than she loved her children.

And gave her absolutely no dimension,
even in telling that story.

She just sort of appeared out of nowhere,

some loser, smoking crack,
throwing her kids away.

We don't know anything else about her.

♪ Here's a story 'bout a girl
Who was trickin' on the ave ♪

♪ It might be your mama
But don't you laugh ♪

♪ Your mama's on crack rock ♪

♪ Not my mama ♪

♪ Your mama's on crack rock ♪

♪ You guys lyin' ♪

[Hart] The people who were smoking crack
were vilified...

giving the impression to the country

that these people were out of control

because they used this substance.

"These people deserve no help from us
because they use this substance.

These people we can disregard."

That's why it's so dangerous.

♪ Your mama's on crack rock ♪

♪ You got my mama beat ♪

♪ Your mama's on crack rock ♪

♪ 'Cause she's a crackhead ♪

[Bandele] When you say
that somebody uses crack,

you don't have to talk
about anything else.

You don't have to talk
about the lost jobs.

You don't have to talk about
if someone's been sexually assaulted

and is self-medicating.

You don't have to talk about anything.

You can throw away.

We agreed that some of our people
were worthy of being thrown away.

And that's what happened on our watch.

[reporter 1] Since crack appeared,
thousands of residents in the Bronx

have worked to demand
more police protection

to drive drug dealers
out of their neighborhoods.

[crowd chants] Down with dope!
Up with hope!

[reporter 2] In Florida,
citizens protest against drugs

and in favor of law enforcement,

sending dealers the message.

Down with dope!

[Hart] You got people
in the Black community

saying something has to be done.

Crack kills! Crack kills!

[reporter 3] In Miami, at the request
of church and civic groups,

police added
special anti-crack motorcycle patrols.

-You're glad to see them, though?
-Yes. Yes, I am.

Somebody has to do something.

Hey, pusher! Hey, you!

Black men out here are watching you.

Hey, pusher! Hey, you!

[Butts] People were frightened.
They didn't know what else to do.

When you're surrounded
by that much violence,

that much ugliness...

They resort to what they think
will stop the madness.

If I had my way,
I'd borrow the Ringling Brothers' cages

and cage these drug pushers
and exhibit them in all the neighborhoods

so the kids can see scum.
That's what they are, scum.

[Hart] We have our congressman
from Harlem, Charlie Rangel at the time,

and he's telling Ronald Reagan,

"You're not doing enough
for the Black community.

You don't care about us."

In order to win a war,

you have to have the resources,
and resources cost money.

And there's no question in anybody's mind

that the American people
are prepared to pay for it.

[Rangel] Lock them up,
get them off the street.

There was no question in my mind
at that time the community was behind it.

And the ministers...

they would just raise hell
with the politicians.

"Why have we elected you?"
"Why aren't our streets safer?"

You can buy crack
when you can't buy a bottle of milk.

And I'm saying sentence them for life.

[crowd] No more crack!

We want our building back!

No more drugs! No more crack!

[Butts] It was so crazy...

parents would beg
to lock their own children up...

because they were out here
dealing in drugs.

People have to take a stand,
like we're doing.

If they want drugs
out of the neighborhood,

they've got to take a stand.

[crowd continues chanting]

[Hart] So, the community think it's wrong,

politicians think it's wrong,
Republicans and Democrats.

I mean, it was a politician's wet dream.

It's sleazebags of greed and slime
that make millions.

Our children are gonna
continue to be exposed

to that horrible,
horrible new concoction called crack.

Cocaine used to be
the exclusive pastime of the wealthy.

Now, it can be bought
with allowance money.

So, it's 1986.
There's gonna be an election.

All the members of the House
of Representatives are up for re-election.

And now,

"The War on Drugs is an opportunity
to talk about how tough I am."

The Speaker of the House is Tip O'Neill.

And he says,
"I want a comprehensive anti-drug bill."

And he wants it done in four weeks,

so that members can go campaign
on what they've accomplished.

How tough they've been.

How to stop this plague in its tracks.

If I had my way,

I would take all the drug pushers,
take Alcatraz,

and send them there for life
without the privilege of any visitors.

[Sterling] It's hard, generally,
for the public to appreciate

how long it takes for a bill to go from
first being introduced to finally passing

the House and the Senate
and being signed by the President.

In Washington, it might take years.

[all applauding]

[Sterling] But Tip O'Neill wants this done
in four weeks.

So, in that window,

in pretty much the last week, it comes up,

"Let's write these mandatory minimums
and throw the book at these dope dealers."

Today, it gives me great pleasure
to sign legislation

that reflects the total commitment
of the American people

and their government
to fight the evil of drugs.

[crowd applauding]

It was the most unjust federal law
ever written.

It has a ratio of powder cocaine...

100 grams gets you a certain sentence,

one gram of crack
gets you the same sentence.

If you've seen a sugar packet
in the restaurant, that's one gram.

There's a tiny amount of stuff.

Five of those tiny amounts of crack
would get you a minimum of five years,

up to 40 years
under the legislation that passed.

Five grams of crack,
500 grams of powder cocaine...

the same sentence.

Many people thought,

"Well, that must be because

Congress thought that crack was 100 times
more dangerous than powder cocaine."


This was a feature of the haste
with which we wrote this.

So fast we're not even thinking straight
about what we're trying to accomplish.

It was a screw-up.

It was screw-up on top of screw-up
on top of screw-up.

That happened in 1986.

And that law targeted "traffickers".

That's... 1988, they extended that law

to include anybody
who possessed crack-cocaine.

The decision in the 1988 legislation

to associate a mandatory minimum penalty

with the possession
of a small amount of crack-cocaine

was part of a larger shift and a decision

on the part of officials
in the Reagan administration

to criminalize drug abusers,

and specifically to criminalize
people who abused crack.

[sighs] The thinking
at the time was that...

crack... was being used...

more openly in the Black community,

and cocaine was a secret drug

that middle class people used
that didn't hurt anybody.

They weren't mugging, they weren't
killing, they weren't robbing.

The whole idea, if you could concentrate
on where the most damage to society was...

And it was overkill.
Clearly, it was overkill.

There was no justification.

And I guess the best answer to it...

is an oft-time phrase that you've heard,

"Seemed like a good idea at the time."

I, George Herbert Walker Bush,
do solemnly swear...

"I will faithfully execute the office...."

[Michael Isikoff] In 1989,

the polls show that drugs were

the number-one issue
that the public was concerned about.

So, George H.W. Bush had come into office

vowing to crack down on the drug epidemic
that was confronting the country.

[Bush] My friends, we have work to do.

There are those who cannot free themselves
of enslavement to whatever addiction,

drugs, welfare,
the demoralization that rules the slums.

[Isikoff] Remember, George H.W. Bush
was Reagan's vice president.

He actually had been
in charge of anti-drug operations

for the White House in the early years
of the Reagan Administration.

So, he had every reason to want to show

he was gonna be tougher than anybody.

[Bush] There are few clear areas

in which we as a society
must rise up united

and express our intolerance.

And the most obvious now is drugs.

And there is much to be done...

and to be said.

But take my word for it,
this scourge will stop!

[Levine] The political attention
on the drug issue

and the crack issue was escalating.

Drugs become almost the antithesis
of the American way of life.

Drugs is the enemy that we must destroy.

[eerie music playing]

[Scott] I was working with DEA.

And I was asked to purchase drugs
in front of the White House one day.

So... I called one of the drug dealers
I'd been dealing with.

I said, "Come to the White House."

He said, "Where the fuck is that?"

I had to actually tell him
how to get there.

When he came down there,
we sat on the little park bench.

He gave me the drugs,
I gave him the money.

You can see the people in the background
going into the White House.

All of us agree that the gravest domestic
threat facing our nation today is drugs.

[Isikoff] This was
President George H.W. Bush's

first national TV address.

I remember watching it, and, uh...

the President had this...

gimmick that nobody expected.


This is crack-cocaine.

Seized a few days ago
by drug enforcement agents

in a park just across the street
from the White House.

Lo and behold, George Bush holds up
the drugs I just bought, on TV.

I almost fell out of my chair.

It was crazy. I could not believe that.
I couldn't believe it.

Because it was a setup.

It's as innocent-looking as candy.

But it's turning our cities
into battle zones.

It was a case of political theater.

The White House manipulating
a real... young kid...

for political purposes in order
to score and make a political point.

Here, the rules have changed.

If you sell drugs, you will be caught.

And when you're caught,
you will be prosecuted.

And once you're convicted,
you will do time.

The White House acknowledged today
that a dramatic moment

in President Bush's speech
declaring war on drugs

resulted from a setup
by American drug agents.

He went there and sold drugs
in front of the White House, didn't he?

That was the bottom line.

That's what the man did
and he was arrested for it.

I hope he's arrested for it. I don't know.

I can't feel sorry for this fella.

So, this teenager with no priors,
no record of violence, um,

ended up spending nearly
a decade of his life in federal prison.

[bagpipes playing]

[reporter] More evidence that
the cities are losing the war on drugs

came as New York's police
buried one of their own today.

Twenty-two-year-old Edward Byrne
was shot to death early Friday morning.

[Pegues] The Eddie Byrne story
was a big, big deal.

You're talking about a rookie cop
getting murdered by drug dealers.

Just sitting in the car. And he didn't...
He didn't do anything.

If our son Eddie, sitting in a police car,
representing and protecting us...

can be wasted...

by scum...

then none of us are safe.

[Styles] What happened to Len Bias
just brought attention.

There wasn't no real action
from the police.

But after Edward Byrne
got killed in Queens,

they were, like, "You killed one
of our police officers because of this?

Now y'all gonna feel it.
The whole nation is gonna feel it."

This is a promise.

The killing must and will stop.

♪ Woop-woop
That's the sound of the police ♪

♪ Woop-woop
That's the sound of the beast ♪

♪ Woop-woop
That's the sound of the police ♪

♪ Woop-woop
That's the sound of the beast ♪

All right! I ain't got nothing, man!

One murder changed
the police departments around America.

[Styles] Police went crazy.

They went crazy.

♪ You can't stand where I stand
You can't walk where I walk ♪

♪ Watch out! We run New York ♪

♪ Policeman come
We bust him out the park ♪

♪ I know this for a fact
You don't like... ♪

They developed this new task force
that they called TNT.

[reporter] The Manhattan South
Tactical Narcotics Team

arrested several drug customers
after buying crack in the park.

[Pegues] They took
every cop they could find

and threw them into this unit,
and all day they was doing buy-and-busts.

We the police. You under arrest.

The majority of crack users were white,

but a lot of the people involved
in the economy were people of color.

And the police specifically targeted

the populations of color that were
involved in this underground economy.

[reporter] A massive police crackdown
on crack.

[Styles] They would make these big sweeps.

[reporter] The largest drug sweep ever
in a single neighborhood.

[Styles] And when that swoop comes
and they snatch you,

if they take ten cracks off of one person,
and you have none,

they will split it
and give him five and you five.

-[door smashing]

[Styles] They was coming
at the hood with a vengeance.

-Okay, okay!
-Put your face on the ground!

[officer] Crawl! Get down on your hands!

And from there on, it changed.

They putting on the cuffs,
your ass was getting locked up.

♪ Woop-woop
That's the sound of the beast ♪

[Butts] These kids would be stopped
on the street, frisked.

They could be thrown into a police car.

Kept locked up in the system
three, four days

before anybody knew where you were.

They said, "You're dealing drugs,
you're going to jail."

Fifteen, 20, 30 years. Doesn't matter.

Especially if you're Black.

[Rodriguez] With the police... they don't
know what the hell they're doing.

Because they can't differentiate
the good from the bad.

You guys all look alike.
You all act alike.

So you all get treated the same.

I was arrested for being in possession
of a controlled substance.

And that substance was crack.

You know, I remember my leg
being pulled on about 3:00 in the morning,

and woken up to get dressed
to be shipped off to prison.

Me and about 70 other women,

put into a large room,
stripped out of our clothing.

Every part of our body looked at.

And then chained together
in this long chain and put on a bus.

Early in the morning.

And driven off to this place
that I've never been before.

I don't know where I'm going.

And as I'm taking this trip,
I'm thinking about my ancestors.

And I think of,
"What progress have we actually made?"

[announcer] Ladies and gentlemen,

the President
of the United States of America,

William Jefferson Clinton.

[Sterling] Bush played an important role
in laying the groundwork,

but Clinton, then,
has to be even tougher...

because that's the thing.

People have got to be tougher.

We will have the means by which we can
say punishment will be more certain.

We will put 100,000 police officers
on the street, a 20% increase.

Go! Move! Move! Move!

[eerie music playing]

Get down!

The war on drugs
helped turn the police into soldiers.

All right. Hold it.
Hold it. Freeze! Freeze!

[Hinton] Tens of millions
of dollars from Congress

goes to helicopters
and to militarizing police forces.

There is restructuring of policing
from ordinary beat cops

to creating these elite, funded units

that are given special resources
and special powers.

[Hinton] We begin to see
a new level of investment

into targeting
low-income communities of color...

with policing and surveillance,

while making sentences
more Draconian and more punitive.


[man] My wife and kids are in there, man.

Oh, my God!

The federal anti-drug budget
is up to $12 billion.

So, it's six times what it was
when Reagan started,

and it keeps climbing.

[Bill Clinton] When I sign
this crime bill,

we together are taking a big step

toward bringing
the laws of our land back into line

with the values of our people.

[Hinton] The 1994 crime bill supports
new police officers on the streets

of not just big cities
like New York and Chicago,

but smaller cities like your Indiana
and Flint and Stockton, California.

There's tens of millions of dollars
going into expanding the prison system.

And that is when
we really begin to see the explosion

of prison populations in the US.

[Hart] Incarceration rates
take off under Clinton.

But then...

about the same time, '94,
people start to become concerned

that the people who were
being arrested for crack

were almost exclusively Black.

[Murch] Two-thirds
of crack users were white.

But between the passage
of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act in 1988

and 1994,
the passage of Clinton's crime bill,

not a single white person was convicted

of a federal crack offense in Los Angeles.

[Murch] There is just massive outrage
in the African-American community

about mass incarceration,

and also about the damage
inflicted by the crack economy itself.

Much of the anger
became focused on the CIA...

and its role in helping
to create the crack crisis.

It doesn't make any difference.

Whether they delivered the kilo themselves

or turned their heads
while somebody else did it,

they're just as guilty.

I am going to make somebody pay
for what they have done

to my community and to my people.

[crowd applauds]

I think the CIA is involved.

The CIA's been involved
in every ugly thing that's happened

over the last 20 or 30 years.

We are your wake-up call!

[Kornbluh] The crack epidemic
affected the poverty levels,

the safety levels of communities.

People's health was affected.

People's lives were ended or changed.

People lost their freedom.

[woman] I'm not bringing drugs
into the country.

See, there are people in major positions

-that are doing this.
-Has to be.

[Kornbluh] So, it is
certainly understandable

why a community that was
so disproportionately affected

would rise up in disgust and horror

at any implication that the US government
was even a little bit involved

in drugs coming into their community.

[dramatic music playing]

Los Angeles was the epicenter for crack
in the 1980s and 1990s.

Much of the anger in Los Angeles
spills over into the rest of the country,

and LA becomes the center,
the epicenter of organizing.

And this organizing ultimately forces
the head of the CIA, John Deutch,

to come to Los Angeles
and to speak at a high school in Watts.

The director of the CIA
was in Los Angeles today,

trying to put down reports
that the CIA, in the past,

connived to spread crack-cocaine
in America's inner cities.

[Murch] It's this moment, essentially,
of the community confronting the CIA.

In Baldwin Village where I live,
there are no jobs for the children.

And our kids are commodities.

They're being cycled through the prisons.

They come back to the street

and they're marked and scarred
for the rest of their life.

We are tired and we're hurt,
and we're angry.

Give us explanations.

You, the President, and everybody else
should be highly upset...

and say, "How did this cancer get here?

How did it happen?"

[Deutch] Now, we all know

that the US government 
and the CIA supported

the Contras and their efforts to overthrow

the Sandinista government in Nicaragua
in the middle-'80s.

Now, it is alleged the CIA also helped
the Contras raise money for arms

by introducing
crack-cocaine into California.

It is an appalling charge.

It is a charge that cannot go unanswered.

I've asked the CIA Inspector General
to undertake a full investigation.

I think it's pretty evident
that the sentiment in this room

is that of pain, anger,
and especially that of mistrust.

How can we feel comfortable
with an investigation

that's going to be conducted by someone
on the government payroll

to investigate the CIA in its wrongdoing?

[crowd applauds]

This is some bullshit, buddy.

[crowd applauds]


[woman] Wait just a minute.

[Kornbluh] The CIA's Inspector General
did do a rather large report.

And, in fact, it did contain
a series of new revelations

about the extent to which
the CIA either looked the other way,

knew about,
or collaborated with drug smugglers

in their quest to overthrow
the Sandinista government.

The Reagan administration cared less
about cocaine coming into this country

than they did about waging
an illegal paramilitary war

against a little country
in Central America

that basically represented no threat

to the security
of the United States of America.

Drugs, of course, do represent a threat.

If you got a war on drugs...
is it not a war on the people

that are supplying the drugs?

Or is it only a war
on the victims of the drug war?

That was the hypocrisy.

And... sadly... we never addressed it.

People died. Communities are ravaged.

Nothing ever was done.

We left the communities of color
to be devastated.

[Burton] I was sentenced to prison
six different times.

You would have thought
someone would have said...

that you don't have a criminal problem...

you have an alcohol or a drug problem.

And there's help for that.

But I was never offered any help.

And I read the papers today...

and I look
at the approach to opioid use...

and you hear about a health approach.

Not a criminal approach.

I'm 21 years sober now.

Wasn't I worth an investment in treatment?

[softly] I'm sorry.


[sighs] For the past...

20-some years...

I've been living with PTSD.

It really started once I got shot.

And every now and again, you know,
I might have a bipolar episode.

Mood swings here and there.

I have anxiety, you know.

So, I mean, these are things
that I have to deal with

because of the choices that I made.


[Styles] I was shot in 1988.

Five times.

I went away for three years.

I got locked up
for gun possession and drug possession.

I really lost myself.

I have plenty of regrets...

for the role I played in the crack era.


I lost a lot of friends.

A lot of friends. Almost all of them.

I lost my job.

I lost my home.

It made me lose everything.
Everything. And...

I got to the point
where I didn't care no more.

Especially after I asked my sister
to take my girls.

It changed me
from the person that I was...

to where I'm at now.

Oh, my God.

I have to think about my cousins.

My friends...

who were put in the system

before 18...

because of this thing we're calling crack.

[sad instrumental music playing]

[Hart] There's a proverb.

I went back to my old neighborhood
and I yelled, "Where are my friends?"

And an echo came back and said,

"Where are my friends?"

[ethereal music playing]