Jesse Willesee Speaks Out About His On-Air Shirtless Drug Protest

You guys know Jesse Willesee by now, yeah? 
He’s the guy that staged a 420 protest on the steps of Sydney’s Town Hall, and is known for his activism, his art, and the photos of himself smoking up outside authoritative buildings such as Parliament House and random police stations. 
He has long been a supporter and activist for the legalisation of marijuana, and this led to him being featured on ‘Australians On Drugs’, the panel show held by Triple J‘s Tom Tilley. However, he barely managed to get a word in edgeways – so, he took off his shirt, to reveal a barely visible message underneath. Despite the removal of one’s shirt as a protest being reasonably overdone in modern society (#FreeTheNipple being the main culprit), and despite leaving many viewers stumped as to why he interrupted the very conversation he was campaigning for, Jesse believes his stunt was a success. 

Now that the dust has settled, Jesse wants ya’ll to know why he did what he did, why the fuck he didn’t face the right camera, and why he won’t let domineering old white dudes silence him:

Did you tell anyone involved with program about the stunt you planned on pulling with the writing on your chest?

No, absolutely not. In fact, I was worried they were going to see the writing through my shirt while they were micing me up.

Were you told to face a specific camera? 

No I wasn’t – but I figured since my whole protest lasted almost 30 seconds that someone would have thought to turn it around to face me. I copped a lot of criticism for the camera angle, but there were five cameras there so you’d think when I took my shirt off to reveal a slogan on my chest, someone could have got a close up. But I had a photo ready to put on social media the moment I walked out. I suspected they might turn the camera away, thinking I was going to get naked or wave an Isis flag or something. 
What did the writing say, to confirm? 
It said: ‘Weed is not a crime’. 
What were your reasons for taking your shirt off? 
Well, to show what was written on my chest. It was an attention-grabbing way of displaying a slogan. It’s a modern protest and these protests are made to live online. So by basically meme-ing myself, I ensure thousands and thousands of shares. You guys know that – your video of my 420 arrest has over a million views. Plus I would have sparked up a doobie but I’m on a good behaviour bond. 
Many are saying the stunt was attempting to engage people in a conversation that was already happening, and that you could have made more of an impact by speaking about the topic, rather than taking off your shirt and walking away. Do you disagree? Why? 
Marijuana legislation wasn’t raised at all. I went in there with pages and pages of notes I spent the day preparing and barely got a word in. It was just a situation where I expected them to throw to people in the room more, but I felt Detective Superintendent Tony Cooke was dominating the conversation more often than not, and he did shut me down twice. Believe or not I was quite shy and I found it hard to yell over people to be heard. An important point is, I waited as far as I could towards the end of the debate – I was watching the clock run down – to make sure I interrupted as little as possible. The idea wasn’t to steamroll this forum, it was to fire up the conversation past that one hour blip of television. I left because I had ripped my mic off and I wasn’t going to sit there shirtless while the credits rolled. Plus when you drop the mic, it is traditional to walk off stage. 
Have people’s reactions to you regarding the stunt been positive or negative?
Well Twitter has no chill, but my Instagram followers loved it. I’m an artist and when I do a protest, it’s performance art; and like any artwork, people don’t have to like it. I wake up tomorrow and make more art. I’m not going to get fired because of one stunt. A lot of people said my 420 Town Hall protest was attention seeking too, but the whole point of a protest is to draw attention to your cause and I believe I was very successful at that. 
Do you believe in the legalisation of all drugs, or just marijuana? Why? 
Yes – all drugs but marijuana is the start and were are well behind in Australia on even medicinal marijuana legislation. I believe in harm minimisation and risk prevention. I support the Support Don’t Punish movement. 
How do you believe we can improve dialogue about drug issues, if not a televised panel of people talking about their experiences?
I feel as though we’ve had rational debate for some time and neither side is budging. If you watched Detective Superintendent Tony Cooke and Parliamentary Secretary Alan Tudge speaking about the issue and how self-assured and smug they each were on their viewpoints, you’d see that rational debate is having no effect on changing their minds. You need people like me getting up in people’s faces – it gets them riled up. Change comes when people are really passionate and really active, not preaching to the choir on either side of their fence.

You can watch Jesse’s 420 Town Hall protest (which is why he is on a good behaviour bond, mentioned above) below: