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Pro-cannabis 420 sign appears on Belfast's Divis Mountain

Cannabis advocates placed a sign on Belfast's Divis Mountain yesterday to mark '420 Day'.

April 20 (US date format) has become a day when supporters of marijuana use and legalisation celebrate cannabis culture.

A large '420' and what appeared to be a 'joint' appeared on the mountain and could be seen from across the city.

Twitter user 'Stevo' said: "Funny to think one of the first things tourists are gonna see in belfast is '420' on the mountain hahahahah."

Meanwhile in Derry up to 200 people gathered in the shadow of the city's Guildhall afternoon to smoke cannabis in unison, joining thousands of supporters around the world.

A Legenderry Cannabis Club spokesman said it was a demonstration to show that people who took cannabis were "done being criminalised".

"They say sharing a spliff is drug dealing, but I say it's caring," he said.

"This is a peaceful protest to show we want change and we want it now. We need to show the PSNI and anyone else watching that we as a community are done being criminalised and forced into the dark by their discrimination on us for making healthier lifestyle choices."

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Barry Brown of pro-cannabis party CISTA said he had smoked a joint during the protest.

"I had prepared one to light up at 4.20pm. It was lovely. I knew that the police would be walking among the crowd," he revealed.

"The crowd were well behaved, everyone knew why they were here. We were here in peaceful solidarity. The law needs to change." Former People Before Profit MLA Eamonn McCann also joined the protest, although he refused to be drawn on whether he partook of a spliff.

"It is illegality that makes cannabis dangerous," he said. "Remove the legal ban on cannabis and all things will be transformed.

"If I had smoked a joint in Guildhall Square, I wouldn't believe that I had done anything terribly wrong. That's not to say I did smoke a joint."

Dozens of police officers in high-visibility jackets patrolled around the protest initially before moving in and searching people.

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The PSNI said a number of people were searched under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

A 15-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of possession of a class B-controlled drug and remained in custody last night.

A 17-year-old boy was also spoken to by police and taken home.

Protesters moved to outside Strand Road PSNI station after the arrest, where they stood chanting the name of the young man.

Meanwhile in London, scores of marijuana lovers descended on Hyde Park in an attempt to stage the "world's biggest celebration of cannabis".

Similar events took place across the world.

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Where does term 420 come from?

The term originates from a group known as the Waldos who, in the 1970s, used to to meet at 4:20pm to search for a cannabis crop that they had learned about based on a 'treasure map' made by the grower.

The term ultimately evolved into a codeword to mean marijuana-smoking in general.

Divis Mountain: A natural resource... for those who want to put message across to a whole city

Divis Mountain, the highest of the distinctive peaks of the Belfast Hills, hosts a rich variety of grasslands, bogs and wildlife.

The 1,275ft slope is enjoyed by scores of walkers getting a taste of the countryside and stunning views just minutes from the bustling city centre.

However, the mountain is also host to a bizarre natural giant noticeboard.

From deriding US Presidents, to targeting the Queen, this natural beauty is regularly host to political messages.

It was a no go area during the Troubles when its peak was used by the British Army.

Now, despite having been handed back for public use, dissident republicans are making it infamous for political messages, jarring sharply with the giant steps forward Belfast has made away from its troubled past.

The Hatchet Field – so-called because of its distinctive shape – is the chosen spot for these messages, with its prominent position visible from across the city.

It is visible from Titanic Belfast, where in June 2012 the Queen visited just hours after making history by shaking the hand of Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness.

As Her Majesty officially opened the new centre in the sunshine, the nationalist message 'Eriu Is Our Queen' daubed across the mountainside would have been impossible to miss (Eriu is the mythological goddess of Ireland).

That message sparked violence when a mob of loyalists ascended the Hatchet Field and tried to remove the sign.

At least one person was taken to hospital with injuries after rival factions clashed on the mountain.

Just two months later the words 'End Internment' were erected on the mountain as riots took place across the city in another grim reminder of the past.

The following June, as world leaders came to Fermanagh when we hosted the G8 summit for the first time, amid the excitement, others had a different message as the prominent guests were referred to as 'War Criminals'.

Previously, Divis was used to make a point aimed at the most powerful man on the globe during a visit to Northern Ireland – with the message 'No Bush'.

In June 2008, then US President George W Bush visited the province for an economic summit.

While the red carpet was rolled out for him by the establishment, that distinctly frostier message sent from the slopes of Belfast was a lot less welcoming for him.

During his visit Mr Bush praised the progress made in Northern Ireland over the past 10 years as "unimaginable" after meeting First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

And while former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher may have been a polarising figure, a message that appeared on Divis on the day of her funeral in April 2013 reading 'Thatcher The Real Criminal' would not have been a eulogy she would have appreciated, and it inevitably sparked outrage among unionists.

In the early 1980s Sinn Fein used the mountain as part of its campaign of support for the hunger strikers at the Maze Prison.

More recently it has moved away from the practice, and has now called on others to also desist from erecting signage.

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