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City Denies Special Events Permit to 420 London

420 Celebrations Roll On

by Eric Shepperd

City Denies Special Events Permit to 420 London

To: London City Council, Mayor Joe Fontana, City Clerk Saunders
Cc: William C Coxhead, The Internet
Re: 420 Festival London

Good day,

I write today in regard to a special event permit application submitted to the City of London's Parks and Recreation Division on April 6th, 2013 for "420 Festival London". After ten days of review I received an e-mail with a letter signed by William C. Coxhead informing me that my application had been denied. This letter included several reasons for the rejection of the application. The purpose of my letter today is to inform you of the nature and purpose of the application and express my disagreement with the decision and its reasoning.

First, some background. April 20th has come to be known internationally as a day for raising awareness of and opposing cannabis prohibition and the larger "war on drugs". In most cities in North America medical and recreational users, activists, and concerned citizens gather in public spaces to make their views known, culminating in a mass demonstration at the hour of 4:20PM. In the vast majority of cities, these celebrations are peaceful and orderly, with a minimal police presence monitoring the event. Until 2010, London's "420" demonstrations were similar in nature. In that year the police presence in Victoria Park was markedly increased and strict enforcement actions were undertaken. Subsequent years saw an escalation of tensions between participants and police, increasing the risk to public safety. Ironically, the risk to public safety was primarily instigated by the actions of the London Police Service as demonstrations of this sort are an inherently relaxed affair.

420 Festival London is intended as a way to ameliorate these risks, suitably compensate the City of London for its services, and provide legal liability protection. Our goal is to present a family-friendly event with a positive attitude, minimizing the risk to public safety and ensuring that all interested citizens can participate without fear or discomfort. The plan for 420 Festival London includes music, potluck food, games, and an opportunity for Londoners to meet and freely associate in the park. While it is understood that the event is associated with what might be termed as "illegal activities" no such activities are being encouraged by the festival organizers. Though the London Police Service will understandably and justifiably have a presence in Victoria Park at this time, it is our opinion that the atmosphere of the event will dictate the interactions between participants and police officers. In our eyes, a legally sanctioned event with music and washroom facilities will produce a safer and more aesthetically pleasing experience than one with an unwelcoming tone and inevitable confrontation. While we cannot control the actions of individuals, we would prefer an atmosphere conducive to positive interactions over one that may produce "bad behaviour" as we have seen these past few years.

I must also express disappointment in my interactions with the Parks and Recreation Division. The permit application was submitted for review on April 6th, and I was advised that I would be contacted "at some point" with the result. Attempts were made on no less than four occasions to ascertain the status of our request, met with a response that it is still "under review". Upon finally receiving the notification of rejection by telephone, I was not advised of the reasons for the decision until much later in the day. Several of the reasons outlined were correctable factors. Had the organizing committee been informed of these problems at any point during the process, we would have had the opportunity to resolve the situation and work together with the Division to achieve an acceptable resolution. At best, this is a regrettable failure in communication and an example of opaque and publicly-inaccessible bureaucracy. At worst, the situation has come about by a deliberate act of foot-dragging, preventing the timely resolution of problems with the application in order to obstruct the production of this event.

At this point, we have been advised that it is too late to reverse the decision of the Division and process the necessary paperwork for a legally-sanctioned event. Nevertheless, individuals will inevitably gather in Victoria Park on Saturday, April 20th for this celebration. Though not having the ability to officially co-ordinate the event, the organizing committee of the 420 Festival will persist in our efforts to promote a positive, peaceful, and respectful attitude in the park despite the factors that may hinder this goal. It is our deepest wish that all involved including participants, city officials, members of the press, and police have an enjoyable and safe experience.

I thank you for your time and consideration.

Eric Shepperd

420 London Facebook Event:

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