Cancellation of Atlanta festival sparks new gun fight

ATLANTA (AP) — Tens of thousands of Music Midtown festival-goers will no longer descend on Atlanta’s sprawling Piedmont Park next month to cheer on hip-hop star Future or watch beloved rock band My Chemical Romance. to get on stage.

In fact, some people are convinced that Atlanta – the center of the country’s hip-hop music scene – will lose more music festivals and performances on public lands as organizers and artists learn that the law of State almost forbids them to prevent people from carrying arms among themselves. drunken crowds.

That prospect has sparked a new battle over gun rights in Georgia that is disrupting the race for governor, casting a shadow over Atlanta’s vaunted music scene and adding to the tension between city and state.

Live Nation declined to say why it recently canceled Music Midtown in September, a longtime hangout for pop music fans.

But news outlets, citing unnamed sources, attributed last week’s announcement to a 2019 Georgia Supreme Court ruling that set limits on private businesses’ ability to ban firearms on property. public. The decision stemmed from a 2014 state law that expanded where guns were allowed.

Democrats, led by Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, rushed to the news, citing the cancellation as an example of the kind of economic fallout the state would suffer from the “extreme gun program.” fire” from Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. Although the gun law cited in reports on Music Midtown was signed into law under Kemp’s Republican predecessor, Kemp was a leading proponent of a new state law this year that eliminated the need a license — and with it, a background check — to carry a handgun in Public.

An editorial in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution warned that the gun policy threatens Atlanta’s status as the “cultural capital of the South.” Atlanta City Council Speaker Doug Shipman lamented the loss of this year’s Music Midtown, as well as its schedule.

“All of these things are culminating at a time when we should be coming out of COVID with music festivals and people gathering, lots of economic activity,” he told The Associated Press.

Beyond the immediate fallout, the fight has also added to a disconnect between Georgia’s heavily Democratic capital and the GOP-controlled state legislature that recently expanded gun rights and restricted abortion and sexual abuse. access to vote. State leaders clashed with huge Atlanta-based corporations Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola over the vote changes, which the companies called “unacceptable”.

Live Nation did not respond to emails about Music Midtown’s cancellation. The festival’s website cited “circumstances beyond our control,” but no one from the company publicly blamed state gun laws.

Phillip Evans, a gun rights activist who previously sued the Atlanta Botanical Garden over its gun-free policy, said he warned Music Midtown organizers that their no-gun policy was contrary to state law. Evans’ lawsuit prompted the state’s 2019 Supreme Court ruling that private companies with some type of lease on public lands could not ban guns.

Live Nation planned to host the festival in Piedmont Park – public land – where the festival had taken place every year since 2011, with the exception related to the 2020 coronavirus. And it almost certainly fell into the rental category that would ban firearms. illegal fire.

“In terms of Music Midtown, it’s pretty much obvious that they can’t ban guns there,” said John Monroe, an attorney who represented a gun rights group in the case before the state Supreme Court.

Canceling the gun law event would make sense from Live Nation’s perspective, said Georgia State University law professor Timothy Lytton.

A mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas in 2017 that left more than 50 dead cost MGM Resorts International – the concert venue’s owner – and its insurers $800 million in legal claims . In the absence of gun restrictions, Live Nation was looking at potentially “astronomical” exposure to liability at Music Midtown, Lytton said.

The cancellation has dealt a blow to the Georgian economy and local businesses.

Abrams said in a statement that Kemp “cares more about protecting dangerous people carrying guns in public than saving jobs and keeping business in Georgia,” and his campaign this week ran an attack ad focused on cancellation. Democrats in other states also weighed in.

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak tweeted, “Here in Nevada, we believe in common sense when it comes to gun safety and protecting our reproductive rights. @MusicMidtown, we’d love to have you in the Silver state! North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper also invited Music Midtown to his state.

Kemp has accused Abrams and other Democrats of “pushing” critical narratives of Georgia’s gun landscape to distract from inflation he blames on party politics.

Georgia also recently took fire from Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom over a state law banning most abortions once fetal heart activity is present. The law came into effect last month.

Newsom ran an ad in entertainment magazine ‘Variety’ last week urging movie companies to end production in states, including Georgia, which he accuses of a “cruel assault on essential rights”. State tax credits have made Georgia a major destination for film production. .

Kemp told reporters last week he was not worried about attempts by Democratic governors, including in California, to lure businesses away from Georgia.

“Have you checked gas prices in those states recently?” Kemp said, citing Georgia’s strong industrial development, tourism and movie numbers.

Gun rights advocates have identified at least one other music venue in Atlanta that they believe may violate the 2014 gun law — Chastain Park, which features an amphitheater tucked away in an affluent residential neighborhood and prohibits “weapons” at shows.

But activists say they are not looking to end the events, just to protect themselves.

“If I’m going somewhere in a big crowd, I want to be able to carry my gun,” said Jerry Henry, executive director of Georgia Second Amendment. “I assure you there will be criminals there.”


Associated Press writers Jeff Amy and Bill Barrow contributed to this report.

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