ATLANTA — A letter back in May from a private citizen to City of Atlanta attorneys set forth a challenge to Music Midtown's weapons policies. It contended weapons restrictions were incompatible with Georgia law, and demanded that the festival's permit be revoked.
Festival organizers did not explicitly state why - in a statement, they said only that the cancelation was "due to circumstances beyond our control."
Gun regulations have been the focus of speculation about the reason for the cancelation - with a possible legal challenge to the festival's weapons policy looming as a complication. Music Midtown's policy to prohibit weapons "of any kind" at its Piedmont Park festival conflicts with the state's gun laws, which allow the legal carrying of firearms in public parks.
Additionally, sources who work for the festival hosted by Live Nation told Rolling Stone that it was Georgia's gun laws that led to the event being canceled.
If so, the May letter could have set the events in motion leading to this week's decision by organizers.
Highlighting both a security pat-down policy and the weapons ban, Phillip Evans wrote to the city's legal department:
There are a couple of problems with this. First of all, I do NOT agree that purchasing a ticket is a surrender of my 2nd and 4th Amendment Rights. And I would highly object to being groped by privately hired security. The second problem is that lawfully carried weapons CANNOT be banned in public parks UNLESS a lessee of the park holds a lease which confers an estate for years (Georgia Supreme Court case Georgia Carry and Phillip Evans v. Atlanta Botanical Garden), and I can assure you that no private entity is leasing the general public area of Piedmont Park with this type of lease.
Evans has challenged weapons policies at other venues, and his reference to the Georgia Supreme Court decision is a case in which he challenged a ban at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, which is located inside Piedmont Park.
The state Supreme Court held there that, essentially, because the Atlanta Botanical Garden is a permanent fixture at the park, it can operate as a normal private enterprise and have in place whatever weapons policy it wants.
Evans noted that Music Midtown, as a temporary annual festival, would not meet the same bar.
Further, he wrote:
If the Atlanta Police Department will in any way participate in or enforce the pat-down and weapons policy of the Festival organizers, that would be an unlawful abuse of citizens' rights under color of law, and such a violation would not be covered under the qualified immunity doctrine.
Because the Festival organizers have publicly stated their intent to screen for and ban weapons contrary to state law, I'm demanding that you revoke their permit to hold the event unless they agree to follow state law and rescind this policy.
Attorney and the Vice President of gun rights advocacy group GA2A , John Monroe, told 11Alive that "if you're leasing public property on a short-term basis, like for a weekend festival or something like that, then you have to abide by the same rules that apply to the public entity."
"So in the case of Piedmont Park, which is owned by the City of Atlanta, the city cannot ban guns there," he said.
He added that he did not personally know the exact reason why Live Nation canceled Music Midtown, but said: "They could have just followed state law and not banned guns."
To read the full correspondence with the City of Atlanta, see the PDF below: