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article imageCity of Toronto denies Afrofest, Freedom Festival event permits Special

By Andrew Moran     Mar 16, 2011 in Politics
Toronto - It has been reported that Toronto City Hall has denied requests for a permit for the annual Afrofest, which celebrates African culture near the Ontario Legislature at Queen's Park. Toronto Freedom Festival has also been denied a special event permit.
Last year, downtown Toronto’s Queen’s Park was the venue for the 22nd annual Afrofest, which was presented by Music Africa and celebrates African culture, such as its music, clothing, food and its history. Thousands of people came out during the weekend festival, and turned out to be a success.
But according to the Toronto Sun, Toronto’s Park, Forestry and Recreations Department denied the festival’s organizers a special permit. The department’s manager, Sandy Straw, said in an e-mail to organizers that the event will not be considered for a permit due to violations committed in 2010 and previous years.
“I encourage you to develop a plan that is in compliance with parks, forestry and recreation special event guidelines,” wrote Straw.
The city of Toronto refused to issue a permit because they argue that the event caused traffic, it created a lot of noise – music was played after 11 p.m. – organizers and attendees failed to clean up their garbage and it caused extensive damage, including to its turf, reports the Globe and Mail.
Tristen Coffey s store s merchandise during Afrofest 2010 at Queen s Park in downtown Toronto.
Tristen Coffey's store's merchandise during Afrofest 2010 at Queen's Park in downtown Toronto.
Afrofest organizers say this has come as a shock because planning is underway and vendors and musicians are being booked. “This is the most significant event every year,” said Michael Stohr, Afrofest president. “People are shocked and stunned by what is happening. I think Afrofest as we know it is gone. I think the festival would be set back 20 years if we moved to another venue.”
In an e-mail, one vendor, Tristen Coffey, stated that he is upset by the city’s decision and urged organizers and supporters of the event to stage a protest because of the accusations made by the city.
“There should definitely be a protest against this because it has no merit,” said Coffey. “He [Rob Ford] was there last year trying to get the black vote! (and looking very awkward and uncomfortable while doing it [by the way]).”
Coffey added that he considers Ford to be similar to former Ontario Premier Mike Harris because of the cuts being implemented by the municipal government. Harris was known for the “common sense revolution” where his mandate was to cut taxes, balance the budget and reduce the role of government.
Tens of thousands of Torontonians gathered at Queen s Park in downtown Toronto where many lounged ar...
Tens of thousands of Torontonians gathered at Queen's Park in downtown Toronto where many lounged around, smoked pot and listened to the music. Merchants also supplied many marijuana supplies such as bongs.
Brian Mason, who also runs a table at the annual festival with his wife, is perplexed by the decision. Mason explained that when he was there there wasn’t anything wrong with the event and he didn’t witness any of the claims made by the city.
“I was reading the Toronto Life article and I laughed at one of their lines where they call this move a ‘war on fun,’” said Mason in an e-mail. “Afrofest was a fun event, it was educational and everyone seemed to be having a good time. I just don’t understand where they get their information from. I can agree that there was some mess, but every event that is held has some garbage on the ground.”
Mason further explained that event organizers should definitely seek someone in higher office in terms of getting a permit. “Maybe if those who run the event could go to the ward’s city councillor, or even a staff member of the mayor’s team, then maybe this festival can continue and the issue be resolved immediately.”
It was also noted by Toronto Life that the city denied permit requests from the annual Toronto Freedom Festival, which holds a marijuana march and urges the government of Canada to legalize the controversial substance.
Last year, the event attracted approximately 30,000 people and pumped $1 million into the local economy. “We are very disappointed,” said festival spokesperson Crystal Reinhard. “We are still hoping to have an event at Queen’s Park but we are also looking for another venue.”
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