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Seattle Hempfest Sues City and Art Museum

NEWS RELEASE July 31, 2006 Contact: Dominic Holden ­ (206) 877-2240 Vivian McPeak ­ (206) 295-7258 Event backers file suit against City; Seattle Art Museum, Olympic Sculpture Park named Permit application unprocessed, sculpture park construction plans violate law, organizers say SEATTLE ­ The Seattle Hempfest is filing suit Monday in King County Superior Court against City officials Ken Bounds, the Parks Department Superintendent, and Virginia Swanson, the Special Events Committee Chair, to compel the officials to create safe access to Myrtle Edwards Park and issue a Special Event Permit in time for the August 2006 event. The permit application, filed on January 3, 2006, was supposed to have been acted upon within 60 days pursuant to City Ordinance (SMC 15.52.060). Gary Keese of the Law Department and Virginia Swanson assured Hempfest that the permit would be issued, but they have failed to do so. The City still has not determined the transportation plan and other conditions associated with the permit. Hempfest organizers say that they are running out of time and cannot wait any longer for the City to process the permit application. The problems stem from the Seattle Art Museum's (SAM's) Olympic Sculpture Park (OSP) construction project which restricts the approach to Myrtle Edwards Park from Alaska Way and Broad St. Portions of the entry path are only 14 feet wide and other parts remain unfinished. OSP officials have refused to negotiate a traffic plan for deliveries through the construction area, and the entrance to the park is too narrow to safely accommodate the large volume of event participants, organizers say. The City ordinance, which specifically names the Fourth of Jul-Ivar's and Hempfest, that granted SAM the privilege of building the Olympic Sculpture Park on City property also requires SAM to "ensure safe public access over the Boulevard to 'Special Events' (Seattle Municipal Ordinance #121974 and #122141)." Since the late fall of 2005, Hempfest has been meeting regularly with Seattle Art Museum and City officials to resolve all issues and allow adequate space for pedestrian access, as well as access for police and fire officials. Public safety is a top priority for Hempfest. The annual political festival features dozens of musical acts and speakers. This year's line up includes former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper and Seattle City Council President Nick Licata. Hundreds of exhibitors will sell hemp wares and dozens of organizations, including the ACLU and NORML, will advocate an end to the Drug War. The event has occurred annually in Seattle's parks every August and it has become a cherished part of Seattle's summer festival heritage. Hempfest is the largest marijuana law reform rally in the US and is expected to draw over 150,000 attendees over the weekend of Saturday, August 19 and Sunday, August 20. "Construction of the Olympic Sculpture Park is in risk of jeopardizing public safety and depriving the public use of a major park," said Vivian McPeak, Executive Director of the Seattle Hempfest and plaintiff. "After months of negotiations with the City and SAM, I am confident that there is room for both the Sculpture Park and Hempfest," he added. However, there have been other problems caused by the construction of OSP. In March of 2006, an OSP construction crane fell onto the adjacent railroad tracks, delaying construction and disrupting railroad service. This was the first year the Fourth of Jul-Ivar's celebration did not include any sponsored events at Myrtle Edwards Park. Late in 2005, spokespeople for Ivar's, hosts of the annual Fourth of July festival, announced that their event was permanently cancelled. The Seattle Post Intelligencer reported, "…it's become increasingly difficult to provide parking for the event staff and emergency, fire and police crews. And the temporary closure of the trolley along Alaskan Way will further constrict transportation to and around the event." "Those were the straws that broke the camel's back," Ivar's President Bob Donegan told the PI referring to the end of festival in the park, but Ivar's kept the fireworks display. In turn, the City had to foot a bill for thousands of fireworks revelers, who needed security, police and fire department officials, toilets, trash cans and other festival necessities ­ costing taxpayers tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Seattle Hempfest is a free speech and cultural event that has safely and successfully provided a forum for advocates of marijuana law reform since 1991. "Hempfest will not allow its First Amendment rights to be so limited," said Hempfest attorney Fred Diamondstone. If the lawsuit's filers win, the City must require the SAM to provide safe access to the park immediately before, during and after Hempfest. The region has shown favor to marijuana law reform by passing Seattle enforcement de-prioritization Initiative 75 in 2003 and approving statewide medical marijuana Initiative 692 in 1998. Seattle is recognized throughout the country as a marijuana-friendly city. ### The Seattle Hempfest advocates that marijuana be regulated like alcohol, adults who responsibly use marijuana not be treated as criminals, and non-violent drug offenders be given treatment rather than incarcerated.
Seattle, WA
United States

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