2022 Midtown music competition canceled; selections concerning state gun legal guidelines

Two sources say festival owners are concerned about the threat of lawsuits from gun owners if they decide to hold the festival with gun restrictions in place. One of the sources said there was also concern that some artists would refuse to perform if weapons were allowed.

“We are looking forward to being reunited in September and hope we can all get back to enjoying the festival together soon,” the statement said.

The cancellation is a blow to the city’s tourist commerce and the city’s mystique as a music mecca. Other annual music festivals that come to Atlanta each year include Knees tremble in the direction of rock, set for Central Park in May 2023; hip-hop / R&B One MusicFest in Central Park in October; and eclectic SweetWater 420 Festival in the spring at Centennial Olympic Park.

Music Midtown, which originally ran from 1994 to 2005 in various locations around Atlanta, returned in 2011 at Piedmont Park, where it has attracted big-name artists over the years such as Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Coldplay, Eminem, Van Halen, Post Malone and Bruno Mars. About 50,000 people attended last year, when Miley Cyrus, Jonas Brothers and Maroon 5 performed. This year’s current lineup includes Jack White, Future and Fall Out Boy.

Peter Conlon, who oversees the Live Nation festival, declined to comment on Monday’s cancellation.

News of the possibility of Music Midtown being canceled was first reported by George Chidian Atlanta independent journalist, on Friday.

Fans enjoy the music of Black Pumas at Music Midtown on Sunday night, September 19, 2021, in Piedmont Park. (Image: Ryan Fleisher for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Fans enjoy the music of Black Pumas at Music Midtown on Sunday night, September 19, 2021, in Piedmont Park.  (Image: Ryan Fleisher for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Fans enjoy the music of Black Pumas at Music Midtown on Sunday night, September 19, 2021, in Piedmont Park. (Image: Ryan Fleisher for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Atlanta City Council President Doug Shipman said it was a “sad day” for the city after the cancellations were announced.

Shipman posted on Twitter.

Georgia law allows guns at public parks, and prevent local governments from passing stricter local gun laws than the state.

Music Midtown generally prohibits the bringing of weapons “of any kind” into Piedmont Park. However, a court ruling earlier this year could raise questions about the ability to legally enforce that rule.

Nearly a decade ago, Phillip Evans, a gun activist and blogger, and gun rights group GA2A Atlanta Botanical Garden event about its gun-free policy, arguing that while the garden is a private entity, it is on public land and should therefore allow the use of guns.

In 2019, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that the botanical garden has the power to ban guns because it has a long-term land lease; an appeals court upheld that ruling earlier this year.

DiscoverLegal clash: Can Atlanta Botanical Garden ban guns?

Evans told the AJC on Monday that he’s not taking legal action against Music Midtown or threatening a lawsuit, but he has asked organizers including Live Nation, the company that helps organize the festival , aware of his legal concerns. He argued that because the festival only used the park for a few days and did not have a long-term lease, it did not have the right to ban guns.

“The law is on our side. And we spent a lot of time making sure it was on our side,” said Jerry Henry of GA2A, the gun rights group that filed the 2019 ruling. “So if Music Midtown tried to restrict licensed gun owners from bringing guns to the festival, it would be against the law.”

Henry said his team doesn’t celebrate Music Midtown’s decision and says he “hates to see it happen”.

“We don’t want anyone to cancel anything. What we want is to protect ourselves and our families,” he said.

With the November election about three months away, Democrats were quick to blame Republicans for a series of pro-gun laws including a 2022 law to withdraw concealed weapons permit requirements.

Ruwa Romman, a Democratic candidate for the Gwinnett-based House of Representatives seat, said: “The cancellation of Music Midtown is because Republicans control every branch of government in Georgia and use that power to passed laws of a regressive and dangerous nature.

– Staff reporter Maya T. Prabhu contributed to this report.

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