|Masel Seeks Street Permit To Air Ideas|
Posted by FoM on June 13, 2001 at 12:56:11 PT|
By Judith Davidoff
Source: Capital Times
In the tradition of Abbie Hoffman, who organized anti-war protests around the 1968 Chicago Democratic convention, local activist Ben Masel is looking to make the most of the national spotlight that is sure to shine on Madison next summer when the U.S. Conference of Mayors holds its annual meeting at the Monona Terrace Convention Center.
With the conference still a year away, Masel has applied for a city permit to use the 100 and 200 blocks of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on June 14-15 to stage a "peaceable assembly" for the free expression of ideas.
The mayor's conference, which is expected to bring up to 350 mayors of America's largest cities to Madison, as well as scores of national news media, members of Congress and perhaps even President Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney, is slated for June 14-18.
Masel said he wants to ensure that alternative ideas are presented in the vicinity of the conference.
"The idea is to have a space available for free expression, rather than risk that the city would reserve all the available space closest to the convention center for themselves and leave any expressive activity half a mile away" said Masel, who has rallied for years on behalf of a number of causes, including the legalization of marijuana. He is the organizer of Weedstock, a controversial Madison-area summer festival, as well as the Harvest Festival, held nearly every fall in Madison.
Masel said he envisions advocates and groups setting up literature tables and using amplified speakers to share their views on a variety of topics, the legalization of marijuana being among them. He estimated in his city permit application that 900 people would attend the event, the specifics of which have yet to be planned.
"When I heard the Conference of Mayors convention was going to be in Madison, I figured I would jump in and hold the forum and then see who wants to play," he said.
Masel's street use permit needs to be reviewed and approved by the city's street use staff team, which is made up of employees who oversee such areas as traffic engineering, transit, public facilities and police.
Kelli Lamberty, the community event coordinator for the city, said the staff team usually doesn't act on applications until a month or two before the event. But, as the chairwoman of the staff team, Lamberty did let other members know about Masel's application at a meeting in late May.
She said that events are usually approved unless they would present such problems as the interruption of pedestrian and vehicular traffic or interference with police and fire protection. Lamberty said that so far no one else has submitted an application to reserve Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard during the mayor's conference.
And she said that Masel has a good track record with the city.
"It's not like we've had problems with his events," said Lamberty, referring to the Harvest Festival. "He knows his rights and that's well within them and this appears to be too."
Mayoral spokesman Ryan Mulcahy said Mayor Sue Bauman, who lobbied hard to woo the mayor's conference to Madison, had no comment on Masel's proposed event other than to say his request would be handled like any other request to reserve public space.
"It will be reviewed by the street use staff team in a timely fashion," he said.
Complete Title: Masel Seeks Street Permit To Air Ideas During Mayor Event
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