Calgary rejects bid for Solidarity Festival at city park

CALGARY - The City of Calgary has formally rejected an application from the Alberta Federation of Labour to use a city park as a venue for activist events during the upcoming G-8 Summit. As a result, with less than a month to go before the beginning of the summit, there is still no outdoor venue for public counter-summit activities.

Later today, the AFL will submit a new application to use other city-owned venues. Federation president Les Steel will also be contacting City officials and urging them to reconsider their opposition to providing space for activist events.

"In three short weeks, thousands of people will be converging on Calgary to exercise their democratic rights and voice their concerns about the G-8 and its agenda for corporate globalization," says Steel. "Refusing our application won't stop these people from coming. But without an organized venue like the one we're proposing, there might be problems. People will be drawn to other kinds of activities."

In a letter faxed to the AFL late yesterday, City of Calgary officials said the Federation's application to use Shaw Millennium Park was being rejected primarily because of "major safety concerns." In addition, they cited concerns about parking and crowd size.

Steel says the AFL and other organizations involved in planning counter-summit activities are also concerned about safety. In fact, he says that's why they're trying to arrange for an outdoor venue large enough to accommodate several thousand people.

"From our perspective there are two main issues here," says Steel. "First, in Canada people have a democratic right to assemble and express their concerns. By denying us a venue, the City of Calgary is basically trampling on that right. Second, there's the whole issue of safety. If we don't have an organized venue for events, people will be forced to take their protests to the streets. So by rejecting our application, the City of Calgary is inadvertently increasing the likelihood of confrontation."

In the application to be filed with the City later today, Steel says the AFL will ask for use of the Foothills Athletic Park or any other city venue large enough to hold the expected crowd. He says the Federation will also be reminding the City about the peaceful nature of what's being planned.

"What's we have in mind is a three-day event with a festival atmosphere," says Steel. "There will be a main stage featuring well-known musicians and entertainers. There will be information booths. And there will be speakers from around the world. It's going to look more like a folk festival than a political rally. There is no reason for the City to worry about what we have planned."

For more information call:

Les Steel, AFL President @ (780) 483-3021 or (780) 499-4135 (cell)

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