Sheriff has the wrong impressionPublished 9:36am Monday, July 1, 2013
I have been attending festivals at Harmony Park for nearly 20 years, both as an attendee and as a live art performer. During that time, I have never once felt that my children or I were in danger. I have never seen a fight in all of that time, and I certainly haven’t seen gangs or guns.
I was surprised to read the sheriff’s concerns about his safety, citing that he felt there were guns and gangs in the park. I almost laughed. I almost cried.
If a cop feels his life is in danger at Harmony Park, then he is showing his colors as a small-town cop. I am sure any officer in Chicago or Minneapolis would exchange a weekend shift for the chance to hang out at Harmony Park. What they would see is kids playing, face painting, colorful costumes, great music, beautiful artwork, grown-ups dancing, hula-hooping, wearing silly hats, being child-like and playful. They would see strangers greeting each other as friends, and people sharing food. They would see the Giving Tree, where gifts are left for those who need them.
Yes, it may be scary for a cop to see all of this, because it’s not what we are used to in the outside world. That’s exactly why I bring my kids when I’m able to. I want them to see a world where there is complete and total peace, where people are happy and fully being themselves.
The festival-goers might look weird to local residents, but when they go home, they take a shower, put on their regular clothes, go to their regular jobs and their regular lives, supporting the economy and paying taxes, just like everyone else.
The sheriff said they saw some people smoking marijuana at a previous festival, and maybe that scared them, or maybe the sheriff is afraid of not being re-elected, because he ran on a platform of shutting Harmony Park down. If that’s the case, and if that’s what happens, those people will not be seen at the stores where they spend tens of thousands of dollars each year, supporting the local economy. They will go to other towns where the festivals are welcome.
If I were a citizen of the Albert Lea community, that’s what I would be afraid of. It is apparent that the owner of Harmony Park has taken these threats from the sheriff and commissioners seriously, and immediately addressed the issues of the previous, Memorial Day weekend festival. He put up more signs around the park stating that all federal, state and local laws will be enforced, as well as signs about strictly prohibiting drugs.
I didn’t witness any drug transactions at Project Earth. I certainly didn’t see any guns or gangs.
I do appreciate that there is a police presence, to assist with anything that might come up, but if an officer is afraid of peace-loving hippies, then I’m not sure he’s the man I would want protecting me from the people who are actually dangerous, out in the community.