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4/20 Rally organizer appeals city's permit ban, tells hearing officer his side of story

Decision due in November
Posted: 7:11 PM, Sep 20, 2017
Updated: 2017-09-21 02:37:20Z

DENVER -- The organizer of Denver's 4/20 Rally is fighting the city's decision to yank the rally's permit permanently and to ban him from applying for future permits, for three years.

Parks officials say the permit holder violated trash, food, security and noise limit requirements.

Miguel Lopez, 44, says the allegations are trumped up charges designed to quash the 4/20 rally.

"We want to work with the city," he said. "But they seem not to [want to.]  The mayor seems very hostile."

4/20 Rally attorney Robert Corry told Denver7, "We strongly dispute that we violated any permit condition."

He said they did everything they promised the city they would do.

Trash

The morning after the rally, commuters complained about piles of loose trash in parts of Civic Center Park.

"The permit lets us wait to clean up until 11:59 (a.m.) on April 21," Corry said. "We cleaned up well before then."

The city's letter said the organizer was required not just to clean up the park after the event, but to "manage trash during the event."

During the hearing, the 4/20 Rally Producer, Santino Walter, admitted that trash receptacles had been delivered to the venue, but had not been placed at various locations before the gates were opened.

As a result, rally participants began discarding refuse on the ground next to available, over-flowing receptacles.

Security

The city also cited security violations, noting in their decision, that some rally attendees knocked over a fence and entered the venue without going through security.

They were trying to get into the park to take part in the actual smoke out at 4:20 p.m.

"The city instructed us not to, in any way, perform as law enforcement officers, Corry said. "That's unsafe...we are not to go and physically keep those people out of our event.  That's a security risk and a potential problem with violence."

He said they were required, by the city, to let those people in, let the waves subside and then put the barriers back up.

"We followed that plan to the T," he said.

Health Code

Regarding health code violations, Corry said there were some food trucks on site that didn't have Denver food handling permits.

"They were all reputable, and had permits from other places," he said. "But the bottom line is, we closed them down promptly when the city asked us to."

He said there were "zero documented cases of any illnesses."

During the hearing, the city's attorney asked Walter whose responsibility it was to ensure that all food vendors were properly licensed.

He said he hired someone to make sure that happened and fired them when he learned they hadn't done their job.

Next Step

The hearing officer, Judge David Ramirez, is expected to issue a decision, upholding or overturning the city's decision.

Corry said if the city's decision is upheld, they will appeal to Denver District Court.

"There are Constitutional issues," he said. "This is civil rights case.  We are treated more harshly from every other event. We have a political viewpoint that is expressed, that is offensive to the mayor and a lot of people in the city's power structure. We understand that, but our First Amendment rights are protected."