CHARLOTTE – Freedom House Church has been cited for hosting an event in Romare Bearden Park on Saturday after church officials said there was a communication problem with county park and recreation guidelines from Mecklenburg.
There was a communication failure, as the church believed it had the green light to set up a stage and organize a concert in the city park. The event was almost canceled before it started after park rangers arrived at the event.
“Here we are trying to help the city provide prayer and worship and we have been told, ‘If you do this you will be arrested,'” said Troy Maxwell, senior pastor of Freedom House Church.
They thought they were allowed to host the concert.
“Well, we wanted to have a scene,” Maxwell said. “We said that (to the city) from the start, and we were told, ‘Don’t worry yet.’ “
[Uptown Relay for Life to light up Romare Bearden Park]
Park officials said in a statement to Channel 9: “No structures such as tents, stages or generators are allowed inside the park.”
Park staff have repeatedly asked organizers to remove the stage and given them the option of hosting the event without a stage, so they can stay in compliance with county risk management guidelines. However, they refused.
“So for us, if I have to pay a fine,” said Olan Carder, director of operations at Freedom House Church. “If I had to go to jail, we were prepared to do it, make the event and make it happen. “
Carder said they believed it was their right to set up a stage.
“We warned the city. And so that was in the afternoon, getting pretty close to the event, ”Carder said. “Then a ton of park wardens start showing up all of a sudden.”
The church received a citation, which reads, “Without permission, set up a stage and stayed in Romare Bearden Park to conduct a large concert after being warned not to stay without a permit.”
Church leaders believe that with all the accommodations made for protesters last summer, authorities shouldn’t have had a problem with Saturday’s concert.
“Shouldn’t be that hard, you know?” Carder said. “If we are trying to organize an event that will help our city.”
“As a local pastor, looking at what happened a year ago, I just felt it was a disproportionate response to something very peaceful,” said Maxwell.
[2020 ARTICLE: Rallies, vigils to honor George Floyd in the Charlotte area]
Church leaders said most of the officers were friendly on Saturday.
The event continued without anyone going to jail.
Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Statement:
Freedom Church received both a protest permit and an amplified sound permit by CMPD for Saturday, June 12.
The following is a list of rules that Parks and Recreation staff hand out to anyone involved in organizing pickets, demonstrations, or rallies on county property. Freedom Church, like other organizations involved in such activities, sent an email with the following information.
- The park must remain open to the public at all times.
- No structures such as tents, stages or generators are allowed inside the park.
- Sounds louder than a boombox volume level require a CMPD amplified sound license.
- Organizers of pickets / protests / rallies / protests must submit a Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) Picket Intent Form for notification.
- The Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation Department (MCPRD) is unable to provide personnel, electrical assistance, garbage removal, or other facility related resources.
- The permanent public washrooms are open from sunrise to sunset daily, but hours are subject to change due to maintenance needs.
In violation of the second point above, the organizers of the Freedom Church event set up a stage in Romare Bearden Park. Staff repeatedly asked organizers to remove the stage and gave them the option of running the event without the stage so they could stay in compliance with county risk management guidelines; however, they refused. Thus, they received a citation for trespassing.
[Thousands of flags line Romare Bearden Park in honor of 9/11 victims]
Declaration of the Allies:
“On Saturday, June 12, Allied Universal Security Professionals were invited to assist Park Rangers and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) with respect to a large gathering located at Romare Bearden Park in Charlotte, North Carolina. Based on information received from CMPD and park rangers, Allied Universal understood that the concert organizer did not have the proper permit. In accordance with our assigned responsibilities, a citation has been issued. At Allied Universal, our top priority is to serve, secure and care for the people and businesses of the Charlotte community. “
(Watch: Celebration held at Romare Bearden Park to mark the namesake’s birthday)
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