Goodbye and good riddance to the annual 4-20 pot party in downtown Denver. City and county officials shut it down for at least the next three years, showing authorities throughout the country they need not tolerate mass displays of mayhem wrapped in the First Amendment.
This year’s pot party, as in the past, was a disgrace. Eight food vendors operated without licenses. A mob broke down a fence and laughed about it. Activists parked cars on sidewalks. Grown men urinated on trees. Noise forced nearby offices to close. A cloud of marijuana smoke wafted through downtown for all to inhale.
“We have courtrooms that can’t even work because you can’t hear the parties,” said Denver District Court administrator Kelly Boe, as quoted in the Washington Times.
That was Thursday, April 20. When the sun rose Friday, Civic Center Park looked like a landfill. Bottles, cans, food, paper and other debris were strewn for acres.
City and county officials decided they’d had enough.
“When you hold events at one of these spaces, we all have the responsibility to uphold the public trust, and when you leave one of our parks trashed, you violate that trust,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said after announcing his disgust with the gathering.
“When I look out that office at the 4/20 event, any year, and I see the plume. that bothers me. Because at the end of the day, the city must be seen as the guardians of our treasured spaces, but also the law. We don’t want to put our officers in an unsafe situation, we don’t want to put our citizens. in an unsafe situation.”
Pot party organizers plan to appeal. Defenders of the assembly have long argued the First Amendment protects it from permits and permit fees that are charged to commercial and entertainment celebrations, such as Taste of Colorado.
Event organizer Miguel Lopez told the Denver Post in 2013 that his party is a political protest, and therefore protected from government interference. Oh, really?
We hear the same song and dance all over the country, as increasingly uncivil protesters break windows, damage cars and litter landscapes with trash for someone else to pick up.
Whether protesting President Donald Trump, global warming, cops, speakers on campus or the Standing Rock reservation pipeline, political rallies have made headlines of late for trashing the environment.
With rights come responsibilities. Responsible Americans have protected the freedom to assemble by mitigating negative effects of crowds. When a massive group gathered to celebrate “Americas heroes and heritage” at the 2010 Restoring Honor rally in Washington, participants made news for leaving the National Mall cleaner than they found it.
As 4-20 protesters fight for their right to party, asserting the freedom to assemble without interference, a judge should remind them what the First Amendment says. It expressly protects the right to “peaceably” assemble.
When groups destroy property and trash public space, they violate the law. They dishonor the tenets and restrictions of free speech. Protesters, regardless of cause, are required to respect and maintain the peace. When they do not, they jeopardize their rights.
the gazette editorial