MassCann and the Friends of the Public Garden try to be friends
Every year after the Boston Freedom Rally, there are complaints from downtown residents: the noise, the smell, the destruction of the Common, and above all, the trash! These complaints are often passed on to the Friends of the Public Garden, a public-service group dedicated to preserving Boston’s public spaces. In previous years, MassCann/NORML, the sponsor of the rally, and the Friends have mostly traded accusations. This year, the two sides held a meeting at the Friends’ Beacon Street headquarters, and it was surprisingly civil.
As for the trash, MassCann pleads guilty to creating a lot of it during the rally, but has always been faithful about cleaning it up at the end, including this year. Press secretary Maggie Kinsella explained that rally vendors are expected to clean up their own area and provide their own barrels, and the vendor management company that MassCann hires is supposed to make sure all vendors comply. She admitted that not all of that happened as planned and that MassCann will demand better trash management from whatever management company is hired for next year’s rally. MassCann also offered to schedule a Common walkaround with the Friends after next year’s rally to verify the condition of the Common.
Leslie Adams, board chairman of the Friends, relayed the feelings of some local residents that they just can’t use the Common during the days of the rally, what with the crowds and the music and the smell. Lawyer John Swomley, who has litigated on MassCann’s behalf for 20 years, gently suggested that those residents should plan activities elsewhere during those days.
Robert Mulcahy, the Friends’ project manager, said the rally needed better traffic management to keep Charles Street from being blocked during load-in. He also suggested that the rally could do better to manage the surging crowds and offered to work with MassCann on better models of traffic and crowd management.
The meeting, on the whole, was constructive, and MassCann and the Friends agreed to stay in touch before, during, and after next year’s rally. One thing was not discussed: moving the Freedom rally off the Common entirely. That harebrained idea, the child of city councilors Ed Flynn and Josh Zakim, will be the subject of a public hearing still to be scheduled. That’s when we’ll hear from those who feel that Boston Common is no place for an excessive display of freedom.
Andy Gaus is a Massachusetts-based cannabis advocate and a member of MassCann-NORML.