How Boston officials put police pressure on cannabis activists
The United States Department of Justice may be investigating Boston City Hall employees for allegedly pushing Boston Calling music festival promoters to hire union stagehands, but there is another form of similar extortion that has continued unabated for years. Just consider MassCann’s annual struggle to secure permits for its Freedom Rally each September.
Before issuing permits, officials often hold a so-called citywide meeting with representatives of all affected departments of government. One such meeting took place on May 16, chaired by the since-indicted Kenneth Brissette, then director of the office of sports, tourism, and entertainment for Boston. At that meeting, city officials asked MassCann to hire a contingent of Boston police officers as security. Speaking for MassCann, activist Bill Downing said the group planned on hiring the park rangers to secure the festivities, and didn’t need the police. The meeting ended inconclusively, and instead of approving the permit, the city called a second citywide meeting on June 6—the first time there has been a second such meeting in the rally’s 29-year history.
The second get-together was not chaired by Brissette, because he was arrested three days after the first meeting on charges of extortion for allegedly holding up permits for Boston Calling unless they hired union labor.
But even with Brissette absent, his spirit marched on.
Again, MassCann was asked to hire Boston cops. Downing replied that cops present at previous rallies have not spent their time on security but on arresting people, and insisted that rangers could handle the job nicely. John Swomley, lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, reminded the city that he had sued the city on MassCann’s behalf before and was prepared to do it again.
Hiring the cops is a particular sore point with MassCann, given the department’s history of trying to create crimes from scratch, with undercover agents attempting to buy small amounts of weed from rallygoers who otherwise had no intention of selling. This year, MassCann is determined to prevent the police from profiting off the rally.
At this point, however, there is still no official resolution.
US Attorney Carmen Ortiz, are you listening?