Twin Cities Pride festival disturbance-freeby Rupa Shenoy, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis, Minn. — This weekend's Twin Cities Pride Festival has been peaceful despite the appearance of an anti-gay activist from Wisconsin.
Pride organizers went to court this week to keep Hayward, Wisconsin resident Brian Johnson out of Loring Park, but a federal judge denied the request, saying it would violate Johnson's free speech rights.
Johnson handed out Bibles during the Saturday festival, but Minneapolis Park Police say there were no arrests or major disturbances.
Pride organizer John Kelley said most people ignored Johnson. But Kelley said organizers will continue their legal fight to keep Johnson away from future festivals.
"Contracting with the park board for a permit; if that doesn't change the nature of the park to the degree that we can control the speech that's said there, why are we paying so much money for the park?" Kelly said.
Kelley said the park board and city of Minneapolis stand to loose a lot of tourism dollars if organizers decide to move Pride to a new location.
"Depending on what the courts decide, that may force a new location or maybe a new way that we operate the festival," he said.
John Erwin, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board President, released a statement following the decision.
"This case was about clarifying an individual's first amendment rights in a public park," the statement said. "Mr. Brian Johnson, or anyone, has the right to express themselves in Loring Park during Twin Cities Pride Festival. But no one has the right to disturb the peace or harass attendees."
Heavy rains that fell on crowds Saturday night were much more disruptive than Johnson, Kelly said.
"I think we try to create such an affirming space and so to have someone like that on the grounds is a bit disappointing, but so many of us are used to being condemned in our daily lives, it's a minor irritant and we'll like get over it, get on with our day," he said.