Annapolis denies permit for Latino festival a week before event


May 01, 2001|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

Pointing to concerns about the availability of police, Annapolis officials have denied a permit for the city's first Latino festival - a move that had its organizers fuming, coming little more than a week before the long-planned event.

Festival Annapo-Latina, sponsored by the Organization of Hispanic/Latin Americans of Anne Arundel County (OHLA), was scheduled for the city's Truxton Park on Sunday. But at a permit-review hearing Friday, officials decided that the festival would have to be moved to an alternative date.

They said city police would be spread too thin in covering two other events scheduled the same day - the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Walk and the downtown Maritime Heritage Festival.

"It was just wrong timing," Ward 3 Alderman Samuel Gilmer, who attended the meeting, said of the Latino event. City police "could not spare the officers," he said.

The decision did not sit well with Rick Ferrell, the Cuban-American president of OHLA, who described it as "horrendous" and a "slap in the face of the Hispanic community."

"It's saying, `You guys don't count,'" Ferrell said yesterday. "It just really hurts that they try to squash us like this."

OHLA, an Annapolis-based nonprofit aimed at helping newly arrived Hispanics gain access to social services and integrate into American life, has been promoting the event since March and spent $2,200 printing posters, fliers and tickets and several thousand more on deposits for entertainment, organizers said.

City officials said festival organizers failed to keep them properly informed of the event's scope and did not file a permit request until 13 days before the event.

"We've been working with Rick on this for weeks, but the simple truth is that had a permit come in a month or two ago, we would have known we had a conflict," said city spokesman Thomas W. Roskelly, adding that Mayor Dean L. Johnson has been supportive of the event.

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