Saturday, October 21, 2006

Constitution protects the right of peaceful assembly, but Madison charges five bucks

Craig Schreiner - State Journal

The constitutional question has been talked to death, so I'll just look at the question of how many people will pay to attend the Halloween celebration, or as it has been helpfully "rebranded," Freakfest, on State Street next Saturday. Total attendance might be as high as 80,000, and the hope was to sell at least 40,000 tickets, which would raise about one-third of the money required for police protection. But State Street is hardly sold out. With a week to go, just over 5,000 tickets have been sold. After all, would you buy a ticket that came with this rather draconian disclaimer on the back?
Disclaimer / Warning: The Halloween event on State Street is not sponsored by the City of Madison or any other entity. No permit has been issued for this event. An admission fee is charged solely for the purpose of paying for some of the public safety costs generated by the spontaneous occurrence of this event. The City of Madison cannot and does not guarantee your safety at this event. You enter the event area at your own risk and are responsible for your own actions and safety.
In a week we'll see how city officials' technocratic dream of bringing order to the chaos of Halloween with gates and fences really works, or whether fencing off nearly a mile of city street, creating a security perimeter almost two miles long, counting both sides of the street, makes any sense. Or does it just create a challenge for revelers who, for whatever reason, are not fond of ticket lines? Will defending the perimeter become an end in and of itself? How will that affect the night's activities?

I still think we would have been better off if more people had been paying attention to what former mayor Paul Soglin has been saying in his blog, including his most recent post, in which he recalls some points William H. Whyte made about "the social life of the street."

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