Festival might be free as far as monetary cost, but it is hardly “free” when our freedom to enjoy it is taken away by excessive show of power by the local boys in blue.
I was very embarrassed by their use of “herding” tactics to clear the park. Not waiting for people to pick up their things and begin walking peacefully to the exits, the mounties were immediately in the crowd accompanied by police on bicycles moving through the crowd forcing people to head toward the four exits at Parc International, all the while blowing on high pitched whistles and other annoying noise makers. When the crowd didn’t move fast enough, they blew harder and longer and moved the horses and bikes closer and verbally told people to “move it along.” Each night I was there, the park was filled to capacity. How can you expect a crowd to leave quickly when there are only four exits available?
This year the last band ended at approximately 7:15 p.m. Sunday when there was still lots of sunlight and yet, with the visibility to exit, the police still felt it necessary to push the record crowd out in less than five minutes.
Allowing a group to disperse peacefully gives them the chance to savor the last chords of the song, the last rays of the sun, and final good byes to friends, new and old. The manner of exit denied us that, and many left confused, embarrassed, and angry with ears full of shrill whistles. This kind of action does not promote the good-natured, Southern hospitality, family atmosphere that the festival wants to promote.
It is our right, under the Constitution, to peaceably assemble in the public square. The police have taken a pledge to protect and to serve and uphold that right. Our right to do that was taken away. This is not how I want to remember Festival International or what I want to look forward to in the future. Last year, I left Festival with a happy heart, a joyful spirit, a contented belly. This year, I and lots of others have struggled with anger and resentment due to the manner in which we were forced to leave.