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Music Midtown festival canceled due to concerns over public gun laws

A popular Atlanta music festival that brings in tens of thousands of people to the area over a two-day period in September was canceled Monday due to concerns over Georgia‘s gun law in public parks.

The decision was linked to a recent appeals court ruling related to the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s ability to restrict guns from its property, as well as broader concerns about people bringing firearms to the concert, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

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Live Nation made the announcement Monday, saying, “Due to circumstances beyond our control, Music Midtown will no longer be taking place this year. We are looking forward to reuniting in September and hope we can get back to enjoying the festival together again soon.”

The concern is over a 2014 state law that allows people to carry firearms legally in public spaces, such as Piedmont Park, the location of the music festival.

A general view of the audience on day 2 of 2021 Music Midtown at Piedmont Park on September 19, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Paras Griffin/Getty Images

The festival is a temporary user of the park and does not have the authority to supersede the state law and enforce its own ban. The festival bans guns or explosives of any kind, which is a condition written into several artists’ contracts.

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Midtown Music’s gun ban was challenged in May by Phillip Evans, a gun rights advocate who lost a court case against the Atlanta Botanical Garden over its right to ban guns from its property. Evans’s case against the Atlanta Botanical Garden made it to the Georgia Supreme Court, where the justices shot down his claims. They ruled that the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s gun ban was legal because it leased its property long-term from the city of Atlanta. What the ruling didn’t cover were short-term tenants. Though Evans has not filed suit against Music Midtown or Live Nation, he has demanded the gun ban be reversed, which spooked festival organizers.

Evans challenged the state’s gun policies in 2014. Shortly thereafter, then-Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, signed the “guns everywhere” bill, which greatly expanded the places people with guns can go.

The cancellation of the music festival is a big blow to Atlanta’s tourism trade and dents the city’s status as a music hot spot.

Music Midtown ran from 1994 to 2005 in different locations throughout Georgia’s largest city and drew in A-list performers including Pearl Jam, Eminem, Coldplay, Foo Fighters, Post Malone, and Bruno Mars. During last year’s festival at Piedmont Park, Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, and Maroon 5 performed.

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Ruwa Romman, a Democratic candidate running for a state House seat, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Republicans are to blame for the cancellation. 

“Music Midtown’s cancellation is because of Republicans controlling every branch of government in Georgia and using that power to pass regressive and dangerous laws,” she said.

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