Pride organizers consider moving festival

Organizers of the Twin Cities Pride Festival said they might move future festivals from Loring Park in Minneapolis if they aren't allowed to keep out people with anti-gay messages.

This weekend's festival was peaceful despite the appearance of Brian Johnson, a Wisconsin anti-gay activist.

Organizer John Kelley said Twin Cities Pride will continue its legal fight to bar people with similar messages from the festival, even though the effort failed its first round in court last week.

Minneapolis Park police reported no arrests or major disturbances during the festival, and Kelley said most people ignored Johnson.

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But Kelley said organizers still want to keep people like Johnson out.

"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?" Kelley asked. "Depending on what the courts decide that may force a new location or maybe a new way that we operate the festival."

The festival's executive director declined to comment further, but she did not dispute Kelly's statement.

Kelley said the park board and city of Minneapolis stand to lose a lot of tourism dollars if organizers decide to move Pride.

In order to keep Johnson out, the new location might have to be on private property.

The court ruling said the festival can control its message and decide who may be sponsors, exhibitors and vendors at the event.

But the ruling said Johnson is entitled to attend. And the First Amendment protects his right to speak and hand out literature as long as he's not disruptive.

For his part, Brian Johnson isn't that concerned if the festival moves. On Sunday, he chose to sit under a tree on a corner just outside the park.

"I'm sure if they move it to some other place and I can't be on the inside, I'll be on the outside. And I may not be able to do what I want, but whatever I can do I'll try to do," he said.

A few feet away on the lawn inside the park, festival attendee Liz Ziegler and her friends were unaware of Johnson's presence.

Ziegler says moving Pride would draw attention to Johnson's cause. Ziegler said Pride shouldn't give up what many have come to see as the festival's home.

"It's been here forever. Loring park has always been known as the gay haven of Minneapolis and everyone's ignoring him anyways," she said.