Brooklyn Park's African community wants city to reverse ban on amplified music

Kwao Amegashie and James Wilson
Kwao Amegashie, president of the West African Collaborative, with the Rev. James Wilson, rallied to lift the ban on amplified sound in the city of Brooklyn Park at a meeting Monday, March 2, 2015.
Riham Feshir | MPR News

About 50 members of the African immigrant community filled a Brooklyn Park City Council meeting Monday night to complain that a ban against amplified music effectively prevents them from using the suburb's parks in a way that reflects their culture.

Earlier this year, the City Council voted to ban all use of amplified sound at all city parks after the city received noise complaints from people living near Oak Grove Park, the last of the city's parks to ban speakers and loud music. The gatherings nearly every weekend in the summer were so loud neighbors told the city the music "rattles people's dishes," said Council Member Rich Gates.

James Wilson, a priest who served on committees that work with police to improve relationships between the African and African-American communities and law enforcement, said the city has been welcoming and hospitable to immigrants over the past few years.

"It's unthinkable that they would sit down and pass such a ban that you cannot go to the park and play music," Wilson said. "It is not in the interest of the community. As a matter of fact, it's an insult to the community."

Oak Grove Park is a busy venue for reunions, wedding receptions and graduation parties, with music a common denominator. City staff said they had at least three instances last year where renters violated the ordinance, staying past the allotted time of 9 p.m. and damaging the park.

Oak Grove Park
Oak Grove Park is a Brooklyn Park, Minn., city park tucked behind homes in a wooded area on the northwest side of the city.
Riham Feshir | MPR News

"We want to make sure that our gatherings are peaceful and the homes surrounding the parks are not disturbed," said Reva Chamblis, a Brooklyn Park resident and organizer of Monday's rally who ran for city office last fall. "We want to make sure that our sound ordinance is fair and balanced for everybody."

Attendees at the standing room only council meeting complained they didn't have a role in the decision-making process that led to the council's passing the ordinance.

The council approved the ban after the city's parks and recreation commission recommended it, Gates said.

The City Council did not respond to comments made at the open forum portion of the meeting Monday night, but may do so later.

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