Really, it pisses me off more than anything. Gunfire isn’t exactly a new thing to me. I’ve fired guns before, I’ve lived in a community where (as aggravating as it is) guns were shot fairly regularly within city limits. Sitting on the front porch, I could hear them in the distance, “down the hill” if you will. Now I don’t feel that I lived in a war zone, but I’m not a stranger to the sound of gunfire in my life. It’s not like I lived in a war zone or a ghetto where it was around me on a constant basis either.
I moved to Denver, Colorado about ten months ago. The first thing I did when moving here – volunteer for HeavenFest as a security agent. My biggest difficulty was working with security executives that didn’t handle crowd control very well. As a matter of disclosure I will state that my experiences in security include events from local bars to massive 20,000 in attendance events. Then there was the Aurora theater shooting, that occurred within 3 weeks of arriving. While I personally wasn’t at the theater, my brother-in-law and I had talked about going. Fortunately my nephew wore us out that night and we opted out. When I was at worship that Sunday it was obvious that many of the church had been there for a youth group outing, and had been involved as people- and as pastors in the love given as first responders. Having been surrounded by people personally impacted by the shooting experience was intense, but over the last several months things have been quiet.
Then there was Saturday. I decided that I would go to the ‘4/20’ celebrations at Civic Center Park with curiosity in mind. I am an environmental reporter and one of the most common arguments for the reintroduction of Cannabis and Hemp into the US marketplace on an industrial basis is the Environment. From paper production to textiles and new bio-fuel production, I expected legitimate information on the plethora of uses for HEMP, to be made available. Additionally, the news indicated that there was to be a significant police presence due to the bombings in Boston. There were concerns of the size of the event in addition to the recent Boston Bombing that caused my sister to advise caution and quote news reports before I left for the event. I like many new to Denver, did manage to spend time exploring much of Denver With these voices in the back of my head, as well as personal reasons, I was not on site during the actual ‘zero hour’ when, as I have read, thousands of people participated in consuming Cannabis simultaneously. Instead I arrived an hour before the zero hour, did some reconnaissance work examining the layout of the event, left for the ‘main event’ and returned afterwards, anticipating a large crowd who would be taking a breather. Instead I found several things occurring.
First: the event was over in the minds of many. It appeared that the only ‘cool’ thing was to be on site to participate in the consumption of cannabis, also known as marijuana, for the Pot Holiday.
Second: Security was a joke. I’ve done more work preparing for large scale events that were expected to have 1/4 of the crowd, than was probably spent putting up snow or ‘security fencing’. I found no general comfort at any time in the efforts of the police or other security people in holding any type of presence.
Third: When gunshots went off, things were a mess. Yes there was a wave of people fleeing the site, and there were people cowering underneath tables and behind one another. There was no security to be seen yet I wasn’t afraid.
Now let me be clear, I didn’t run. I didn’t hide, I counted several pops, said, “oh that’s just some dumb ass with a firework” and watched the crowd. As the first wave was running by, my phone went off. It was gunshots after all. Well, shots were fired, but they aren’t going off anymore. It took ten minutes to get two items of food because to food vendor was stoned stupid. I placed my order multiple times before I got my food, but hey the place was emptying out, might as well get something to eat. By the time we got our meal, ate it and left the grounds a process that took over twenty minutes; I still didn’t see any type of security professional or police on site.
And now, I’m mad about it. I’m not going to stop going to public events. I refuse to fell less safe. I refuse to be scared. I am however mad. I’m mad that we have to be aware that my life could be threatened today. I’m mad that we aren’t as able to feel safe and free at large community events. I’m mad that I am analyzing the event and writing this post about it. I’m mad that people would bring children of all ages to a closed off marijuana smoking festival and I’m mad that they weren’t safe while they were there. I hope everyone will share this feeling, “I will not be timid, I will not be confined and I will not focus on fear.” Were you somewhere something tragic happened? Go ahead and repeat that italicized sentence a few times, it’s ok.
But I’m digressing. For the record it’s not the public consumption of marijuana that I’m bothered by. It’s the way this group of people is treated as second class and not deserving of something that represents events put on by those who are highly respected. I’ve seen more security at a Winter Jam concert where tens of thousands of Christians combine for a night of worship, fellowship and community and are protected mostly by volunteers there to do the same thing while ensuring everybody else has a good time. I’m shocked that I entered and left an area with security fencing and no security personnel. I get that this was a sketchy event to begin with and I’m sure there were concerns about who would or wouldn’t come if there was someone looking at you and your belongings when you come in. At the same time this was a family event and while I admit that I don’t know anybody other than the Pillsbury Dough Boy that might enjoy going through security. However it’s the same measures that might have convinced someone to leave their gun at home. After all in Colorado it’s still Illegal to have both at the same one time.