Letter to the Editor

A more appropriate location

Dear Mayor Walsh,

Boston Common is the center of civic life for our City, and our most sought-after greenspace for recreation, reflection, celebration and protest. It is the neighborhood park for over 35,000 people in five neighborhoods, and a destination for millions more throughout the year from across the City as well as the nation and the world.

The Common is an extremely popular space, hosting hundreds of permitted events for different interest groups across the city and beyond. Most are happy to work closely with the Parks Department, and to abide by the requirements of their permits. This cannot be said about the annual Boston Freedom Rally, or HempFest. (Include incidents of permit violations here, from Parks Dept..)

The event is currently being advertised to take place on Boston Common on September 14th, 15th and 16th.   We understand this has not yet been permitted by the Boston Parks Department and want this opportunity to express our great concerns about its impact on the park and our neighborhoods. We would like to ask the City to find a more appropriate location for it that does not negatively impact so many communities. If this is not possible, we urge you to limit its duration to one day.

This event is tantamount to an occupation of the Common, which feels under siege by the huge number of tents, vendors, people smoking marijuana, and loud and profane music and speeches from the stage. Families do not feel comfortable or safe bringing their children to the park when the event is occurring, and the day after the event the Common is filled with trash and debris strewn everywhere, far beyond anything we see from any other permitted use of the park. (Photos attached)

Not only does this event last longer than most others, but in contrast to the non-profit nature of most, it is a commercial venture: MassCan sells time on stage at $2,000 for 20 minutes and the founder has shared that it has generated over $400,000 for him.

Relocating the event or reducing it to one day will ease the burden on the City budget for cleanup costs – $14,000 in overtime expended by the City in 2016. It will make the park accessible for residents who travel across the Common daily and visitors who come from out of town – a peak time for tourists, as well as returning college students and their families.

Boston is considered this year’s No. 1 tourist destination and this event is not only disruptive but has a very negative impact on our reputation. A typical comment from TripAdvisor last September was this one, from a New Jersey visitor:

“Drugs being done. Sleeping on benches. Panhandling. Just disgusting. It’s a  shame because it should be welcoming to families, couples, singles. Would never  walk through here alone. Shameful.”

We would also urge enforcement by Boston Police and Park Rangers of Smoking Ban Ordinance 7-4.14 prohibiting smoking in public parks, which makes this event something that no longer belongs in such a space.

We look forward to working with the City to find a resolution that supports free speech and the rights of park users and neighbors.


Beacon Hill Civic Association

Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay

Downtown Residents Association

Bay Village Neighborhood Association

Chinatown Residents Association

Beacon Hill Business Association

Friends of the Public Garden

Hill House

Park Street School

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.