One mile from the Institute is one of Atlanta’s oldest green spaces: Piedmont Park. The park is home to a plethora of activities for Atlantans and tourists alike.
From farmer’s markets to annual ice-cream festivals, the versatile venue attracts people of all age groups and is a lively site during every season.
One of the most beloved events of the year is Music Midtown, an annual music festival that saw its return in September 2021 after a year of COVID-19 cancellations.
However, in an unanticipated announcement by the festival organizers on Aug. 1, Music Midtown 2022 was canceled.
On the festival’s website and social media pages, identical announcements went up explaining, “Due to circumstances beyond our control, Music Midtown will no longer be taking place this year.”
“We were looking forward to reuniting in September and hope we can all get back to enjoying the festival together again soon.”
They did not explicitly comment on the reason for the cancellation.
The organizers also promised automatic refund processing within the next 7 to 10 business days for all customers who had already bought their tickets to the music festival.
The cancellation was attributed by many to Georgia’s state-wide gun laws.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Multiple officials familiar with the cancellation said it stemmed from ongoing legal fallout of a permissive gun expansion that was signed into law in 2014.”
With the upcoming November midterms, politicians from both the Democrat and Republican parties have pitched in regarding the state’s pro-gun laws.
The history behind the law that led to the festival’s cancellation can be traced back to 2014.
Former Governor Nathan Deal collaborated with the Republican controlled state government at the time to sign the Safe Carry Protection Act into law, allowing Georgians and visitors from 28 states to carry firearms in a various city-owned and public spaces.
At the time, the act was colloquially known as the “guns everywhere bill” and gained notoriety on a national level. The bill also gave jurisdiction to school districts for determining whether employees could carry firearms in schools.
In addition, the bill provided that very same decision-making ability to religious leaders in worship buildings and spaces.
This law was also championed by the National Rifle Association (NRA).
The organization heralded it as, “The most comprehensive pro-gun reform legislation introduction in recent history,” according to an article published in USA Today.
The 2014 law once again gained national attention when in 2019, the debate expanded to whether the firearm expansion law would apply to private events on public property.
In 2019, the Georgia Supreme Court and an appellate court ruling in 2022 affirmed that the law would impact such events, which includes Music Midtown held in Piedmont Park.
The decision made it difficult for the festival’s organizers to host the event without either facing potential litigation from gun-owners for banning firearms at the concerts or having musicians pull out of the festival for safety concerns.
Politicians and concert-goers alike are not happy about the cancellation, with many voicing their concerns on social media.
Many local leaders including the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Stacey Abrams, have criticized Governor Brian Kemp’s government, citing a pro-gun narrative for the economic and social stifling of one of Atlanta’s biggest events.
With headliners including My Chemical Romance, Future, Fall Out Boy and Jack White, the music festival was meant to attract both Atlanta natives and tourists to Piedmont Park this fall.
Tech student, Shruthi Mohana Sundaram, BA ‘24, reflected on the cancellation and said, “The event of Music Midtown being canceled this year would have been entirely preventable if this state had common sense gun legislation. However, due to the egos of politicians and gun rights advocates, tens of thousands of people will not be able to attend and enjoy an event they likely were looking forward to for months.”
In the past, other Georgia laws have gained national attention as well. The 2019 “heartbeat bill” signed by Governor Brian Kemp led to criticism from Hollywood, with many filmmakers publicly announcing that they would not bring business into Georgia. They did not follow their threats, likely due to the state’s generous tax credit.
According to the The Washington Post, “Most studios again kept quiet last year after Kemp signed into law voting restrictions that, as CNBC noted at the time, drew criticism from major corporations such as Coca-Cola and Delta.”
While the festival’s cancellation has led to many politicians and citizens expressing concern regarding Georgia’s laws, only time will tell how state firearm policies will impact other public events held on public property in the Georgia.