An estimated crowd of between 15,000 and 20,000 turned out to the Boston Common for the 29th annual Boston Freedom Rally over the weekend of Sept. 14 to 16, and while the event resulted in not a single arrest, according to Boston Police, the park was left looking a lot worse for the wear afterwards.
“As a city, we take tremendous pride in our public spaces, and the conditions we saw in the aftermath of this weekend’s Boston Freedom Rally, formerly known as ‘Hempfest,’ are both appalling and unacceptable,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said. “The Boston Common is a beloved place in our city, as it is America’s first park, and we expect that all event organizers and vendors respect this public space, because it belongs to all of us.”
Boston Parks Department staff were working hard earlier this week to bring the Common back to a state of good repair and cleanliness after the Freedom Rally, which reportedly requires the greatest amount of maintenance and cleaning of the more than 700 programs and events that take place in the park each year.
“This year’s Hempfest was by all accounts the worst in terms of trash strewn throughout the Common, including needles and containers of food,” said Liz Vizza, executive director, of the Friends of the Public Garden, the nonprofit dedicated to the maintenance of the Public Garden, Commonwealth Avenue Mall and the Common. “As one of the voices for the larger community, we are shocked to see the utter disregard that the planners of this event have for the Common. It also covered a much larger area than last year, making it all but impossible for others to enjoy the park.”
Vizza added, “The Friends works hard with the City to keep the Boston Common in good condition and protect it from misuse. Moving forward, there needs to be a more solid action plan in place to avoid the use and management issues witnessed this weekend.”
Sponsored by MassCann (Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition), the state affiliate of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), the Boston Freedom Rally has traditionally been the second largest annual gathering advocating for marijuana legalization in the U.S., behind the Seattle Hempfest.