[OutVoice] [Fwd: Press Release: GA Women's Festival Shut Down-Incident Report
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Fri Oct 9 13:53:58 EDT 2009
Campground owner disputes claims of harassment at women's fest
Organizer of fest alleges police, resident discrimination
By DYANA BAGBY | Oct 8 2009, 6:11 PM
The Georgia Women's Festival, held last weekend in Tattnall County in southeast Georgia, faced harassment from local police and protesters, according to a press release from the festival. However, the owner of the campground where the festival was held and a woman who attended the event are contesting the allegations.
Vicki Blankenships allegations of police, residential harassment at all-women's festival contested by campground's owner.
The festival was held Oct. 2-4 at Roy’s Hideaway Campground, a private gay and lesbian campground in Collins, Ga. Organizers claim the Tattnall County Sheriff's Department denied them permits for the event and failed to respond when neighbors lined the road near the campground, shooting guns and shouting slurs including "queers go home.
Tattnall County Sheriff Quinton Rush declined comment when contacted by Southern Voice this morning.
Vicki Blankenship, a lesbian who has organized music festivals as volunteer president of Indiegrrl Women in the Arts Inc., said the problems with last weekend's festival began Friday with complaints that music was being played too loud — even though the music had not even started. Blankenship said the festival was denied a permit.
"The deputies stated they had lots of complaints=2
0about the noise and a permit would allow us to override the complaints," she said.
“After the deputies left the premises, people lined up outside the fenced perimeter of the campground and began yelling obscenities at the festival attendees and chanted ‘Fucking queers go home.’ One neighboring piece of property had cars line up in a field that separated the properties between them and the campground and shined their car headlights down into the campground, blared loud music from their car speakers, and proceeded to fire guns down into the pond areas in the campground,” Blankenship said.
Roy McLeroy, owner of the campground, denied all of the allegations Blankenship made, saying he is treated with respect and kindness by his neighbors as well as the sheriff’s department.
He did say the fest was not able to get a permit and the police did ask for the music to be turned down.
“But then Vicki Blankenship made it into a political thing,” McLeroy said today.
“They never got shut down, there were maybe three shots fired Friday night but the neighbors were shooting at beavers. There were no protesters,” he added. “Some of my neighbors came because they wanted to listen to the music but I had to tell them that it was a women’s only event. But still three people bought t-shirts. What [Blankenship] said never happened.”
There were never the serious problems Blankenship alleges, he added, and20said he thought she was trying to create publicity for herself.
“She’s causing all kinds of damage,” he said. “I have total support in my community and have never had any problems. This is hurting us.”
Carolyn Bowden, president of First City Network in Savannah, Ga., the oldest LGBT group in the state, said she was there and saw nothing of what Blankenship is claiming in her press release.
“I really am flabbergasted,” she said today.
“I was there so when I read this [on sovo.com], my jaw hit the floor,” she said. “The only thing that happened is she was denied a permit. None of this other stuff happened.”
Bowden said her trailer was just 50 yards away from the cabin where Blankenship stayed and she slept with the windows open and did not hear any gunshots over the weekend.
Blankenship stated the harassment against festival attendees continued on Saturday, including people lining up around the campground and again shouting, “Fucking queers go home.”
“There was not a soul on the road yelling epithets. That never happened. And this kind of thing damages our community,” Bowden added. “I’m shocked this is what she has put out that this is what came out of that weekend. Everyone was having a good time."
Blankenship said no future festivals would be held in Tattnall County.
"It is un
acceptable for this type of blatant harassment and prejudicial treatment to go on and the lives of U.S. citizens to be put in jeopardy," she said.
"There was a severe and open violation of civil rights on offering equal protection by the law in Tattnall County. This violation of safety was not a gay thing or a straight thing, it was a human thing and a violation of human safety and human rights occurred," she added.
Tattnall County is about 200 miles southeast of Atlanta.
From: Sue Jeffers <sue at fbirecords.com>
To: outvoice at outvoice.net
Sent: Wed, Oct 7, 2009 4:55 pm
Subject: [OutVoice] [Fwd: Press Release: GA Women's Festival Shut Down-Incident Report]
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Press Release: GA Women's Festival Shut Down-Incident Report
Date: Wed, 7 Oct 2009 14:59:56 +0000 (GMT)
From: Vicki Blankenship <spottedkivaproductions at yahoo.com>
To: Sue Jeffers <sue at fbirecords.com>
Official Indiegrrl Women in the Arts Press Release:
Georgia Women’s Festival Shut Down – Incident Report
My name is Vicki Blankenship and I am the volunteer president of Indiegrrl Women in the Arts, Inc a non profit that works to create networking, educational, and showcasing opportunities for women in the arts. Indiegrrl does not discriminate against religion, race, sexuality, age, political views or anything else and accepts all women involved in the arts to participate in our programs and events.20We work to build community type events to bring awareness to women in the arts and to raise monies for various charities and are presently working to raise funds to build a facility that will hold children’s music and art camps and songwriting/music retreats and workshops for adults. The prospective location for this facility is Mineral Bluff, GA which borders NC and is very close to TN.
Indiegrrl has produced many festivals in the southeast that were community events as well as showcases in venues all around the United States showcasing various female music acts, comedians, spoken word artists, and local artisans selling their arts and crafts. We have also produced 2 national music conferences, one in Spencer, VA in August 2008 and one in Nashville, TN in August 2009. We have future goals to produce many more events. All of these events have been welcomed with open arms in the communities in which they were held, accept for the very last event we produced this month on October 2, 3, 4 in Tattnall County, GA. This event was the first festival event that we produced as a weekend event for women only ages 18 and up and was called the Georgia Women’s Festival. This event had the soul purpose to create a safe environment for a weekend of celebration in sisterhood through music and art, no matter what your religion, political view, ethnic race, or sexual views were. It was also a fund raiser to help bring in funds to go toward the construction of bunk houses for the=2
0facility we plan to build in Mineral Bluff, GA. Roy’s Hideaway Campground located in Tattnall County Georgia between Reidsville and Collins Georgia was the hosting site for this festival and is a gay and lesbian 21 year old and up membership campground.
On two occasions prior to the festival taking place on October 2 to 4, campground owner Roy McLeroy tried going through the proper channels on finding out if we needed an event permit and if so to obtain the permit for the event to take place on his campground. He was told by the on duty deputies of Tattnall County Sheriff’s department that he did not need to obtain a permit since it was private property and also a membership campground and that Indiegrrl the producer of the event was a non profit organization. The second time he tried to obtain the permit was Thursday morning October 1, 2009 and he was told the exact same thing.
The GA Women’s Festival music was scheduled to begin on October 2 at 2:00pm and was advertised on both the campground website as well as the Indiegrrl website and event flyers. Our first two Friday music acts canceled the day before the event due to illness so the music was rescheduled to start at 4:00pm but we did not change the schedules on our websites. At 3:00pm two local deputies arrived on site telling owner Roy McLeroy and our event sound engineer Steve Wolfe that neighbors of the campground had phoned in a complaint that the music was too loud and
we would have to turn it down. Roy and Steve informed the deputies that the music had not even started and was not starting until 4:00pm. The deputies verified that no music was being played on the stage and that the stage was not even fully set up yet and the deputies left the premises. At 10:30pm that same night four cars full of deputies returned to the campground and told us we would have to stop the music. We were told in front of many witnesses whose names and contact info we have, that we could go get a permit at 10:00am, Saturday morning, at the Tattnall Sheriff Department from Captain Bradley and we could resume our event on Saturday after getting the permit. With the permit we would be allowed to play music until midnight. The deputies stated they had lots of complaints about the noise and a permit would allow us to over ride the complaints. After the deputies left the premises, people lined up outside the fenced perimeter of the campground and began yelling obscenities at the festival attendees and chanted “F___ing Queers go home”. One neighboring piece of property had cars line up in a field that separated the properties between them and the campground and shined their car headlights down into the campground, blared loud music from their car speakers, and proceeded to fire guns down into the pond areas in the campground. 911 calls were made to the Tattnall County Sheriff Department to come put a stop to this but nothing got stopped. I personally never saw a police20vehicle respond to the area with the cars shining their headlights down on us and my cabin was 30 feet from the pond they were shooting into. This went on until 4:00am when they finally stopped.
On Saturday morning campground owner Roy McLeroy, his mother Dorothy, Steve Wolfe our sound engineer and I went to the Tattnall County Sheriff Department and asked for Captain Bradley to obtain our permit. We were told it was his day off so we asked if they would phone him to come in and explained out situation. When Captain Bradley arrived he walked past us and sat behind the window opening at the entrance. I extended my hand for him to shake as I introduced myself and he refused to shake my hand all the while as he kept his arms crossed and seemed to be very irritated. I gave him our non profit brochure and our non profit federal number and asked if we could get the permit the deputies the night before had told us to get from him so we could resume our event today. He pushed the papers aside and told me he told them to shut us down and no he would not give us a permit. I explained that the deputies had told me in front of many witnesses that Captain Bradley would give us a permit so we could resume our fund raising festival on Saturday. I asked him on what grounds was he refusing us a permit. He said he would not give us a permit and again I questioned him as to why not. He stated “I just am not going to do it.” I asked to see
a magistrate judge and Captain Bradley told me there was not one on duty and told me “leave the premises right now.” I then stated that I wanted to see a magistrate judge to know my rights on their laws and ordinances on event permits, noise restrictions, and event guidelines. At that point Captain Bradley demanded that I leave the premises and advised campground owner Roy McLeroy to make me leave the premises. I then stated that I have a right to stand on public property and that I was not breaking any laws and that I had the right to see in writing the laws and ordinances governing events and noise restrictions in their county. Captain Bradley, who was out of uniform and refused to give me his first name when I asked him, walked off again yelling “Roy take her out of here before I lock her up.” I told Captain Bradley he had no grounds to lock me up that no laws were being broken and that I would leave but I would find the proper authorities to find out the Tattnall County ordinances and laws. I also questioned him why the harassment from the people outside the campground toward the festival attendees was not stopped during the night along with the gun fire after numerous 911 calls were made. He said “We took care of that” and I stated “Well obviously not because it went on for 5 hours until 4:00am”. He again yelled “Roy get her out of here”. I then went to the parking lot and began making phone calls along20with Steve Wolfe to try to find out the county ordinances. Inside the precinct Captain Bradley told Roy McLeroy and Dorothy “Ms Blankenship better watch her back while driving out of this county or she might find herself locked up in my jail.” This was a verbal threat on my safety and well being.
We returned to the campground and gathered everyone and I made an announcement to the festival attendees that we were not granted the permit that the officers on Friday night told us we could get and that the stage could not resume with music. We then started phoning various county offices including the Sheriff’s department to find out what the county noise ordinance was and we were told several different answers including 9:00pm, 10:00pm, 2:00pm, and All Day. 30 minutes after returning to the campground the magistrate judge drove up. I then questioned him on the ordinances and questioned Captain Bradley’s behavior. His direct comment to me was “Well you know how small towns are and Captain Bradley is a good old boy and a pretty good officer.” I then stated “I only know about the small towns that go by their ordinances and laws that are on the books and that do not make up laws as they go along, and where police officers did not threaten people who were just asking to know their rights and to see those laws and ordinances in writing.” The magistrate apologized for Captain Bradley’s behavior and stated he did not think we had20to have a permit because the campground was private property in the county and a membership campground. He then walked away and phoned Sheriff Quinton Rush and came back and told me we could not go on with our event and that he would not issue us a permit.
At 8:00pm that night people once again lined up outside the campground fence line and resumed yelling obscenities at us and were chanting the same “F___ing Queers go home”. Once again the loud music, headlights from the cars, and the shooting of firearms into the ponds and into the air resumed until 5:00am on Sunday morning. Again 911 phone calls were made and nothing got stopped. The women in the campground were literally crying in their tents and cabins afraid for their lives and the Tattnall County Sheriff Department did not respond to or stop the harassment.
Indiegrrl had no prior knowledge that the neighboring community had harsh feelings towards Roy’s Hideaway Campground and had acted out against them in the past. We would not have organized an event at this facility if prior knowledge had existed. We in no way would put festival attendees in any danger by holding an event in a possible hostile environment. We will not hold any more events at this facility in the future nor in the county of Tattnall. We do want to make the public aware of the unjust treatment that existed for this event and the harassment that did take place. Events that we produce bring monies to the local a
rea including hotel rentals, restaurant revenues, gas and grocery revenues and more. Our goal at Indiegrrl is to create fun community events that benefit the attendees, the community, and the artists participating. Indiegrrl is still exploring our options on legal proceedings with this situation. It is unacceptable for this type of blatant harassment and prejudicial treatment to go on and the lives of US citizens to be put in jeopardy. There was a severe and open violation of civil rights on offering equal protection by the law in Tattnall County. This violation of safety was not a gay thing or a straight thing it was a human thing and a violation of human safety and human rights occurred.
Indiegrrl Women in the Arts, Inc.
P.O. Box 4021
Martinsville, VA 24115
Vicki at indiegrrl.com <mailto:Vicki at indiegrrl.com>
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