I have loved Bele Chere for years but my enjoyment has increasingly been destroyed by the overwhelming presence of the street preachers throughout the festival. In one circuit of the festival I passed four separate groups loudly proclaiming their religious beliefs with the use of microphones.
Bele Chere organizers have been quoted as saying they can do nothing about this because the law grants these people the right to free speech. What about the rights of the street entertainers who are forbidden to perform during Bele Chere without a permit? They are removed without hesitation. When the street preachers stand above the crowd on boxes, use microphones, sometimes sing — how is this not a performance? Even though city noise ordinances are lifted for the duration of the festival, according to the festival policy, “Amplification is allowed by performer permit only.” (Read the full policy at http://avl.mx/iv.) What is the legal justification for applying this rule to everyone except the street preachers?
There is also a statement in the festival policies giving organizers the right to remove anyone if they “deem the content of your performance to be in any way offensive to any of our festivalgoers.” The reaction on the street shows that the message booming through Bele Chere, much of which insists that most of us will burn in hell, is offensive to many people. But it seems that the people saying these inflammatory things are exempt not only from the rules for street performers, but also from the regulations relating to offensive content.
Bele Chere provides space for any religious or political group to have a booth where people can express their beliefs. Why is one group allowed to break all the rules and, by so doing, create a dominating and, to many, offensive, atmosphere throughout the festival?
— Terry Wyszynski