Is Denver Using PrideFest in PR Battle Against Denver 420 Rally?

Civic Center Park the morning after PrideFest.
Civic Center Park the morning after PrideFest. Courtesy of Pushkin Public Relations
Update below: The City of Denver appears to be continuing its public-relations battle against the Denver 420 Rally, which is appealing a three-year permit ban, by contrasting the trashy condition of Civic Center Park the morning after the April 20 event with the much tidier look of the location following this past weekend's PrideFest celebration. Meanwhile, an attorney for the rally charges Denver with using a double standard by pointing out that a dispensary was allowed to display its logo at PrideFest, as seen in a video below, even though such businesses have been forbidden to do so at the Denver 420 Rally.

PrideFest is certainly doing all it can to show that it appreciates its own permit with the city. Pushkin Public Relations, which represents the fest, shared the June 19 photo at the top of this post along with a note that reads in part, "PrideFest takes a lot of pride in being a professional festival, working well with the City and leaving the park in great shape. While some festivals don’t have a great reputation for this, PrideFest works hard be a good steward of Civic Center Park."

A similar tone was struck by Alan Salazar, chief of staff for Denver Mayor Michael Hancock; Salazar's boss has a reputation of disdain for the Denver 420 Rally and starred in a press conference decrying the condition of Civic Center Park after this year's edition.

In a June 19 Facebook post, Salazar shared this photo....

click to enlarge A post-PrideFest photo shared by Alan Salazar, chief of staff for Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. - FACEBOOK
A post-PrideFest photo shared by Alan Salazar, chief of staff for Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.
...and a note that reads: "Civic Center Park the morning after #Pridefest2017 — green and clean. Thanks to the organizers of one of the biggest people events in our city for taking care of the park. LGBTQ folks know how to party and clean up after the party is over. Love em."

The text above doesn't mention the Denver 420 Rally, but in an item about the post, 9News interpreted it as Denver "throwing shade" at the marijuana gathering.

Was that the case? We've reached out to Amber Miller, Hancock's spokesperson, on the subject and will update this post when and if she gets back to us. But Denver 420 Rally attorney Rob Corry doesn't seem too worked up about the presumed slap. "I don't know if it was aimed at us," he says. "Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. I'm not going to become too hypersensitive. You can't be in this business."

Corry is considerably more concerned about "dispensaries using their logo" at PrideFest, "which we think they should be able to do, but which they aren't able to do at our event — and that greatly hampers our ability to raise money. If you're a dispensary and would like to be a sponsor of our event, you'd like to be able to put your logo on there, and they can't even do that. So it's differential treatment, and it's documented."

Indeed it is. Here's a video shot by Denver 420 Rally co-founder Miguel Lopez at PrideFest.

As for rally organizers' appeal of the permit ban, Corry says the city hasn't offered a reply to its submission even though it was delivered nearly three weeks ago. Indeed, the only official response thus far has been to approve Corry's open-records request for any paperwork related to the rally that might be used against his event — as well as a bill for $270. "I paid that, and they said I should have those documents within a couple of days," Corry allows.

In the meantime, there have been no moves on Denver's part to schedule an appeals hearing, which Corry thinks may be a tactical decision.

"Delay harms us, because we're already trying to make arrangements for next year," he notes. "We have to raise capital, book talent and all that stuff, and the earlier the better. Of course, there's complete uncertainty until this is resolved — so delay certainly serves the city better than us."

So, too, does making PrideFest look good at the Denver 420 Rally's expense.

Update: The day after the publication of this post, we received a response to our inquiry from Jenna Espinoza, deputy communications director for Mayor Michael Hancock. Her statement reads: "It’s silly to insinuate one post on a personal social media outlet is part of some sort of a PR battle. Personal social media channels of city staff are just that – personal opinions – and it’s a little ridiculous to suggest the post is trying to do anything more than just share an observation."
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts