Barry Cunningham of Buena Vista Marketing & Promotions was arrested in Lake Park August 29 on bad-check and delinquent child support charges immediately after being informed the town was canceling the concert, scheduled for September 2 and 3.

The Stop the Violence event featured nearly 50 bands including Kottonmouth Kings, Jimmie’s Chicken Shack, Marvelous 3, and Goldfinger. Organizers also intended to present information on gun safety and youth violence prevention.

“Simply put, with plenty of malice aforethought, the town of Lake Park breached our contract, violated the First Amendment and the civil rights of those involved,” Cunningham said after the cancellation.

“I believe their actions to be racially and culturally discriminatory and extremely politically motivated. Without a shred of doubt, the town of Lake Park defamed prospective concert-goers as ‘those kind of people’ and stated that they did not want that type of music and element in their town.”

Officials of the town, just north of West Palm Beach, met with Cunningham to discuss whether the event should go on two days after the Palm Beach Post published an August 27 article critical of the concert and its promoters.

Lake Park Town Attorney Betty Resch said Cunningham’s remarks in the paper caused a stir. “He admitted in the paper, and told me it was part of the promotion, that there would be mosh pits. And it’s supposed to be a ‘stop violence’ thing. We’re very sensitive about that here. We had a teacher shot,” Resch told Pollstar. Lake Worth, Fla., teacher Barry Grunow was shot and killed by a 13-year old student in May. The attorney emphatically denies the concert was canceled on any grounds other than the size of the event.

“It’s like he tried to find a shoe that was too small for his foot,” Resch said. “It’s clear he had produced an event that was bigger than our park. He gave away 5,000 tickets, which makes his claim of having a fund-raiser questionable. That park doesn’t even hold 5,000 people. We feel like he … promoted one idea to us and then promoted another idea to the rest of the world.

“There was a festival … that was very successful called the Irish Fest, and much more low key. That was the basic understanding that we had with Mr. Cunningham that [the Stop The Violence concert] would be like. He didn’t come to us saying it was going to involve more, more, more. He took it and ran with it. It just got too big. Our park is a small little park! We’re talking small.”

Cunningham said he tried to satisfy city officials’ concerns about the event’s magnitude. “On Tuesday afternoon (August 29) … we offered to significantly scale back the size of the event by eliminating a stage, re-organizing set times to balance sound levels, offered to bring in an acoustical engineer (at our cost) to best determine stage placement, end the show at 9:30 p.m. instead of 10, eliminate 20 bands and to put full discretionary control of the event into the hands of the Chief of Police. The town refused this offer,” Cunningham said in a statement.

“When subsequently informed that we would have no choice but to file a lawsuit to recover damages and contract violations, we were told ‘bring it on’ by Ms. [Town Manager Terry] Leary.”

Resch told Pollstar that the city hadn’t received notification of a suit being filed.

After the meeting, Lake Park police informed Cunningham that warrants for his arrest had been issued in two Florida counties and arrested him. Leary denied that the charges had anything to do with the concert’s cancellation, but Cunningham isn’t buying it.

“Ms. Leary, on more than a few different occasions in the meeting, stated that she indeed was canceling the concert based upon personal allegations and charges against me … the allegations did not involve Buena Vista Marketing & Promotions in any way,” Cunningham said.

Resch denied that Cunningham’s outstanding warrants were an issue.

“He went to the Palm Beach Post for the article and started talking about mosh pits. I said, ‘Barry, I think it’s a really bad promotion choice. You’ve got a tiny little park, with a lot of upset old people living in towers around it – it’s very political.’

“It’s not a comment on rock ‘n’ roll – because God, I love rock ‘n’ roll – but it’s just too big a party for our little party place.”