Cops Take SunFest Stage

There’s a big police presence at this year’s SunFest in West Palm Beach, Fla., but not because of any security issue at the AEG Live-run outdoor event.

The Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association organized a daily protest at SunFest over what it believes is mistreatment of the force by the city.

It should be stressed that the protest’s target has nothing to do with SunFest, which merely provides a high-profile stage for the demonstration, or the artists playing there.

About 50 to 75 protestors were expected to stage an informational picket to “educate the public” on how West Palm Beach is treating its cops, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “We’re sick and tired of being mistreated by the city,” PBA President John Kazanjian told the paper.

West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel disagrees with the police union.

“We value our officers and that is why they are the second-highest paid in the state for cities our size earning an average of $82,000 per year,” Frankel said in a statement to the paper. “We also value our citizens who are struggling with their expenses and decreasing property values leading to a $20 million dollar budget shortfall. We cannot increase the financial burden on our citizens to fund raises to any employee at this time.”

The key issue centers on the number and amount of raises for about 25 percent of the city’s 315 police officers.

AEG Live SE took over SunFest last year when the fest’s contract with Fantasma Productions ended. Although Live Nation acquired Fantasma, most of Fantasma’s staff moved to AEG, following former Fantasma talent buyer and current AEG Live-SE CEO John Valentino.

Valentino was at the festival, which runs April 28 through May 2, and wasn’t available for immediate comment. Artists at this year’s fest include Weezer, ZZ Top, Ben Harper and Smashmouth.