Juneteenth Organizer Files $4 Million Lawsuit Against Columbus

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A local attorney has filed a lawsuit against the city of Columbus  for the organizer of the Juneteenth Festival.

Attorney Byron L. Potts says Juneteenth organizer, Mustafaa Shabazz, has tried to work with the city since the June 2013 event.

“We wanted to resolve this before we filed this lawsuit,” said Attorney Byron Potts “We were trying to.”

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday morning in U.S. District Court in Columbus, claims the city’s decision to shut down the summer festival after a child was shot violated Shabazz’s civil rights and was discriminatory to the African-American Community. The lawsuit seeks  $4 million in damages.

Back in June, a Columbus Police spokesperson told 10TV shut down the festival after an 11-year-old boy was shot because undercover officers gave them information there could be more trouble.

"There had been other incidents of violence leading up to the gunshots, and there was every indication from our resources within the festival that it was going to continue and possibly escalate,” said Columbus Police Sergeant David Pelphrey.

Pelphrey says the incident commander shared the information with the organizer, and the decision was made to shut the festival down.

Potts claims his client was kept out of the loop.

“He didn't have any opportunity to have any input, they shut it down and they violated the contract that he entered into with them,” said Potts

Potts also claims the city is trying to prevent him from filing a permit for a 2014 festival

"They are still trying to collect money, the department of recreation and parks, they are still trying to collect money for the event for the days that were cancelled,” said Potts

Alan McKnight, director of the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks, said Shabazz has not filed a permit application for the festival but confirmed Shabazz still owes money for the 2013 event.

McKnight says fees from a prior event must be paid before a new permit can be issued.

However, McKnight says this isn’t the first time Shabazz has owed money and says the agency has worked with him in the past and he is not sure why he thinks it would be different now.

McKnight and the Mayor’s office declined to comment on the lawsuit itself because they say they have not seen it yet.