"I think they had objections to the title of my project."
A German music project known for its quirky politically-themed concerts wanted to hold a free Tear Down This Wall performance simultaneously on both sides of the border fence between Imperial Beach and Tijuana this Saturday, June 3rd.
The Border Patrol will not be allowing access to the Friendship Park area directly in front of the border fence, which is separated by a secondary fence with a gate.
Mexican authorities said yes, but U.S. authorities said no, so the concert will now only be on the Tijuana side.
"It's absolutely weird," said Dresdner Sinfoniker artistic director Markus Rindt about the ban on the concert.
"I think they had objections to the title of my project," Rindt said, adding that he might have received permission "if we had been just playing some Mozart."
Also complicating attendance for the concert is the fact that the access road to the state park is currently closed due to flooding.
In fact, the political nature of the event was exactly why the Border Patrol denied permission.
"The Border Patrol does not allow the federal enforcement zone to be used as a stage for an event based on a political message," according to a statement provided by Agent Mark Endicott.
Just last Saturday, May 27th, the annual Fandango Fronterizo concert was allowed in the same area and was also held simultaneously on both sides of the fence.
"No matter what type of forum the San Diego Border Field State Park would be considered under First Amendment law, the government can't cancel an event because that event is dedicated to a viewpoint about a particular subject that the government disagrees with," said David Snyder of the First Amendment Coalition in California.
The Border Patrol declined comment on the constitutional issue.
"Tear down this wall" is a quotation by President Ronald Reagan when he spoke against the Berlin Wall in then-West Germany. Rindt lived in East Germany under Communism.
"Even if Trump would say no wall anymore, we would do our project nonetheless," Rindt said.
"It's also meant to be against walls around Europe, also between Mexico and Guatemala, Syria and Turkey, refugees being arrested in Hungary when they come from Syria....Our project is against nationalism and isolationism," Rindt said.
People can still go to the Border Field State Park to try to see the concert on the other side of the fence, but the Border Patrol will not be allowing access to the Friendship Park area directly in front of the border fence, which is separated by a secondary fence with a gate. Though that federal zone area is usually open on weekends, the gate will be locked because of this concert.
"In light of recent developments regarding a planned event in Playas de Tijuana, B.C., Mexico, Friendship Circle will be closed to the public on June 3, 2017," the Border Patrol said via Agent Endicott. "This closure will reduce the potential for any risk associated with public demonstrations or disorder that may affect the safety of Border Patrol agents and the general public."
The Fandango Fronterizo concert held last Saturday, also on both sides of the fence, included over 250 participants on the US side, 113 vehicles and one charter bus, according to Chris Peregrin of the State Parks department.
Also complicating attendance for the Dresdner Sinfoniker concert is the fact that the access road to the state park is currently closed due to flooding, as it was for the Fandango Fronterizo concert. “Not yet open to vehicles, but we anticipate it will be open soon,” said Peregrin. For the Frontirizo concert, “They walked in. Three mile round trip,” he said.
Local reaction to the ban has been mixed.
"Time to stop calling this place 'Friendship Park.' Anyone who has been there in the last few years knows that name is no longer accurate," said Tom Antoniewicz on social media. "Perhaps we should start calling it East Berlin Park or something like that."
"The relationship between Mexico and the U.S. is a friendly one for now anyway, which is the reason for the protests; we want to keep that relationship," added Anne Pilgrim.
But one ban supporter said the orchestra should feel "shame" for being "glory hounds" who just want a "free trip to America."
John Loudon, a former Missouri state politician and Tea Party activist who now lives in Imperial Beach, said "The entire argument of these glory hounds seeking a free trip to America demeans the lives of everyone who suffered behind the [Berlin] Wall and/or died trying to breach it. Shame!"
The Dresdner Sinfoniker will perform songs by Pink Floyd and Carlos Santana, using six musicians travelling from Europe playing along with numerous performers from Tijuana and San Diego, including San Diego jazz singer Coral MacFarland Thuet.
Rindt said a highlight will include Arizona percussionist Glenn Weyant, who makes music by banging on the border fence.
Rindt said that activists who want to participate in the event are encouraged to stage their own performance at any wall of their choice and then post the performance on social media using the hashtag #teardownthiswall.
People could also go enjoy the concert in Tijuana's side of Friendship Circle, Rindt said.
"Maybe it's even better to come to Tijuana," he said. "It's much nicer."
After the denied permission by the Border Patrol, Rindt's music group tried to get permission to play in the part of Border Field State Park which is not in the Border Patrol's federal zone, but received a rejection from the California State Parks department two weeks ago.
That denial of permission was due to reasons including miscommunication with the organization about the possible crowd size during endangered bird breeding season, leading to concerns that nature habitats there could be harmed, according to Peregrin of State Parks.
"We don’t shy away from events that may include political issues," Peregrin added, "that was not the reason for the denial of this event."