A city marching band made up of Falun Gong members complained yesterday it was discriminated against after Canadian Tulip Festival officials barred it from performing at opening ceremonies on Friday night.
But festival officials say the Tian Guo Marching Band misrepresented itself and, after band members arrived wearing Falun Gong scarves and banners, they had the right to ask them to leave.
“We did not receive anything, that I am aware of, that said they were Falun Gong,” said festival spokesman Doug Little. “If they had told us who they were, they would never have been asked to perform.”
The band was invited to play O Canada and Maple Leaf Forever, but before it took the stage, a festival programmer told members they could not perform because they were a protest group, band members claimed at a press conference yesterday.
Drummer Grace Wollensak claimed organizers told them they didn’t want to upset Chinese Embassy representatives, who have a tent, along with 24 other nations, at the International Pavilion.
Little denied that, saying Chinese officials were not aware the band was slated to play.
“Nobody knew they were coming. It has nothing to do with the Chinese,” he said. “We don’t allow protest groups. That’s not what we’re about. The festival is a celebration of tulips and international friendship.”
Earlier on Friday, the band had performed at a Parliament Hill protest of the Chinese government’s human rights record. But band members insisted they were not at the ceremony to make a political statement and seemed reluctant to leave. Festival organizers called police to disperse the group.
The band is demanding an apology and a chance to play at the festival.