On November 29, 2007, the City of San Antonio passed an ordinance that puts a price on free speech and our right to march in the streets.

In response, members of the International Woman's Day March and Rally Committee and the San Antonio Free Speech Coalition filed a lawsuit against the City challenging this ordinance and organizing against it.

Read more on the
Lawsuit Info page.

For info on this issue please call 210.228.0201.



August 8 - Community Action


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Members of the International Woman's Day March Committee and the
San Antonio Free Speech Coalition travelled to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans April 27th
to defend our right to march in the public streets.
Please donate to help cover costs incurred for lodging and transportation. call 210.228.0201 to make a donation
Las Calles No Se Callan! Our Streets Will Not Be Silenced!


Fifth Circuit Decision
Oral Argument on our appeal will be heard in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Tuesday April 27, 2010
Judge Fred Biery granted the City's request for summary judgment and dismissed our case - denying the gente our day in court.
Information for Organizers Regarding S.A. Parade Permit Applications
Update on Recusal
Update on Lawsuit and the City of S.A. and SAPD
Judge Rodriguez finds S.A's Parade Ordinance unconstitutional in several respects and grants most of our Request for Preliminary Injunction!
Hearing Request for Injunction
Background Info

Fifth Circuit Decision: Important Meeting of the Int'l Woman's Day March
and the San Antonio Free Speech Coalition: Wed, Sept 15, 2010, 6-8pm

posted September 12, 2010

The Fifth Circuit panel has issued an opinion on our appeal and we have only a few days to decide our next steps. The Fifth Circuit panel rejected the City’s “government speech” argument – this is the good news. The bad news is that the panel nevertheless affirmed the District Court’s order dismissing our claims. Download a copy of the panel’s decision HERE Please read the opinion if you have the time, but even if you can’t, please attend this crucial meeting on Wednesday September 15, 2010 at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, 922 San Pedro.

Oral Argument in the U.S. Court of Appeals Set for April 27, 2010
posted April 17, 2010 (originally published in April 2010 issue of La Voz)

On March 6, thousands marched in solidarity with women whose lives and bodies are torn apart by weapons used to conquer the globe for predatory capitalism; with Hyatt housekeepers fighting for the livable wage we all were promised; with victims of official, domestic, and other misogynist violence; with children robbed of their education by the greed of bankers, developers, media conglomerates, global corporations, and the politicians who serve them; with lesbian and trans-women raped and tortured for the slights to patriarchy refracted in the minds of their attackers; and with women en la lucha throughout the world.

In the next few weeks, the City will send the International Women’s Day March Planning Committee a bill that SAPD has estimated will be somewhere between $1,500 and $7,500. Our fight against the City’s efforts to charge thousands of dollars for those street marches bearing messages challenging the City and others with power and influence continues. Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals scheduled oral argument in the case of International Women’s Day March & S.A. Free Speech Coalition v. San Antonio.

As La Voz readers will recall, the City of San Antonio currently requires some marching permit applicants to pay thousands of dollars for traffic control while waiving all costs for permit holders whose messages are endorsed by City officials. The International Women’s Day March & Rally Planning Committee and the San Antonio Free Speech Coalition brought a federal lawsuit against the City, alleging that this policy is unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Judge Xavier Rodríguez initially enjoined the City from enforcing this policy, but in March 2009, Judge Fred Biery dissolved the injunction and in June, he entered Summary Judgment for the City, without addressing or deciding any of the legal issues raised by the lawsuit. The International Women’s Day March & Rally Planning Committee and the San Antonio Free Speech Coalition appealed the Summary Judgment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and oral argument on our appeal will be heard by the Court of Appeals during the week of April 26th.

It is good news that the Court set the case for oral argument, because the City opposed our oral argument request, and a case is set for oral argument only when the Court determines that the case presents substantial legal issues. Less than 20% of the cases filed with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals are set for oral argument. This will be an important step towards winning this case. Join the struggle!
¡Adelante con la lucha! ¡Las calles no se callan!

Information for Organizers Regarding S.A. Parade Permit Applications
posted February 09, 2009

The San Antonio Police Department may not legally require you to rent traffice control devices or to pay for police officers. Please do not let the SAPD bully you into paying or into cancelling your event because you don't have the money! Click to download an information sheet for Organizers regarding S.A. Parade Permit Applications.

Update on Recusal
posted Jan 30, 2009

On January 15, 2009, both sides appeared before Judge Xavier Rodriguez for a Pre-Trial Conference, a standard meeting to discuss matters in preparation for the trial that was set for 11 days later, January 26th.  Six days before the Pretrial Conference, the City finally gave us copies of the Parade Permit Applications that had been filed during 2008, which we had been asking for months before.  In those documents, we discovered that the Police Department had received at least two “decisions” from the City Attorney’s office regarding whether particular Applications were for “First Amendment Processions” under the Parade Ordinance (we believe that all marches/processions/parades are protected by the First Amendment, but the city says it can decide which ones are protected).  The Assistant City Attorney who had given the Police department these decisions was Veronica Zertuche, so we added her name to the witness list that was submitted to the Judge.

To our great surprise, Judge Rodriguez’s opening words on January 15th were that he believed he would have to recuse himself from the case.   Normally, a judge must recuse himself (step away from the case and assign it to a different judge) if s/he has a financial interest in one of the parties (as if a judge owns stock in a company that is one of the parties) or if one of the parties or a witness is a close family member (generally viewed as parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, siblings, cousins, or neice/nephew). 

Judge Rodriguez explained that Assistant City Attorney Veronica Zertuche, was his next-door neighbor as they were growing up, and their families remained close friends.  “She is like my cousin,” he explained.  He acknowledged that the Rules did not require him to recuse himself but said he was worried “about how it might appear to the community,” and “to the press.”  He explained that he was concerned that “it might appear inappropriate for me to decide this case.”  With that, Judge Rodriguez cancelled the January 26th trial date, said goodbye, and closed the hearing.  The next day we received notice that the case would now be heard by Judge Fred Biery. So now we have to wait until Judge Biery sets a new trial date.

Update on Lawsuit and SAPD
posted Jul 21, 2008

The City of San Antonio and SAPD created the Standard Operating Procedures for Marches and Parades, and has filed to lift the Injuction granted by Judge Rodriguez! The operating procedures continue to give SAPD complete discretion over who can march and continues to charge us for our Free Speech!!

On March 13, the City Council amended the Parade Ordinance, hoping to correct the constitutional violations discussed by Judge Rodriguez. The amendments list seven factors for the SAPD to consider in setting the fees (the march route, the number of participants etc.) and direct the Chief of Police to create a Standard Operating Procedure implementing these factors.  At that point, the lawsuit stalled, waiting for the Chief of Police to issue the Standard Operating Procedure so that we could all see what the fee-setting details would be. Months passed. Finally, Judge Rodriguez set the case for a Status Conference on June 24. On June 23, the Standard Operating Procedure was issued. In court the next day, City Attorney Deborah Klein offered a “computer glitch” as explanation for the delay.  So now things are speeding up. Judge Rodriguez reaffirmed the trial date of November 17, 2008.  On June 27, the City filed a Motion asking the Court to end the injunction on the ground that the amendments and the Standard Operating Procedure correct all unconstitutional aspects of the Parade Ordinance.

We will ask Judge Rodriguez to continue the injunction, arguing that the high fees constitute an insurmountable bar to freedom of speech and assembly, that the frequent waivers constitute unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination, and that the Parade Ordinance is unconstitutionally vague in its definition of “First Amendment Processions” and “Non-First Amendment Processions.”

This is an important struggle.  We must preserve our right to march in the streets! We must protect the public right to open political debate! Join us!  Come to Free Speech Coalition Meetings the 2nd Tuesday of every month at the Esperanza! Write letters to the editor or Op-Ed pieces! Contribute money to the Coalition for litigation expenses! Call 210.228.0201 to get involved! The case will go to trial on November 17, 2008!*

*UPDATE: Trial Date has been rescheduled for January 26, 2009)

Results of Hearing on Request for Injunction
posted Fri, Dec 21, 2007

Community overflowed the courtroom of United States District Judge Xavier Rodríguez yesterday morning to fight against the City of San Antonio’s efforts to put a high price tag on Free Speech.  “The streets can be used to promote tourism or to sell Spurs tickets, but not to speak out against the imprisonment of immigrant children, the invasion of Iraq, or the exploitation of women workers – speech is not free in San Antonio!” comments Amanda Haas, a community organizer and activist with the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center.

The International Woman’s Day March & Rally Committee and the San Antonio Free Speech Coalition, a coalition of over 250 individuals and organizations (click here for a list) asked Judge Rodríguez to bar the City from enforcing its new parade ordinance, enacted on November 29, 2007 by the City Council, over courageous opposition by Councilwomen Lourdes Galvan and Mary Alice Cisneros.  In casting her vote against the ordinance, Councilwoman Galvan said “I have heard the testimony of community activists … and in honor of Emma Tenayuca, I will vote against this ordinance.”

Judge Rodríguez heard powerful testimony from five community representatives.  Maria Antonietta Berriozábal  recalled significant street marches over the years: in solidarity with the Selma “Bloody Sunday” Civil Rights March in 1965, in outrage over the murder of a San Antonio youth by a police officer, in support of the rights of women, immigrants, and workers – street marches are the primary forum for community free speech in San Antonio.  Graciela Sánchez testified to the favoritism and arbitrariness in the imposition of costs for street marches by City officials: participation in a nation-wide demonstration in solidarity with the victims of genocide in Darfur would cost between $12,000 and $15,000; the 2006 march for immigrant rights was charged anywhere from $6,000 to $70,000; the International Woman’s Day March was charged $2,500 over ten years ago.  Joleen Garcia recounted her experience in helping to organize the May 1st immigrants’ rights march: even though the City knew that upwards of 18,000 people would march, the City insisted that no street march would be permitted unless organizers paid thousands of dollars.  If you don’t pay, you are on your own.  Lorinda Carr, a veteran disabled by her work at Kelly Air Force base, told the Judge that sidewalk marches are not viable alternatives for physically challenged activists.  Lorinda’s testimony was dramatically illustrated when she had to confront immoveable barriers in her wheelchair’s path to the witness stand and the Judge directed that she “just testify from where you are.”  Nadine Saliba concluded the community’s testimony with information about the special dangers facing the Arab-American community since 9/11, the inquiries she has made regarding street marches, and the conflicts between marchers and pedestrians that are the inevitable consequence of sidewalk marches.

Assistant Chief of Police David Head and Officer William Jenkins testified on behalf of the City, against the background of public statements issued by Mayor Hardberger: “It’s your message, you should have to pay for it!” and Chief of Police William McManus: “the magnitude of controversy could affect [the cost of the march].”   These witnesses confirmed the Plaintiffs’ allegations about the City’s favoritism and arbitrariness: costs are waived for some events because Councilmembers want to support them, because a local constable makes a call to the San Antonio Police Department, or because the Police Department decides to look the other way.

At the end of the three and a half-hour hearing, Judge Rodríguez told participants that he wanted additional arguments from attorneys on both sides, and that he would issue his decision on Plaintiffs’ request for an Injunction before February 8th, in time for the planned International Woman’s Day March on March 8th.  The International Woman’s Day March Committee and the San Antonio Free Speech Coalition will meet again at the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center on February 12, 2008.

Background Information

On November 29, 2007, the Mayor and City Council voted to pass an ordinance that puts a price on free speech.  While the original goal of this ordinance was to streamline the permit and fee process for “Parades, Runs, Walks, and Related Events,” concerns over limitations on our First Amendment rights have become a key point.  Despite many citizens who spoke before the City Council on the issue, only Councilwoman Lourdes Galvan of District 5 and Councilwoman Mary Alice Cisneros of District 1 voted against the ordinance.

Since spring of this year, a community coalition has worked with the City to give feedback on the new ordinance.  While many positive changes to the previous version of the ordinance were made, what passed at City Council remains a blatant violation of free speech. The ordinance threatens community marches by requiring groups to pay for the cost of traffic barriers, police officers, and clean-up for their events, which can amount up to $15,000 or more. In addition, some groups are given exemptions from those costs while others are still required to pay. Such exemptions create the potential for viewpoint discrimination—that is, groups may be exempted from cost based on the political content of their event.

In passing this ordinance, the Mayor and City Council have demonstrated that they do not respect the sanctity of our Constitution.  The U.S. Supreme Court and courts in numerous top-tier cities, including cities in Georgia and Pennsylvania, have repeatedly ruled it unconstitutional for the government to impose such high fees that people are in effect precluded from using the public streets for marches and other such events.  Although the ordinance passed says that the City will pay for the first $3000 of any “First Amendment Activities” on the streets, the remaining costs could still easily prevent free speech marches from occurring.

Even if it is permissible to charge groups the actual cost of using the streets for a march or parade, courts have clearly held that the First Amendment requires “viewpoint neutrality.” That is, if the government decides to waive costs for some marches or parades, it must do so for all, without regard to the views expressed by the event or the event organizers. Thus, it is unconstitutional for the City to subsidize some parades or marches and not others, as the ordinance passed does.

In response, members of the International Woman’s Day March and Rally Committee and the San Antonio Free Speech Coalition marched to the Federal Courthouse immediately following the City Council vote to file a lawsuit challenging this ordinance. Our first hearing on Thursday, December 20th will either grant or deny an injunction that would prvent the City from enforcing or publicizing the ordinance until the lawsuit has been closed.

- back to top -

La Voz
08 Dec/09 Jan

On Civil Rights & Spatial Rights
Free Speech Coalition: What Are These Street Signs & Bumper Stickers All About?
La Coalición Para Libertad de Expresión: ¿Que Son Esos Anuncios Clavados En Muchas Calles?
08 Oct
  Our Streets Will Not Be Silenced! ¡Las Calles No Se Callan!
Free Speech Crackdown in S.A.
08 Sep
El sacudeo del zócalo desde Monterrey a Oaxaca
El sacudeo continua...San Antonio, TX
08 Jul/Aug

UPDATE: IWD Planning Committee & the Coalition for Free Speech v. City of San Antonio
08 Apr
Free Speech Coalition Wins Injunction Against the City of San Antonio, Trial Scheduled
The New Urbanist Myth of Democratic City Planning: The Politics of Charrettes
08 Mar

Claiming Space: Our Right to the City
Public Space: Market Value or Democratic Value
No Free Speech: Another Symptom of Corporate Domination of Our Lives
08 Feb
San Antonio Community Fights for Free Speech and the Right to March
07 Dec/08 Jan
Lawsuit Filed Challenging San Antonio's Parade Ordinance

SA Current articles on sacurrent.com

10 Apr 6
  QueBlog - Parading in the Big Easy
09 July 8
  The Parade suit marches on: COSA wins round one; plaintiffs take First Amendment case to the Fifth Circuit
09 Jan 28
  The QueQue: Free Speech Pause
08 Dec 31
  Year in Review: Free Speech Fight
08 July 23
  Hey, you can't say that! Know your rights: Free Speech
08 March12
  The QueQue: In like a lion, out like a lamb
08 Jan 16
  The City of San Antonio v. the people of San Antonio
08 Jan 16
  I love a charade: Area groups wrestle with Free Speech crackdowns as MLK celebrations return to SA

Express News Articles on mysa.com
2010 April 28
  BLOG: Parade ordinance lands in appeals court by Benjamin Olivo
2010 April 28
  Decision in parades case called vague by Craig Kapitan
2010 April 22
  CONEXION: Ordinance makes free speech costly by Victor Landa
2010 April 17
  Parade fee ordinance featured in mock trial by Ariel Barkhurst
2009 July 28
  Groups appeal ruling upholding parade fees by Guillermo Contreras
2009 July 25
  Parade ordinance ruling to be tested
2009 July 24
  BLOG: Free Speech Coalition to appeal case over city parade ordinance by Elaine Ayala
2009 July 1
  Parade ordinance is upheld by Tracey Idell Hamilton & Guillermo Contreras
2008 June 25
  City maps its new rules for parades
2008 June 24
  Parade ordinance presented to federal judge
2008 June 23
  Hearing on parade rules set for today
2008 March 13
  Council amends parade ordinance
2008 March 12
  Council to revisit parade rules
2007 October 21
  Meeting on processions law set

TV , Blogs, y mas
2010 April 27
  TV: Freedom at a price: Woman's Day Organizers sue city over marching fees by KENS 5
2010 April 27
  RADIO: Free Speech Not So Free in San Antonio - Free Speech Radio News
2010 April 23
  BLOG: S.A. Free Speech Advocates will Appear before U.S. Court of Appeals - QSanAntonio
2010 April 23
  BLOG: The Cost of Free Speech - City Ordinances and Permit Fees - JaySays
2010 April 25
  BLOG: 30 S.A. Social Justice Activists Come to New Orleans for Free Speech Fight - Jordan Flaherty / The Lousiana Justice Institute
2010 April 09
  BLOG: Pay Close Attention - The Streets Will Not Be Silenced, San Antonio Free Speech Lawsuit Moves Forward - Davey D / Southern Shift: The Voice of the South
  BLOG: Las Calles No Se Callan: Interview with Amy Kastely & Graciela Sanchez - Media Justice History Project
2003 February 15
  PRINT: NY Times on US Marches
2003 February 15
  PRINT: Express-News Anti-War March in SA