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Las Calles no se Callan Free Speech Campaign

The Las Calles no se Callan Free Speech campaign represents the multi year collaboration between the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center and other local organizations and groups aimed at spreading the word about repression of political speech in San Antonio. The International Woman’s Day March Committee and San Antonio Free Speech Coalition v. City of San Antonio case represented a community lawsuit against the city in an effort to counteract measures to limit free speech. The Free Speech Coalition and International Woman’s Day March Committee believe that NO ONE should have to pay to march. We should ALL have access to the streets!

On November 29, 2007, San Antonio city council voted to charge thousands of dollars for a permit to march on city streets. Fees are waived only if city officials decide to “sponsor” the applicant’s message. Costs will range from about $2,000 to upwards of $30,000, even with a discount given by the City for “First Amendment” events. If you don’t have thousands of dollars, you can’t march! The City says it has to charge for police to provide traffic control, but assigns more officers than needed. A third of the City budget already goes to the SAPD, meaning the people get charged twice. The City also requires marchers to rent an excessive number of barricades from private companies, even though the TX Traffic Manual says that barricades should not be used for most street marches. The City claims that sidewalk marches are a “free alternative,” but there are few wheelchair accessible sidewalks in San Antonio. Many streets don’t even have sidewalks. Sidewalk marchers risk arrest for spilling over into the streets or impeding the “normal flow of pedestrian traffic” on the sidewalks.

Records of the last five years show that how much you pay has everything to do with who you
know. Groups that have connections to city officials are able to get their marches free or for less, while groups without these connections must pay prohibitive costs. Recent marches that will be effectively barred from the streets include Anti-War Marches, Domestic Violence Marches, Immigrant Rights Marches, Marches for Environmental Preservation, Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer Marches, Labor Organizing Marches, and many others.

Traditional cultural processions like the Posadas that take place in neighborhoods at Christmas time, Good Friday processions, Día de los Muertos processions, and funeral marches will also have to pay. The success or failure of this ordinance will set a precedent for cities all over the US. (over) This will silence political protests as well as cultural traditions. Traditionally, the streets have been a “public forum” for communal speech, with entire communities coming out to demand better wages, healthcare, education, and peace, and to express our views. With over 90% of mainstream media owned by only five or six wealthy, right-wing corporations, marches are the only way for poor people, people of color, women, queer people, immigrants, politically progressive people, and other disenfranchised groups to get our messages out. The streets have been built & maintained by poor/working class people and people of color throughout history. This ordinance privileges the wealthy and well-connected at the expense of these communities.