Sunday, April 25, 2010

Thirty San Antonio Social Justice Activists Come to New Orleans for Free Speech Fight

The Esperanza Peace and Justice Center is a 24-year-old non-profit social justice and cultural arts organization in San Antonio, Texas. For the last three years, they have been fighting against an unjust ordinance in their city that requires organizers of street marches to pay up to tens of thousands of dollars for political marches and cultural processions in the public streets, effectively silencing protests and cutting off community access to the downtown streets.

The City of San Antonio requires some marching permit applicants to pay thousands of dollars for traffic control while waiving all costs for permit holders whose message is endorsed by City officials. In the next few weeks, the City of San Antonio will send the International Woman’s Day March Planning Committee a bill that the San Antonio Police Department has estimated will be somewhere between $1,500 and $7,500.

Here in New Orleans, we are familiar with these struggles, having faced similar post-Katrina attempts by the New Orleans Police Department to impose fines that would have made many Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs have to shut down their parades.

The Esperanza Peace and Justice Center filed a federal lawsuit against the City of San Antonio on behalf of the San Antonio International Woman’s Day March Planning Committee and the San Antonio Free Speech Coalition. The lawsuit is scheduled for Oral Argument in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on this Tuesday, April 27th, at 1pm. Thirty San Antonio activists and community members have come to New Orleans by bus to meet with social justice activists here and build solidarity across our movements. They hope New Orleanians will join them for their day in court, as well as various other community events while they are here,

“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,” writes attorney Amy Kastely in a recent issue of La Voz de Esperanza. “Less than 12% of the cases filed with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals are set for oral argument,” continues Kastely.

On Monday, April 26th, the folks from Esperanza are planning to spend the day in solidarity visits with a wide range of local community organizations to learn about organizing going on in New Orleans. The agenda for the day has been coordinated by Viola Washington of New Orleans' Welfare Rights Organization.

On Monday night, the Esperanza Center invites you to join them for a get together and dinner at the Community Book Center, at 2523 Bayou Road, at 6pm. According to organizers, "We hope that this will be a chance to break bread together, to learn about and share stories about local community organizing work in San Antonio and New Orleans, and to get to know one another on a personal level. We will also be bringing some music and foods to represent the culture of San Antonio. We invite you to bring music, poetry, performance, etc. to share the stories and culture of the people of New Orleans."

You can read more about the case at

The Community Book Center can be reached at 504-948-7323. To reach Esperanza, call Amanda Haas or Graciela Sanchez at (210) 228-0201 or (210) 667-5695.

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