Round one in the fight between Esperanza and the City over the new Parade Ordinance goes to
Esperanza and the San Antonio Free Speech Coalition. The groups claim
that the ordinance, passed in late November by council, is
unconstitutional because, among other offenses, it allows the chief of
police to discriminate against groups based on content by charging for
"security" at his discretion, and subsidizes the costs of some First
Amendment marches, but not others.
U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez issued a ruling this afternoon
that grants the plaintiffs' request for a temporary injunction, finding
that the ordinance as written is unconstitional on three counts:
• It grants the chief of police overly broad discretion in
• It doesn't clearly distinguish between traffic-control costs
and security costs
• It exempts funeral processions and government agencies
operating within the scope of their functions
"Basically, he did the right thing," said plaintiffs' attorney
Amy Kastely. The ruling addresses one of the coalition's main concerns,
that the police could price groups with less-popular or controversial
messages or memberships out of a permit by assessing high "security"
But Rodriguez sided with the City on some key issues that Kastely says
they will address more fully when they go to trial this fall. The Court
did not object to the City subsidizing specified events, such
as the annual MLK march, or the assessment of traffic-control and
cleanup costs. The ruling also found that the ordinance provides
sufficient alternatives for groups that cannot afford the permitting
process (read: sidewalks).
Kastely says the coalition has new evidence to present regarding
permit-fee waivers. "We just looked at the permit applications for the
first five years," she said. "The practice is much more extensive than
just the three in the ordinance." She also expressed dismay at the
judge's position on parade alternatives for poor or indigent groups.
"On that one we're just disappointed," Kastely said. "We will bring out
at the trial the lack of viability of sidewalk marches -- for the
elderly, for anybody who's got physical challenges at all."
Between now and the trial date -- currently set for October 14 -- the
City could choose to address the portions of the ordinance the judge
identified as unconstitutional, and ask the court to lift the temporary
injunction, but Kastely says the coalition will be back in front of the
bench either way. In the meantime, "What it means is that the
International Women's Day March will go on as a march in the streets."
has calls into the City