Editor’s note: This story was updated 11/16/17 to reflect that organizations can be charged up to $7,000, not $3,000 which was previously reported.
A San Antonio city councilman submitted a city council request (CCR) to review the city’s marching ordinance and fees which can cost organizations up to $7,000 per event and , according to municode.com.
Robert Trevino, District 1 City Councilman, filed the request.
The City of San Antonio only exempts fees for all Fiesta parades, Martin Luther King marches, Dies Y Seis de Septiembre and Veteren’s Day parades. But some say that’s a breach of their first amendment rights.
Local organizations, including Mujeres Marcharan, addressed opposition to the city’s ordinance in a community meeting they hosted at Brick, a space in the Blue Star Arts Complex.
The meeting provided a platform for the community to share their perspective and analysis.
“We are trying gather more community from San Antonio to be informed about the marching ordinance and the impact that it has on our community,” said meeting facilitator Jessica O. Guerrero.
“I’m here because the marching ordinance passed years ago is unconstitutional,” Hannah Sullivan, a member of the International Women’s Day planning committee said. “It violates your basic human rights to protest in the streets and assemble in public places. . . I want to change that.”
After a show of hands, half of attendees felt the International Women’s Day March should have been the focal point of the meeting because of the short timeframe.
The annual march will be held on Saturday, March 4, less than three weeks away.
Guerrero shifted the discussion back to the city ordinance and the possibility of being under law enforcement’s “radar” because of last month’s “SA to DC March Against Hate.”
“My concern is San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) and or the city will work to figure out additional ways to keep us on the sidewalk,” Guerrero said. “The intention is for us to not be out at all, it is safer to be on the streets. It is our right to be in the streets when we march.”
SAPD Sergeant Jesse Salame didn’t agree with the notion of the city asking organizations to pay or law enforcement infringing on citizens First-Amendment rights.
“We haven’t asked for anyone to fill out a permit or collected any permit fees from anyone,” Salame told The Mesquite on Tuesday. “The only thing we ask is to talk to the organizer and try to get an idea of how many people they are expecting to have. . . we would never want to stifle somebody’s First-Amendment protections.”
As for the marching ordinance, Councilman Trevino recently submitted a City Council Request to review it.
Trevino held a forum on Saturday Feb. 11 called “Coffee with the Councilman” at El Mirador restaurant.
The event was open any ideas or suggestions for the district as well as the city.
When asked about the cities marching ordinance, Trevino described it as “problematic” and “undemocratic.”
“We discovered that the current ordinance is setup to discourage people from protesting,” Trevino said. “How else are you going to know what your community wants if you don’t allow them to speak up?”
Trevino awaits the governance meeting and according to him, it could take anywhere from two weeks to 45 days for review.
Trevino welcomes anyone who wants to speak up on the ordinance in efforts to create something more accepting of free speech.
City attorney Andrew Segovia, community activists and civil leaders will collaborate with the District 1 councilman.
“The next step is the city attorney is going to help outline key issues and then I’m going to bring in some key people from the community,” said Trevino.
Until the ordinance is reviewed, law enforcement will make an effort to guarantee that safe and peaceful marches ensue.
Despite opposing views, Salame applauded organizations and law enforcement’s ability to communicate.
“I think we’ve done an excellent job,” Salame said. “I think if you talk to some of the people who have organized rallies recently would agree.”