City to Look at Easing Restrictions on Public Demonstrations

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San Antonio City Council this week will discuss ways to make it easier, simpler, and cheaper for organizations to stage protest marches and demonstrations in the city, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Council at a Wednesday work session will discuss amending what it calls the First Amendment Assembly and Procession Prcedures.

The issue erupted earlier this year.  After President Trump announced his initial ban on travel to the U.S. from residents of several mostly Muslim nations, organic protests erupted at airports around the country.But when protesters arrived at San Antonio's Airport, they were dispersed, due to their failure to follow several rules, including obtaining a protest permit from the Police Department, scheduling the protest at least 48 hours in advance, and paying what many activists consider to be unreasonable fees.

Joleen Garcia, community organizer with the Free Speech Coalition, says her group started working with the staff of the City Attorney's office to try to come up with alternatives to make it easier for protesters to speak out.

"The City staff has been working to provide the processions ordinance," Garcia said.  "What they have been able to do is lower the burdens and lower the barriers to free speech."

Among the group's goals...making applications to stage marches available on line or through City Libraries; currently an application has to be obtained from the Police Department.

Garcia says the permit fees have to be reduced as well.

"The City has indicated they are in favor of doing those things," she said.  "We want free speech to be free in San Antonio, we want residents to fully participate and have their voices heard."

Garcia says public protest demonstrations have a long history in the United States as a way for individuals to be heard in the centers of power.

"We believe that is the way that good public policy is made, when the residents of San Antonio have input into the policies that affect our families, and our community."

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