San Francisco City and County Tramples on Civil Liberties

A Letter to Readers of Socialist Viewpoint

Dear Readers:

On Saturday, March 20, the San Francisco City and County Recreation and Parks Department’s Park Rangers patrolled a large public antiwar demonstration, shutting down the distribution of this magazine. The rally in Civic Center Plaza was held in protest of the illegal and immoral U.S. wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, and to commemorate the 7th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The Park Rangers went table-to-table examining each one. They photographed the Socialist Viewpoint table and the person attending it—me. My sister, Debbie and I had set up the table. We had a sign on the table that asked for a donation of $1.25 for the magazine. The Park Rangers demanded that I, “pack it up” and go, because selling or even asking for donations for newspapers or magazines is no longer permitted without the purchase of a new and expensive “vendors license.” Their rationale for this denial of free speech is that the distribution of newspapers, magazines, T-shirts—and even food—would make the political protest a “festival” and not a political protest demonstration!

This City’s action is clearly a violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution—the right to free speech and freedom of the press—and can’t be tolerated.

While they are firing teachers and other San Francisco workers, closing schools, cutting back healthcare access, cutting services to the disabled and elderly, it is outrageous that the Mayor and City Government chose to spend thousands of dollars to police tables at an antiwar rally—a protest demonstration by the people!

We can’t let this become the norm. It is so fundamentally anti-democratic. The costs of the permits for the rally, the march, the amplified sound, is already prohibitive. Protest is not a privilege we should have to pay for. It’s a basic right in this country and we should reclaim it!

Personally, I experienced a deep feeling of alienation as the crisply-uniformed Park Ranger told me I had to “pack it up”—especially when I knew that they were being paid by the City to do this at this demonstration!

I hope you will join this protest of the violation of the right to distribute and, therefore, the right to read Socialist Viewpoint, by writing or emailing the City officials who are listed below.

In solidarity,

Bonnie Weinstein

Mayor Gavin Newsom
    City Hall, Room 200
    1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
    San Francisco, CA 94102

Board of Supervisors
    City Hall
    1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 244
    San Francisco, Ca 94102-4689

San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department Park Rangers
    McLaren Lodge & Annex
    501 Stanyan Street
    San Francisco, CA 94117

San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission
    501 Stanyan Street
    San Francisco, CA 94117

Chief of Police George Gascón
    850 Bryant Street, #525
    San Francisco, CA 94103