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Mary Alice, wife of Henry Cisneros, finds her voice in San Antonio as women battle for Free Speech in the Streets



She's a delicate bird of a woman, petite and beautifully apparelled. I know her husband, and she looks up to her supremely intelligent, charismatic, but scared of the status-quo husband. I suspect that she became a San Antonio councilwoman as a result of his lanky shadow. No matter. Yesterday, la Mary Alice stood up to the Man along with Councilwoman Lourdes Galvan and voted on the side of the Constitution and women's rights as one of two women on the San Antonio City Council who recognizes that anti-war or anti-immigrant protestors should be able to march on the streets without having to pay thousands of dollars for the privilege. While the city-wide Fiesta! bacchanal takes over the streets for weeks.

With a vote of 9-2, the San Antonio City Council overwhelmingly voted to pass a new "Parade" Ordinance yesterday despite the organized protest of free speech advocates - mostly women - who believe that the City Council is violating the First Amendment of its citizens by charging marchers who want to protest on the street instead of sidewalks.

Amy Kastely, a law professor and attorney for the Esperanza Center, walked alongside free speech proponents toward the Federal Courthouse after the vote to file a lawsuit on behalf of the International Women's Day March & Rally Committee and the Free Speech Coalition.

I know, I walked too. In my high heels, all dressed up for the occasion at City Hall.

According to Kastely, the just-passed ordinance allows for "big groups" listed below to march for free - while other groups have to pay:

1. At least two "Fiesta" parades
2. The MLK March
3. The Cesar Chavez March
4. Diez y Seis de Septiembre
5. Veteran's Day
6. Mardi Gras

"This ordinance threatens community marches by requiring groups to pay for the cost of traffic barriers, police officers and clean-up for their events, which can cost up to $15,000 or more," said Mia Kang, a young activist who spoke before City Council.

Today's ordinance "is a violation of the Constitution," says Kastely, as the City Council "is wiling to pick and choose among ideas, willing to balance the city budget off our backs."

The City of San Antonio is one of many cities around the country facing these restrictive ordinances and legal challenges to them. In response, some courts have said that it is not constitutionally permissible for the government to impose such high fees for the use of public streets - and that people
are in effect precluded from using the public streets for marches, parades and the like. Further, courts have clearly held that the First Amendment requires "viewpoint neutrality," which means that if governments waive the costs for some they must waive them for all, without regard to the content of the speech.

According to Kastely, the Council's vote implies that they believe citizens should have to pay to speak out, and that the "costs are so big they interfere with free speech."

You know Mary Alice had to stand up to Henry that night. You go hermana!



credits: March in San Antonio, Texas, www.salon.com

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