The Campus Labor Action Coalition (CLAC) ran into problems trying to organize Saturday’s March for Economic Justice and filed a lawsuit against the city of Santa Barbara to clear up permit procedures it found confusing and complicated.
Approximately three months ago, CLAC began to file applications in order to obtain three necessary permits to hold the march in downtown Santa Barbara. Two policemen verbally told members of the group they would need three permits, have to pay fees to insure the march for $1 million, rent barricades and pay police to ensure safety, according to CLAC members.
CLAC, ready to pay these fees, read through city permits and ordinances and found that the fees were not Santa Barbara laws, and that the “fees were unconstitutional for First Amendment activities,” CLAC committee member Chrystine Lawson said.
CLAC needed organization and support from the community and other organizations for the event to be successful, but could not begin this process until the problem of obtaining a permit was solved. Supporting organizations were afraid to formally support the march before CLAC acquired permits and paid the fees, because of the threat of citizen’s arrest and unlawful protest violations.
“It got to a point where it was necessary to get a permit, and we felt we were being strung on by the city,” Lawson said.
Once the lawsuit was filed, CLAC received a letter from the city of Santa Barbara telling it to disregard the fees for the anticipated march.
City Attorney Dan Wallace claims that CLAC became confused because it was dealing with two different departments in the city, the police department and the parks department. Wallace said the group only needed to obtain a permit to rent out space that would exclude the general public. Contrary to what CLAC was first told, it was not necessary to acquire a permit for holding the pre-rally at Ortega Park.
“The city has no interest in interfering with free speech activities,” Wallace said. “I think what happened was that the police department was doing their thing and the parks department was doing their thing and the parks department made a mistake.”
Wallace said CLAC now has the necessary permits to hold the rally as planned this Saturday, and there will be no complications between CLAC and the city of Santa Barbara.
CLAC continued with the lawsuit, filing it with the Los Angeles Federal Court in attempt to change city ordinances so they are more up-front with what fees are required.
“We filed the lawsuit so other groups expressing political opinions would not have to go though what we went through to put free speech events together,” said Deborah Lagutaris, CLAC media committee member.
This lawsuit is expected to be resolved in the next three to four weeks. CLAC plans to make the march an annual event and said it hopes no future problems will arise with legal issues.
“We have done extensive work to open the lines of communication,” Lawson said.