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by wrong ANSWER
Tuesday, May. 12, 2009 at 4:33 PM
ANSWER's been trashing the urban environemnt for years- now they are upset that they are getting fined.
We are appealing for your support as our struggle for free speech with the San Francisco Department of Public Works (DPW) reaches a critical stage. The DPW has imposed fines for postering violations against the local ANSWER Coalition that now total more than ,000! Similar circumstances also exist in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
There was an initial finding for the DPW in Superior Court, but the ANSWER Coalition and its renowned civil liberties attorney, Carol Sobel, have relentlessly pursued an appeal in order to protect free speech and the First Amendment. Our appeal is set for oral arguments before the California Court of Appeals this coming Tuesday, May 12, 9:30am, 350 McAllister St. Division 2, San Francisco.
Please join us in court Tuesday. We also ask that you click here to make a donation towards the legal case expenses and our efforts to defend free speech. Ms. Sobel, who lives in Los Angeles, has very generously taken our appeal pro bono, but there are still many expenses for filing fees, travel and organizing work around the case. You have been instrumental in supporting previous campaigns, and we are asking for your help again.
Nearly all of the citations against us are for flyers and posters posted in the Mission District of San Francisco. We view the city’s campaign against us to be an integral part of the continuing gentrification drive in the area. Political and cultural notices are regarded as nothing more than "blight" by the developers and big property owners, and their friends in city government.
There are hundreds of volunteers who work with the ANSWER Coalition. We have a notice up in our office published by DPW regarding sign posting requirements, and inform people who pick up our material about the legal ways in which material can be posted. Our flyers are also available on-line, as is common practice these days.
We have no way to control what anyone does with the materials we make available. Yet, in the administrative hearings held in DPW, whoever's name is on a cited poster or flyer is presumed guilty under the doctrine of "rebuttable presumption." Before April 2003 when the ordinance was amended, there had to be an actual link shown between an individual and an illegally posted flyer. Not anymore.
In every case that we, or our attorneys have witnessed, the cited party is found guilty—whether or not they posted the offending flyer—and usually fined the maximum—an astounding 0 for each flyer and 0 for each poster! The DPW's position is that they don't have to show anything more than the name on the literature in question. There are no rules of evidence, in fact there is no real due process at all in these hearings.
That the DPW adheres to this “process” is hardly surprising given the fact that under the April 2003 amended ordinance, DPW now gets to keep all of the fines levied, instead of them going into the city's general fund. The fines of 0 to 0 for each flyer taped to a pole are ludicrous. If one is cited for a few flyers, the fines can easily exceed those assessed in many serious criminal cases.
The extremely chilling effect on free speech is obvious in all of this. Any community or political organization that produces literature is at risk under the DPW’s outlandish interpretation of the law. Any organization or individual is liable for the illegal posting of its material by any person, according to the way "rebuttable presumption" is being interpreted by the DPW and its administrative judges. If you really wanted to do an organization in, you could obtain or produce a large number of their flyers and post them on the "historic lamp posts" on Mission St.
We view this campaign by the DPW as consistent with the drive to sterilize and gentrify San Francisco.
The ANSWER Coalition, as you know, has played a key role organizing many mass protests against war, racism and bigotry of all kinds in San Francisco. We have already been forced to divert from our real work far too many hours and thousands of dollars from our very limited funds. Now we are threatened with tens of thousands of dollars in fines, which would be impossible for us to pay.
If you would like more information about the suit, the city’s or our attorneys’ positions and other legal documents, we would be happy to make them available.
Please take a moment to click here to make a much-needed donation from our secure server or for information on how to donate by check.
Thank you in advance for your support,
Richard Becker, Western Regional Coordinator
ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism) Coalition
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