On the heels of showing the reality of abortion last week on a huge, video-streaming JumboTron at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia - where the term “created equal” was penned by our Founding Fathers - pro-life group Created Equal was blocked in San Antonio yesterday from erecting the same display at the Alamo.
This was a clear violation of Created Equal’s constitutional right to free speech – content based discrimination.
At the last minute City officials claimed Created Equal’s JumboTron violated city code regarding digital signs, but the city had previously approved jumbotrons for a Floyd Mayweather boxing event (starts at 1:56) and a Glenn Beck Tea Party rally (starts at 1:26).
Furthermore, Created Equal had followed the letter of the law and city ordinances in preparing to show images of abortion victims at the Alamo.
I will detail the chain of events below, but here is video laying out the drama yesterday:
Now, here are the facts, as provided to me by Created Equal’s Executive Director Mark Harrington in an email:
- We began the process of securing a permit for the Alamo Plaza on August 29, 2014.
- We listed the JumboTron as part of the display.
- We sent pictures and descriptions of the JumboTron to the Special Events Coordinator. They knew the nature of the event up front.
- We received an approved facility permit on September 22, 2014.
- Security for the event was arranged for us through the Special Events Coordinator.
- We received an email at 6:59pm CST (the night before the event) from the Director of Development Services informing us that the Jumbotron was in violation of city code provisions related to the use of digital signs. They waited to the 11th hour to inform us of the issue.
- No phone number was provided to contact the director or citation was provided for the particular sign code.
- Commercial sign codes cannot be applied to temporary first amendment displays. The city looked and found a way to keep us off of Alamo Plaza despite the fact that we had an approved permit.
- After arriving at the Alamo at 7:30am on Oct. 20, the planters were moved to block our entrance into the plaza.
- Around 9:30am Roderick Sanchez, Director of Development Services, shows up on site and admits that “they blew it” in handling the permit but tells us we cannot display the JumboTron. We asked for the sign code citation and were told it would be forthcoming.
- Hours pass and no one provides the sign code information.
- Around 11:00am police inform us that code compliance office workers will be moving the planters that will allow us to display the JumboTron. Police tell us they will protect our rights to free speech.
- Soon afterwards a suit for the city tells us they are going to cite us for violating the sign ordinance and possibly cite us for several other criminal infractions that they refused to disclose.
- Suit reneges on the agreement and tells us we cannot pull the Jumbotron onto the plaza.
- City vehicles block the entrance to the plaza and planters are put in the way.
- Stand-off ends as city refuses to honor their agreement to allow the JumboTron to be displayed.
This is by no means over. Harrington told me via phone this morning his group is in working with Life Legal Defense Foundation to determine a response.
And as Harrington told a throng of news reporters who were on hand to witness the day’s events:
This was about abortion, not sign compliance. Once the City of San Antonio bureaucrats found out we had an approved permit to display the JumboTron they scoured the city code to find a way to stop us.
If we had wanted to perform an abortion at Alamo Plaza they would have protected our right to do so. But since we were going to show an abortion, they did all they could to stop us.
We will regroup. We will evaluate our legal options. But this battle is far from over. We are not going away. If city leaders think they got rid of us they have another thing coming.
The silver lining is the vast amount of local news coverage the cancelled event triggered:
Pro-lifers will indeed remember the Alamo.
[Top two photos via mysanantonio.com]