Falun Gong Marches on S.F. Over Parade Flap

In San Francisco, a Falun Gong group angry about being shut out of the local Chinese New Year parade is trying to turn the tables on a city that prides itself on its anti-discrimination laws — by suing it for breaking those laws.

Today a local Falun Gong practitioner and the U.S. Western Falun Dafa Association, both represented by San Francisco’s Breall & Breall, sued the city. Within hours they were in court arguing for a temporary restraining order to stop San Francisco from giving the Chinese Chamber of Commerce a $77,200 grant toward the Feb. 11 parade, which rings in the lunar New Year and attracts a lot of tourists.

While the plaintiff’s attorney, Joseph Breall, acknowledges that the money represents only a small slice of the total cost of the parade, he says it’s symbolically important. He claims that the Chinatown chamber discriminated against his clients based on religion or creed.

And by giving the chamber money, he argues, the city is breaking its own grant contract, which specifies that the recipient can’t discriminate against anyone seeking to participate in its organizations, on the basis of religion or creed among other things. And then there’s the local law that similarly bars city contractors and subcontractors from such conduct.

Deputy City Attorney Wayne Snodgrass argued that the city has not historically applied the words “no discrimination? in that law in the same way when it comes to the companies it hires, and the groups that receive art and culture grants. The city is more constrained, he says, when it comes to “micromanaging? activities that enjoy constitutional protection, such as parades, than it is when it comes to actions like hiring.

In court today, he cited Hurley v. South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, 515 U.S. 557, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that the private sponsors of a St. Patrick’s Day parade had a First Amendment right to control their message by excluding a gay and lesbian group from their event.

Breall acknowledges that “God Almighty couldn’t get the Falun Gong in this parade. That’s [the] Constitution.? But he argues that public money shouldn’t pay for it.

By the end of the day, the Falun Gong had suffered an initial setback, when Judge Ronald Quidachay denied their motion for a TRO, and declined to hear arguments for a preliminary injunction before the Feb. 11 parade. (The city had also cited White v. Davis, 30 Cal.4th 528, where the California Supreme Court decided a taxpayer’s interest in how public money is being spent doesn’t “ordinarily? represent enough irreparable harm to warrant a preliminary injunction.) Breall said his clients will still pursue their suit and try for a permanent injunction. Even a victory sometime after the parade might stop the city from actually handing over the grant money, he said, or might settle matters if the same situation should arise next year.

— Pam Smith

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2 Responses to “Falun Gong Marches on S.F. Over Parade Flap”

  1. Detour Says:

    This Post Will Definately Get Me Eliminated From Google.cn

    There is a minor controversy in San Francisco revolving around the Chinese New Years Parade in the city. Members of the Chinese movement Falun Gong want to participate in the parade, but are being told they can not because they are ‘too political’. …

  2. Andy Says:

    Being on the parade is a previlage, not a basic human right.

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