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Freedom of Speech Denied in Berkeley By: Suzanne DeWitt
ChronWatch | Wednesday, December 01, 2004

To: ChronWatch,

My name is Susanne DeWitt (hdewitt@earthlink.net) and I am the event coordinator for the ''Rally Against Global Terrorism,'' which is to be held on January 16th, 2005 between noon and 3 p.m.

I applied to the City of Berkeley on September 9th, 2004, for the use of Martin Luther King Jr. Park for the purpose of the rally.  A grassroots coalition of groups has come together to co-sponsor the rally.  The visual centerpiece of the rally is the wreckage of the Jerusalem #19 municipal bus, which was bombed on January 29, 2004 (Shevat 1, 5764, according to the Jewish calendar) in Jerusalem, Israel. 

To this date, the City of Berkeley has not granted a permit for the rally.

The City of Berkeley never responded to my application for a permit, although they cashed my check for the rental of the park on September 11th, 2004.  After numerous phone calls to a Mr. Hector Manuel, of the Permits Department (
MHector@ci.berkeley.ca.us), I finally received a call to come to a hearing at City Hall, which was attended by representatives of the Parks, Police, Fire Dept. (Safety and Emergency Services), and other city officials.

Several members of the rally coordinating committee were present at the hearing.  The negativity towards the rally at the hearing was extraordinary.  The spokesman said that the rally ''might be perceived as a pro-Israel Rally and this would make Women in Black, MECA (Middle East Childrens' Alliance), and other anti-Israel groups counter-demonstrate.''  Security might be impossible, as it was when Prime Minister Netanyahu tried to speak in Berkeley several years ago, but had to be cancelled because of a near riot.  The City of Berkeley’s concern was ''security,'' they said.

My point is that the City of Berkeley is not secure because terrorism could strike here, as it has in numerous other countries, with huge civilian casualties.  Terrorist attacks have occurred in India, Israel, Argentina, Peru, Japan, Russia, Holland, Bali, Singapore, Riyadh, Turkey, USA, Tibet, Spain, Iraq, Pakistan, England, Kenya, N. Ireland, Eurasia, Venezuela, East Timor, Kashmir, Colombia, Sri Lanka, and the Ukraine.  Berkeley could also be a target.

I really resent the denial of my free speech rights in Berkeley, of all places.  Plus, it's a real double-standard.  Other groups such as ''The Indigenous People'' and the ''Veterans'' have used the park recently for rallies.  Pro-Palestinian groups regularly demonstrate in Berkeley and on the UC Berkeley campus.  This Monday, for instance, a pro-Palestinian group is planning to build a mock ''Overpass over the Israeli Security Fence'' in the UC Berkeley Sproul Plaza.

The City of Berkeley has placed obstacles in my way at every turn.  One of their ''requests'' was for a million dollar liability insurance for use of the park, a million dollar liability insurance for bringing the bombed Jerusalem Bus into the park, architectural drawings of the site and how it's to be used, a list of three alternate sites, a security plan for the park (I have hired a licensed security company, Highcom Security agency, which provides security for the Israeli Consulate and for AIPAC), and a private Medical First Aid service for assistance at the park.  There were other obstacles as well.

There were eleven victims who were killed outright on the Jerusalem bus by a suicide bomber, plus 50 victims who suffered terrible injuries.  Many children were orphaned.  The rally is set to coincide with the one-year Yahrzeit (memorial service) for the victims.

I find it ironic that Berkeley, the so-called ''city of free speech,'' would deny (through endless bureaucratic stalling) a permit for a Rally Against Global Terrorism.  Another irony is that the weekend of the rally is the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, the hero who led the Freedom March in Birmingham, Alabama.  If Ms. Rosa Parks had not refused to step to the back of the bus, then the Civil Rights movement--so cherished by the liberals in Berkeley (and by me)--would not exist.  Now the City of Berkeley is denying me my Freedom of Speech. 

Buses are a symbol of Freedom!

Invited speakers include:

Governor of California Arnold Schwartzenegger
Homeland Security Director for California Richard Andrews
Congressman Tom Lantos
Mayor Tom Bates
Carrie Devorah, sister of one of the victims (a father of 7 children)
And others.

Respectfully yours,

Susanne (Sanne) Kalter DeWitt
Survivor of the Nazi times (immigrated to wonderful U.S.A. in 1945)

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