The ACLU has joined Veterans for Peace in seeking to overturn the decision of the city of Auburn to exclude the group from its annual Veterans Day parade, to be held beginning at 11:00 a.m. on Sat., Nov. 10, the Seattle Times reported Monday. -- Although VFP has marched in the parade for six years running, this year the group was told that "the parade was becoming too large and the group's message ran contrary to the parade's purpose to 'positively honor' veterans," Mike Carter said. -- Attorney David Whedbee, who is working with the ACLU, "said that Auburn's rules for the parade are unconstitutional and that the city can't regulate speech at a public parade. . . . 'You cannot discriminate based on viewpoint.'" -- The case will be heard by U.S. District Judge James Robart. -- The Tacoma News Tribune's Christian Hill reported on the controversy Tuesday, noting that VFP member Michael Dedrick "called it an 'insult' that non-veteran groups such as the Classical Glass Corvette Club and Auburn Optimist Club are allowed to march while his group is not. There are 184 participants in this year’s parade, according to the city’s website." -- The ACLU's statement on the case and its legal brief, filed Monday and arguing that the City of Auburn's decision is a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, are posted below.[3,4] -- The president of Greater Seattle Veterans for Peace has said that the group is "still planning to march in the parade." -- ACTIVISM: VFP is encouraging supporters to "join us in Auburn." -- Calls complaining about VFP's exclusion can be made to Auburn Parks Arts and Recreation Special Events Coordinator Kristy Pachciarz (253-931-3043), Auburn Mayor Peter Lewis (253-931-3041), Auburn Deputy Mayor Nancy Backus (253-261-1555 or 253-288-3132). -- BACKGROUND: See here for Auburn's web page about the parade....
ACLU JOINS VETS IN AUBURN PARADE SUIT
By Mike Carter
** The ACLU and an anti-war veterans group have sued the city of Auburn, claiming the group's message of peace is the real reason for banning it from marching in this year's Veterans Parade **
November 5, 2012
The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington on Monday joined a Seattle anti-war veterans group in suing the city of Auburn for excluding the group from its annual Veterans Day parade Saturday, and is asking a federal judge to force the city to allow the group to march.
The lawsuit says the Seattle chapter of the internationally recognized nonprofit group, Veterans for Peace (VFP), has marched in the parade for the past six years, but was excluded this year. According to the lawsuit, the group was told the parade was becoming too large and the group's message ran contrary to the parade's purpose to "positively honor" veterans.
The lawsuit alleges that the city, in letters and statements, questioned whether VFP's stated message to "promote peaceful solutions to armed conflicts" fit into the parade's message, and as a result, whether there was room for the group to march in the parade. The city, instead, offered to allow VFP to set up a booth.
VFP Chapter No. 92, in Seattle, has 96 members, about two-thirds of them former military members, according to the ACLU. Nationally, the group claims about 3,900 members.
Auburn has been designated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a regional site for the 2012 Veterans Day celebration. The city boasts it sponsors one of the largest Veterans Day celebrations in the country, with thousands of spectators and nearly 200 entrants this year, according to the lawsuit and the city's website.
City Attorney Dan Heid said Monday that the city has had to review the applications of all parade participants in recent years because of its growing size and increased popularity. The VFP application did not make the cut, and the message was part of the consideration.
"This is an Auburn parade with a pro-military message," Heid said Monday. "The Veterans for Peace have a different message. . . . We part company with them there."
It is not the first time Auburn has challenged the group's right to march. In 2009, the city first rejected but later reconsidered the group's application after a VFP board member wrote that there was "nothing honorable" in the city's decision to exclude members of a national veterans group -- regardless of its message -- from marching alongside their fellows.
Heid, however, said that since then the city has had increasing concerns about Veterans for Peace. Heid pointed out that in past parades some of the members "have carried peace flags."
"We have a banner across Main Street that says, 'To Veterans: Thank You for Your Time, Commitment and Courage,'" Heid said. "This is the city's parade. They can have their own if they want. They just have to apply."
David Whedbee, a Seattle civil-rights attorney who is working with the ACLU in representing Veterans for Peace, said that Auburn's rules for the parade are unconstitutional and that the city can't regulate speech at a public parade.
He pointed out that groups ranging from the Veterans of Foreign Wars to the Corvette Club had applied and received permission to be in this year's parade.
"The City of Auburn opens its streets every year and invites parade participants and spectators to pay tribute to men and women who have served this country's military," Whedbee wrote in a motion seeking a court injunction forcing Auburn to allow VFP into the parade.
By doing so, Whedbee argued, the city has established a protected forum for free speech and is violating it by discriminating against VFP "apparently because of their message for peace."
"You cannot discriminate based on viewpoint," he said Monday.
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge James Robart. The ACLU is asking for an emergency hearing on its motion for an injunction to prevent the city from excluding the VFP from Saturday's parade.
VETERANS GROUP SUES AUBURN OVER PARADE
By Christian Hill
** A veterans peace group on Monday sued the City of Auburn for refusing to allow the group to take its usual place in the city’s annual Veterans Day parade, one of the largest west of the Mississippi River. **
News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)
November 6, 2012
A veterans peace group on Monday sued the City of Auburn for refusing to allow the group to take its usual place in the city’s annual Veterans Day parade, one of the largest west of the Mississippi River.
The lawsuit filed in federal court by the Greater Seattle chapter of Veterans for Peace accuses the city of violating its free-speech rights by denying its application to march in the parade at 11:00 a.m. Saturday in downtown Auburn.
The city allegedly said it received too many applicants and “chose those that most closely meet the goals and purpose” of the 47th annual parade, according to the lawsuit. But Michael Dedrick, a group member and past president, said that explanation was simply cover because organizers don’t like the peace group’s message.
Auburn Mayor Pete Lewis declined comment Monday because the lawsuit is pending. City attorney Dan Heid said the growing size of the parade was a factor in trimming some entries; the group’s message was another factor.
“This is an Auburn parade with a pro-military message,” Heid told the *Seattle Times*. “The Veterans for Peace have a different message. . . . We part company with them there.”
Veterans for Peace had marched in the parade the past six years. The group said it honors service members and veterans through its work to “abolish war as an instrument of national policy so that no soldier will be ordered to place limb, life, or soul in jeopardy for an unjust or unworthy cause,” the lawsuit says.
Dedrick said a congressional resolution declared that Armistice Day, the precursor to Veterans Day, should be commemorated with “exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.”
The city’s decision is “ironic to say the least,” said Dedrick, a 67-year-old Seattle resident who served a one-year tour in Vietnam.
The suit contends the group applied for a permit around Sept. 13, and the city denied it around Oct. 4. The group filed an appeal, but the city upheld its decision.
The lawsuit alleges the parade regulations “grant excessive discretion” to city officials to approve or deny applications, and they have no standards to guide those decisions.
Members from chapters in Tacoma, Bellingham, Olympia, and Kitsap County have joined the Greater Seattle chapter during past parades. About 45 people marched last year.
He said group members have held the American flag, peace flags, and signs calling for the nation’s exit from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They don’t solicit donations during the parade.
Dedrick called it an “insult” that non-veteran groups such as the Classical Glass Corvette Club and Auburn Optimist Club are allowed to march while his group is not. There are 184 participants in this year’s parade, according to the city’s website.
The American Civil Liberties Union is representing the group. It seeks a court order that forces the city to allow the group to march, declares parade rules unconstitutional and prevents the city from using those rules in future events.
VETERANS FOR PEACE SUES TO MARCH IN VETERANS DAY PARADE
November 5, 2012
** Veterans Group Has Marched in Auburn Parade Since 2006, says City Is Violating Rights by Excluding It This Year **
A veterans group which has marched in Auburn’s Veterans Day Parade for the past six years is suing to march in this year’s parade, the ACLU of Washington announced today. The suit says that Auburn officials are violating the group’s free speech rights by unfairly denying its application to march in the civic celebration scheduled for November 10. The ACLU of Washington is representing the veterans group in the lawsuit filed today in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
Veterans For Peace (VFP) is a national organization that honors our country’s veterans and active military personnel, and seeks to promote peace and decrease U.S. military involvement in foreign conflicts. In its work, VFP honors soldiers by using and guarding constitutional freedoms that military personnel swore to defend in their oaths of enlistment and office.
The Greater Seattle Chapter of Veterans For Peace has participated in the Auburn Veterans Day Parade since 2006. Yet the city denied the veterans group’s application to march in the 2012 parade, claiming that the city chose only those applicants which most closely meet the purpose and goals of the parade. At the same time, the city has approved applications from a motorcycle club, a Corvette club, the Optimists and Kiwanis International, the Sons of Italy, and a Daffodil Festival float.
“These are a group of patriotic people who care about their fellow veterans and want to express themselves by marching in the Veterans Day Parade. The city has given no good reason why other groups are being allowed to march while their application was rejected,” said David Whedbee, attorney and ACLU-WA board member.
The lawsuit says that the City of Auburn’s rules governing which groups are allowed to march in the government-sponsored parade are unconstitutional. The rules impermissibly allow decisions about applications to be made on the subjective beliefs of administrators as to who meets the goals and purposes of the parade.
Further, the suit asserts that the City of Auburn is discriminating against Veterans For Peace because of the group’s viewpoint. In sponsoring the parade, the city is creating a space for private groups to speak on the topic of veterans on the occasion of Veterans Day. VFP is clearly a veterans group, and its mission is not inconsistent with the purpose and goals of the parade. The city has given no justification why VFP’s application has been denied while those of many other groups with diverse messages have been accepted.
The lawsuit seeks a court order to have VFP march in this year’s Veterans Parade in Auburn.
Handling the case for the ACLU-WA are cooperating attorney David Whedbee of MacDonald, Hoague, and Bayless, and staff attorneys Sarah Dunne, La Rond Baker, and Margaret Chen.
[ACLU brief, filed Nov. 5, 2012]
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE
VETERANS FOR PEACE, GREATER SEATTLE, CHAPTER 92, aka VETERANS FOR PEACE, a nonprofit corporation, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF AUBURN, a municipal corporation, Defendant.
1. Defendant City of Auburn has engaged in unlawful viewpoint discrimination by excluding Plaintiff Veterans for Peace, Greater Seattle, Chapter 92 (“Veterans for Peace”) from the 2012 Auburn Veterans Day Parade, a parade in which Plaintiff Veterans for Peace has marched for the last six years.
2. The purpose of the 2012 parade is “to positively focus on honoring our country’s veterans and active military personnel,” and “to give honor to our country’s military personnel and veterans and to their military missions of defending freedom around the world.” Plaintiff Veterans for Peace “positively focus[es] on honoring” and “give[s] honor” to veterans and active military personnel through its pro-peace message and activities.
3. Defendant limits parade participation to certain types of groups, including veteran groups such as Plaintiff Veterans for Peace. Claiming that it receives more parade applicants than it can permit to participate, Defendant states that it approves only those applications “that most closely meet the goals and purpose of Auburn’s Veterans Day Parade.” Although Plaintiff Veterans for Peace has participated in Auburn’s Veterans Day Parade previously, this year Defendant denied Plaintiff Veterans for Peace’s application to participate in the parade.
4. Defendant’s Veterans Day Parade rules and regulations are unconstitutional on their face and as applied to Plaintiff Veterans for Peace’s application in violation of the First
Amendment of the United States Constitution because they are unreasonable in light of the purpose served by the forum -- a parade, and are not viewpoint neutral.
5. Plaintiff Veterans for Peace is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and veterans’ organization. Veterans for Peace engages in a range of pro-peace activities to increase public awareness of the costs of war, to restrain the federal government from intervening in the internal affairs of other nations, to end the arms race and reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons, to seek justice for veterans and victims of war, and to abolish war as an instrument of national policy.
6. Defendant City of Auburn is a Washington noncharter code city governed by Chapter 35A.12 RCW. See AMC § 1.08.010.
III. JURISDICTION AND VENUE
7. The Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question jurisdiction) and 28 U.S.C. § 1343 (civil rights jurisdiction).
8. The Court has personal jurisdiction over Defendant City of Auburn.
9. Venue is proper in this district pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b).
10. For the last 46 years, Defendant City of Auburn has sponsored an annual Veterans Day Parade that Defendant asserts is one of the largest of its type west of the Mississippi.
11. Participation in the parade is governed by rules and regulations issued by Defendant.
12. The purpose of the 2012 Auburn Veterans Day Parade is “to positively focus on honoring our country’s veterans and active military personnel,” and “to give honor to our country’s military personnel and veterans and to their military missions of defending freedom around the world.” Defendant City of Auburn states that it receives more parade applications than it can approve to participate and approves only those “that most closely meet the goals and purpose” of the parade.
13. Plaintiff Veterans for Peace’s mission is to increase public awareness of the costs of war; to restrain our government from intervening, overtly and covertly, in the internal affairs of other nations; to end the arms race and to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons; to seek justice for veterans and victims of war; and to abolish war as an instrument of national policy. To those ends, Plaintiff Veterans for Peace engages in a range of pro-peace activities, and marching in the Auburn Veterans Day Parade is a significant event that allows Veterans for Peace to communicate its message to a broad audience.
14. On information and belief, Plaintiff Veterans for Peace has participated in the Auburn Veterans Day Parade for the last six years.
15. On or about September 13, 2012, Plaintiff Veterans for Peace submitted an application through Defendant’s website to participate in the 2012 Auburn Veterans Day Parade. Plaintiff Veterans for Peace generally described its parade entry as honoring veterans and active military personnel by working to restrain the government from intervening in the affairs of other nations and to abolish war as an instrument of national policy so that no soldier will be ordered to place limb, life, or soul in jeopardy for an unjust or unworthy cause.
16. Plaintiff Veterans for Peace is a “veteran group” consistent with the 2012 parade rules and regulations.
17. Plaintiff Veterans for Peace’s participation in the 2012 Auburn Veterans Day Parade is consistent with the parade’s purpose as defined by Defendant City of Auburn.
18. On or about October 4, 2012, Defendant denied Plaintiff Veterans for Peace’s parade application on the grounds that the City “receive[s] more applications than [it] can successfully accommodate” in the parade, and that the City has to “choose those that most closely meet the goals and purpose of the event.”
19. On or about October 9, 2012, Plaintiff Veterans for Peace appealed the denial, requesting reconsideration of its application to participate in the 2012 Auburn Veterans Day Parade.
20. On or about October 10, 2012, Thomas Campbell, an acquaintance of a Veterans for Peace member, spoke with Daryl Faber, Director of the Auburn Parks, Arts & Recreation Department, who confirmed that the decision to deny Plaintiff’s parade application was made because of the organization’s message.
21. On or about October 15, 2012, Defendant affirmed the denial of Plaintiff Veterans for Peace’s parade application on the grounds that “the parade has too many applicants, [and Defendant] chose those that most closely meet the goals and purpose of the Auburn’s (sic) Veterans Day Parade.”
22. On October 31, 2012, the City published the 2012 Auburn Veterans Day Parade Line-Up on its website. The parade participants include among others non-veteran groups such as Kiwanis International, Auburn Optimist Club, Daffodil Festival Traveling Float, ABATE of Washington-South King County Chapter (ABATE is a politically active organization working on motorcyclists rights), and the Classical Glass Corvette Club.
V. CAUSES OF ACTION
Violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution
23. Plaintiff incorporates by reference paragraphs 1 to 22 of this Complaint.
24. Defendant City of Auburn’s decision to refuse to allow Plaintiff to participate in the 2012 Auburn Veterans Day Parade violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which is made applicable to the state entities through the Fourteenth Amendment, as applied. Defendant’s reliance on its 2012 parade rules and regulations as justification for its exclusion of Plaintiff from the 2012 parade violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution as applied and on its face.
25. The 2012 parade rules and regulations grant excessive discretion to government officials to approve or deny applications to participate in the Auburn Veterans Day Parade. The parade rules contain no criteria or standards to guide Defendant’s agents in their decision to approve or deny applications. The parade rules provide insufficient procedural safeguards for those wishing to appeal a denial of an application to participate in the parade.
26. The parade rules are not reasonable in light of the purpose served by the forum, and they are not viewpoint neutral.
27. Through the adoption of the parade rules and regulations, Defendant has, under color of state law, deprived Plaintiff and its members of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the United States Constitution or laws of the United States, and they are subject to liability pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
28. The injuries suffered by Plaintiff cannot be fully compensated by monetary damages. If enforcement of the parade rules and regulations is not enjoined, Plaintiff and its members will suffer irreparable injury, including, but not limited to, the chilling of free speech rights.
VI. PRAYER FOR RELIEF
Plaintiff respectfully requests the following relief:
A. A temporary restraining order and preliminary relief ordering Defendant to approve Plaintiff’s 2012 Auburn Veterans Day Parade application and allow Plaintiff to march in the 2012 Auburn Veterans Day Parade on November 10, 2012;
B. Permanent injunctive relief enjoining Defendant from enforcing the 2012 Auburn Veterans Day Parade rules and regulations and using them in future years for Defendant’s annual Veterans Day Parade;
C. A declaratory judgment that the 2012 Auburn Veterans Day Parade rules and regulations are unconstitutional on their face and as applied;
D. Attorneys’ fees and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988, or such other authority as may authorize such an award; and
E. Such other relief as this Court deems proper.
DATED: November 5, 2012
By: /s/ Sarah A. Dunne
Sarah A. Dunne, WSBA #34869
By: /s/ La Rond Baker
La Rond Baker, WSBA #43610
ACLU of Washington Foundation
901 Fifth Avenue, Suite 630
Seattle, WA 98164
By: /s/ David Whedbee
David Whedbee, WSBA #35977
MacDonald Hoague & Bayless
705 Second Avenue, #1500
Seattle, WA 98104
Attorneys for Plaintiff
ACTION ALERT IN SOLIDARITY WITH VETERANS FOR PEACE
By Michelle J. Kinnucan, President, Greater Seattle Veterans for Peace (vfp92.org; 206-297-6746)
VFP 92 is working with the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington to obtain a federal court order allowing us to march in the 2012 Auburn Veterans Day parade on Saturday, November 10, 2012. Yesterday, three of the six members of the VFP 92 Board of Directors met with four ACLU staff/cooperating attorneys. Following that meeting the Board voted to abandon consideration and planning of nonviolent civil disobedience at the parade. We hope that the City of Auburn will voluntarily reverse their decision to exclude Veterans For Peace or, alternatively, that a federal court will intervene to protect our First Amendment rights.
In any case, we are still planning to march in the parade and encourage you to join us in Auburn, if possible. In the event that we cannot march lawfully we will use lawful means to protest or raise awareness of our exclusion. Please help spread the word about the change in plans. We also have a booth again this year and have reservations for an after-parade social gathering at an Auburn restaurant. If you plan to come to Auburn and would like to help plan our lawful alternative action then please contact me privately.
Michelle J. Kinnucan,
President, Greater Seattle Veterans For Peace (vfp92.org)