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ACLU eyes parade flap

Civil liberties group wary of committee policy that censors on basis of political ideology

Posted: Sunday, July 18, 2004

The Alaska Civil Liberties Union is asking city officials for information about the Juneau Fourth of July Committee's amended policy about what qualifies as an "appropriate" parade entry.

In a letter to City Manager Rod Swope, the legal group said it was contacted by numerous citizens who are disturbed that Fourth of July parade floats and marching groups will be censored on the basis of political ideology.

"Such a policy, if implemented, would raise serious First Amendment concerns and could violate the free speech rights of those wishing to participate in the parade," said Paul Grant, cooperating attorney and litigation committee member of the union.

Starting next year, the Juneau Fourth of July Committee will bar entries it thinks inappropriate. The committee made the decision after receiving complaints from spectators angry with a man wearing a President Bush mask and holding a sign that read, "I think I served. Commit troops. Cut benefits."

The Alaska Civil Liberties Union is asking the city to provide a copy of the new policy, the amended parade application form and any written correspondence on the subject.

City Attorney John Hartle said the committee is a citizen volunteer organization and the city has no jurisdiction over it.

"We don't draft the policy for them. We don't process the applications," Hartle said.

Grant disagrees.

"I think the city is responsible for them," Grant said.

Gerald Dorsher, director of the Juneau Fourth of July Committee, declined comment other than to say, "We will muddle through."

• I-Chun Che can be reached at ichun.che@juneauempire.com.



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