Monday, December 31, 2007

Rights Activists to sue the City of Pasadena

January 1, 2008

Victims and Activist Groups to Sue the City of Pasadena, Various Public Officials and Individuals for Violation of Their Civil Rights

When: 7:00 AM, January 1, 2008

Where: Los Feliz Room, The Westin Pasadena,

191 North Los Robles, Pasadena, California 91101

Pasadena- Victims of China’s human rights violations and human rights groups who had protested the inclusion of a float representing the Peoples Republic of China in the 2008 Rose Parade announce today their intention to sue the City of Pasadena, various public officials and private individuals for violation of their civil rights. We intend to show that these agencies and individuals acted in concert to unlawfully prevent the issuance of a city permit to us for a demonstration against China’s continuing abuse of basic human rights.

The City of Pasadena initiated the invitation to Beijing to send a float to the 2008 Rose Parade. We intend to show that Mayor Bill Bogaard, despite his denials actively participated in the extension of this invitation. The City and the defendants then initiated a process to deny our right to free speech and assembly to protest Chinas’ abysmal human rights record.

Some months ago we asked the City and Tournament of Roses to withdraw the invitation to the Beijing float to the Rose Parade, or at the very least to allow us the opportunity to tell our side of the story. The City Council referred the matter to its Human Relations Commission. The Commission held public hearings on the matter and in September submitted a report to the Council making specific recommendations for Pasadena to decry human rights violations in China, and to provide human rights activists an opportunity to object to China’s vicious treatment of its own citizens. The Mayor and Council summarily rejected the report of its own Commission.

In response to a request from human rights groups, the City referred the groups to the Tournament of Roses to negotiate a compromise allowing for legitimate protests to be heard. An agreement with the Tournament officials was reached for the groups to have a Human Rights Torch Relay event one-half hour before the Parade.

Police officials including Chief Melekian and his representative Commander Gales, presumably acting on instructions from higher authorities then rejected the Relay as proposed, making vague references to unspecified “security concerns”. They tried to impose severe restrictions on the protest, allowing only a water-down event with a lone runner that would be held in the hours of darkness. This proposal is worthy of the communist government in China but not acceptable in any part of America, the land of the free.

We intend to show that the police’s “security concerns” are not genuine but excuses to deny our human rights event. Chief Bernard Melekian, in a surprising moment of candor, said, “There are a lot of groups (referring to Beijing float protesters and human rights activists) who think that this is their moment to get on television. That is simply not going to happen…I hate to see something that is a fun family event, that’s turning 119 years old go that way. It was never intended to be political theater. But there are people who seem to want to turn it into that.” (San Diego Union Tribune, Sunday December 30th 2007 A-3) The unspecified “security concerns,” therefore, were not the real reason behind the denial of the permit for the Torch Relay. It was simply a ruse to prevent inconvenient and commercially harmful human rights protests.

China is openly using the Olympic Games and their participation in the Rose Paradeas propaganda to tout their emergence as a world power and their “progress” under communist rule.

City officials claim they wish to avoid “politicizing” the parade. It is the City that politicized the parade by inviting China to participate. The City then used avoiding politics as an excuse to deny us the right to free assembly and the expression of our dissent, and to mischaracterize our human rights activities. We intend to show that one real reason the City wants to suppress dissent and protest is that the City is acting to serve the interests of private business interests. Those interests are only interested in profits. They want to sell their goods to Chinese market, or develop plants to take advantage of what can only be described as Chinese slave labor or they want to import shoddy or even toxic goods into this country.

We intend to show that the real reason behind the City’s suppression of outcries against China’s human rights abuses is to please the dictatorial regime of China. Mayor Bill Bogaard, after hearing numerous personal testimonies of China’s human rights abuses, called human rights violations in China “allegations.” Members of Pasadena China Subcommittee advised the City that criticism of China’s human rights violation would damage the relationship with China. Instead of “damaging” its relationship with China, the City expensed our constitutional rights of expression and assembly to please China in the most un-American way.

In closing, allow us to express our sorrow at this turn of events. Without Mayor Bill Bogaard’s invitation to the Beijing float we would rather be home with our families watching the Rose Parade. We came to protest Chinas massive violation of human rights. We now find ourselves spending time and resources to protest Pasadena’s violation of rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The specter of an American government allowing a dictatorial communist regime’s multimillion float and parade delegation while simultaneously denying American Citizens their rights is not acceptable and, we believe, illegal. How can a city government of this free country go out its way and spend much effort to invite, arrange funding, and lobby for the entrance of a propaganda vehicle of the tyrannical regime of China to our nationally pride Rose Parade, but use its administrative power to deprive the victims of the Chinese regime a dignified platform, and in the process suppress a private organization’s support for human rights causes?

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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