The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing a California suburban community for requiring residency for people to use a park in the neighborhood, deeming it a “racist” policy.
The ACLU, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), claims the policy is designed to keep minorities out of the neighborhood.
The Mercury News reported on the lawsuit, which was filed earlier this week:
The lawsuit comes about two months after activists resurrected a decades-long fight over the 1,400-acre park, a nature preserve off Page Mill Road believed to be the only publicly owned park in California that excludes non-residents, unless they’re guests accompanied by Palo Altans.
Filed on behalf of the NAACP of Silicon Valley and ten individual plaintiffs from Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and 10 other neighboring communities, the suit alleges that the restrictive ordinance is a vestige of a “well-documented history of racial discrimination” that has kept brown and black people out under threat of jail time and a hefty fine. In the past year, the city estimates it has refused access to about 8,200 people.
William Freeman, spokesman for the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, compared the restriction to San Francisco posting a “residents-only” sign at Golden Gate Park, or Palo Alto restricting access to University Avenue. The park comprises nearly 10 percent of the land in Palo Alto, the suit says, and a popular location for weddings, social gatherings and free music concerts that attract thousands a year with associated security costs to the city of about $89,000 a year.
“No city has the right to put public property into a private members-only club and build a wall against others,” Freeman said in the Mercury News report. “What we’re seeking is basic fairness to people throughout the community. Public parks are just that: public.”
The lawsuit, filed in the Santa Clara County Superior Court, claims that the park ordinance “infringes on the plaintiffs’ fundamental rights of freedom of movement, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.”
“Since June, activists and protesters have marched on the main path toward the park and have painted the word ‘desegregate’ at the entrance several times,” the Mercury News reported.
Several leftist Democrats in Congress have signed a petition calling for the city council to take action, including Reps. Anna Eshoo, Jackie Speier, and Zoe Lofgren.
Retired Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge LaDoris Cordell said in the report that she wants the park to be a “rainbow” of diversity.
“The rainbow says open it up,” Cordell said. “Parks look beautiful with rainbows.”
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