DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — City Commissioners denied a permit for the route of the first-ever Juneteenth parade to take place in the downtown district.
Organizers of the parade hoped to have the parade go down Main Street in the Circle City but after multiple attempts to get the parade route approved by the city, their request for the route of the parade was ultimately denied and now legal action is brewing.
According to Staff Attorney Kaitlin Welborn with ACLU Alabama, Dothan City Commissioners violated residents’ first amendment rights when they denied the location of the first Juneteenth parade.
“You can’t treat speech differently based on what the speech is about,” Welborn said. “That is called content-based discrimination. That violates the first amendment and that is what happened here.”
Welborn said there are certain parades, like the Annual Peanut Festival Parade, that are allowed to go down Main Street and that the city gave unconstitutional reasons for why the Juneteenth parade can’t go down the same street.
According to Welborn, all parades must be treated equally, no matter what they are celebrating.
“It is absolutely unfortunate that the parade permit was denied,” Welborn said. “We were really hoping the city would comply with the first amendment.”
According to Dothan Mayor, Mark Saliba, the permit was denied due to safety concerns.
Saliba told WDHN he welcomes the expansion of the celebration but it’s his job to keep people safe.
The Mayor encourages Wiregrass residents to participate in any Juneteenth celebration the organization puts together.
“It’s just very difficult to close four lanes down,” Saliba said. “Madi-Gras parade doesn’t come down 84, Martin Lutheran King JR. parade doesn’t come down 84. It really isn’t a matter about the topic, it is a matter of the safety.”
Welborn is now in the process of preparing a lawsuit. They plan to file it sometime next week.
This, Welborn said, comes after the ACLU offered to work with the city to come up with a process that is constitutional.
“We have offered multiple times to work with the city to design a permit process for parades that does comply with the first amendment,” Welborn said. “The city has not taken us up on that offer.”
Organizers want to emphasize on June 19th there will be a Juneteenth parade in downtown Dothan, where exactly the location will be is still being planned out.