For the first time in more than a decade, the annual Cesar Chavez March and Rally will not be staged at Pueblo High Magnet School after organizers say Tucson Unified School District censored their speech.
In order to use Pueblo as a staging area, organizers say TUSD required there be no mention of the elimination of the district’s Mexican American Studies classes and no critical or disparaging comments made about district officials, said Laura Dent, with the Arizona Cesar Chavez Holiday Coalition.
She said the district also required that an emcee of the district's choice be present at the event to enforce these rules.
“So the Chavez Coalition decided that with that kind of level of censorship we would just move the staging area of the event,” Dent said.
The shutdown of the Mexican American Studies classes in January “has had a large impact on the Latino community,” Dent said. “The community here has been rallying around this, and the education of the youth in this district, which is mostly Latino, is important that’s why when the preconditions were set to not discuss it, we knew it would be a problem.”
Pueblo has been a gathering point for the parade for thousands in the last 11 years, Dent said. Saturday’s march will begin blocks from the school at St. John’s Catholic Church, 602 W. Ajo Way.
“An event organizer and a district leader had discussed the event and the event organizer was asked to address concerns. This discussion was not designed to censor the event but to understand the use of the space,” Cara Rene, a TUSD spokeswoman said via e-mail. “The decision to move the event from Pueblo High School rests solely with the event organizers, the Arizona Cesar Chavez Holiday Coalition, and was not requested or demanded by the district.”