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Full Rebuttal in the Matter of the Divine Land Marching Band

{Editor’s Comment: In 2016, the Divine Land Marching Band, a group of Falun Gong practitioners, was scheduled to participate in the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Grand Parade. At the last minute, they were rejected from the parade. They signed a complaint of discrimination against the organizer, Sakura Matsuri, Inc. with the San Francisco Human Rights Commission

Case Name:            Rui Wang v. Sukura Natsuri, Inc.

Docket Number:  FY-17-12C-030

The Full Rebuttal to the allegations follows:}

Dear Respectful Rebecca Oyama,

Thank you for being an investigator on the matter between the Respondent and us.

As you can easily perceive, the two parties have discrepancies on what was said and done in regards to how the Respondent handled our applications to and participation in the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Grand Parade (NCCBFGP).

To prevent this matter from spiraling down into a “he said vs. he said” dispute, we will format our rebuttal into two parts. We will show in the “summary arguments” that the Respondent’s best effort of white-washing its disparate treatment of us not only in and of itself constitutes an admission of unfair treatment, but also cannot stand up to a cross examination of surrounding facts of the NCCBFGP. We will then make a point-to-point rebuttal of the Respondent’s response in the second part.

We will also provide a fact sheet and other supporting documents as reference material.

Thank you for your patience.

Summary Arguments

I. Arbitrary, rude and hurtful rejection of us from the 2016 NCCBFGP

From our fact sheet and the email exchange we had with parade chair Atsuko Kajita, it is clear the Respondent was aware that we are Falun Dafa practitioners and accepted us to the 2016 NCCBFGP.

However, on the day of the 2016 NCCBFGP, Mr. Richard Hashimoto accused us of tricking his organization by using the name of “West Divine Land Marching Band” to get in the parade. When one of our members told him that, “We said clearly that we are Falun Dafa in our initial email,” Hashimoto refused to recognize it and said, “I don’t see that. We didn’t see that.” Atsuko obviously had a different opinion. She confirmed that she knew we were Falun Dafa practitioners and she approved us to be in the parade after screening our application materials. She tried to but was unable to change the outcome.

If Mr. Hashimoto had lost his temper for whatever reason on the day of the 2016 NCCBFGP, he should have all the facts now to realize the mistake that he made. Nonetheless, the Respondent still insisted that the reason to reject us from the NCCBFGP on the day of the 2016 NCCBFGP was that our banner of “Falun Dafa” is different from our application name of “West Divine Land Marching Band.” This can only be interpreted as willful and deliberate attempt to mislead the city’s Human Rights Commission.

The Respondent’s explanation also contradicts the NCCBFGP’s own conduct. Available online images and videos of past NCCBFGP (including 2016) reveal that it must be common for some participants to hold parade banners that are different from their application names. For example, some participants have multiple banners, but they most likely have applied with a single name. There are also banners in Japanese and Chinese characters, and these are most likely not the applying names. There is a“Cash paid for Japanese Sword” banner, that cannot possibly be the application name. We have documented six participants who used eight banners in 2016 that were different from their application names.

More importantly, the banner-discrepancy excuse in and of itself calls into question the Respondent’s judgment in dealing with public matters in general, and in discriminating againt us in particular. Is it a standard practice for NCCBFGP personnel or Mr. Hashimoto to compare parade banners and application names. If it is, why were so many other participants with banners that were different from their application names allowed to march but not us? Why were we singled out? If it is not, how did Mr. Hashimoto find out our banner was “Falun Dafa”? Did he find it out by himself? Or did he know this all along and wait until the starting time of the parade to use it? Or did someone alert him? What standing or capacity did that person have with the NCCBFGP organizer? Its staff? Decision maker? Stakeholder? Or? We will further address these questions below.

II. On our identity and our application to the NCCBFGP

“Falun Dafa” has always been our proud identity and identification. The stated goal of China’s brutal persecution against Falun Dafa is to force each and every Falun Dafa practitioners to renounce their belief in Falun Dafa. The persecution has been going on for 18 years, with millions of casualties, with large numbers of them being victims of murderous organ harvesting. If that cannot force Falun Dafa practitioners in China to give up their identification with Falun Dafa, what can possibly make us hide our identification with Falun Dafa? We never did, and never will.

The Respondent’s response #6 that “WDLMB did not disclose in its application its intent to carry a banner that said ‘Falun Dafa’” was simply not true and maliciously construed. In fact, it is a deliberate attempt to provide misinformation to the city Human Rights Commission.

We nonetheless will explain why we applied with the name of “West Divine Land Marching Band.” It is simply a matter of common sense. Just like Japan Airlines having a float in NCCBFGP, or a church or school having marching bands in NCCBFGP, Japan Airlines or the church or the school themselves are not in the parade. Our situation is the same. “Falun Dafa” is not marching in the parade in which we participated, but the “West Divine Land Marching Band” of “Falun Dafa” is. As a result, we have applied with the name of “West Divine Land Marching Band” to all parades in which we have participated, and we have always marched with the banner “Falun Dafa”. The Respondent clearly understood this common sense – until he responded to our complaint to the city’s Human Right Commission.

III. On being controversial and political

Another pretext that the Respondent used to justify its rejection of us from the 2016 NCCBFGP is that we are “a controversial group and are political.” This is even more questionable than the Respondent’s banner-discrepancy excuse.

First, like the banner-discrepancy excuse, the political-controversial excuse contradicts NCCBFGP’s own conduct. There were many politicians participating in the NCCBFGP. Are they not “political”? They could not have won 100% of election votes, so aren’t they controversial by default?

Second, worse than the banner-discrepancy excuse, the political-controversial excuse calls into question the Respondent’s judgment in dealing with public matters in general, and in discriminating against us in particular. The Respondent certainly knows how to cite the NCCBFGP guidelines when it can. Is “political-controversial” anywhere in the guideline? On what basis did Mr. Hashimoto made his decision? Did Mr. Hashimoto act arbitrarily and recklessly?

Third, did Mr. Hashimoto keep a file he used to gauge all NCCBFGP participants as to whether they were controversial or political? If not, how did he decide if any particular participant was political or controversial? Did Mr. Hashimoto depend on some informants to screen and exclude controversial and political groups? How did Mr. Hashimoto evaluate these informants’ information? We will address this further below.

Most importantly, we heard Mr. Hashimoto said to us through a megaphone, “You are a religious and political organization and are not permitted in this parade” (please read Rebuttal #3 and our fact sheet for more details), and the Respondent made a point in its Response that what Mr. Hashimoto said was “You are a controversial group and are political and this is not a political event.” To say the very least, the Respondent must feel more comfortable about its own version of what Mr. Hashimoto said to us. The HRC’s response request is then the best opportunity for the Respondent to explain it’s claim of us being controversial and political. Why didn’t the Respondent do so? Is the HRC not worthy of such an explaination? Or more likely, the controversial-political claim cannot be substantiated, at least not in this free country.

IV. On the relationship with Respondent’s expressive message of showcasing the color and grace of the Japanese culture and the diversity of the Japanese American culture

This is yet another self-defeating pretext that the Respondent uses to try to justify its rejection of us from NCCBFGP.

The Respondent claimed that “applicants approved by Respondent to participate in the Grand Parade have always had a significant relationship with Respondent’s expressive message…” The Respondent had twice approved us into the NCCBFGP, first in 2005 and then in 2016, so the Respondent must have accepted that we do have a significant relationship with the Respondent’s expressive message. How did this acceptance suddenly change on the day of 2016 NCCBFGP?

In addition, does the Respondent apply this criterion across the board? There are numerous city and county officials’ car rides in NCCBFGP, what are their significant relationships with the Respondent’s expressive message?

Our fact sheet documented that Japan Tianguo Marching Band and US West Tianguo Marching Band applied jointly to the 2016 and 2017 NCCBFGP. For the past 10 years, Japan Tianguo Marching Band has performed in more than 200 parades and festivals in Japan, such as the 54th Gifu Nobunaga Festival, Saitama City Music Festival etc. The Japan Tian Guo Marching Band has thus become part of the Japanese festive culture.

Over the years we have participated in dozens of festivities, and it is common sense and common practice that festival organizers will welcome participation from the general public, the more the merrier; that is what the festival is about. An abnormal deviation from this common sense indicates something abnormal and uncommon is at play. It calls into question how serious the Respondent is in being true to its claimed expressive message: is bigotry and being disingenuous part of the Respondent’s expressive message?

This question is particularly highlighted by an exchange between one of us and Mr. Hashimoto, “We are allowed to join parades in Japan and have won many awards,” “That might be in Japan. This is San Francisco.”

Whether the Respondent is true to its stated expressive message is very important. We will deal with this more fully below.

V. On fair play and willful treatment

The Respondent claims that it acted reasonably and respectfully in rejecting us and publicly humiliating us on the day of 2016 NCCBFGP. We have documented in our fact sheet a series of traceable incidents to contradict that.

Even if we give the Respondent the benefit of the doubt, that somehow a grave miscommunication or misunderstanding has taken place, the Respondent cannot explain away its arbitrary and rude behavior towards us on the day of 2016 NCCBFGP and afterward. We followed a procedure to obtain our spot in the parade. What procedure did Mr. Hashimoto follow to render us the kind of public humiliation on the day of the 2016 NCCBFGP? Yet the Respondent claimed that it acted “reasonably”? No one came to us to communicate what went wrong or what might have caused the abrupt change. Whatever excuses the Respondent later used to justify its rude treatment of us, the Respondent never afforded us an opportunity to explain or defend ourselves. Since then, the Respondent never bothered to explain its action to us, and only added salt to our wound in its response to our complaint by making assertions that cannot possibly be true. Yet the Respondent claims that it acted “respectfully”? The Respondent’s contempt toward us borders on hatred.

VI. The Respondent’s source of information on Falun Dafa

There can only be one source for the kind of animosity that Mr. Hashimoto displayed toward us, and that is the persecution and hatred propaganda that the Chinese government has been carrying on against Falun Dafa.

We have provided several documents to give comprehensive information on Falun Dafa and the Chinese ongoing persecution against Falun Dafa (please see “Falun Gong, Humanity’s Last Stand). For the purpose of refuting the Respondent’s accusation of Falun Dafa being political and controversial, we will provide an abbreviate review of relevant information.

1. Falun Dafa as a cultivation practice

Falun Gong—also known as Falun Gong, the Great Way of Law-Wheel Cultivation Practice—is an ancient form of cultivation practice.

From its earliest establishment, Chinese culture has embraced the concept of the “Oneness of Heaven and Man.” The way for man to achieve the Oneness, or his true self, is cultivation practice. Chinese literature is filled with legends of people achieving the status of deities, becoming enlightened, or obtaining the Tao through cultivation, and there have existed thousands of different schools of cultivation over the course of Chinese history. Cultivation practice, therefore, is a generic term for the practice of mind and body transcendence.

Cultivation practice has left its imprint on almost every aspect of Chinese culture. The teachings of Lao Zi and Confucius, for example, were originally for guiding the cultivation of their respective disciples. A great number of historical figures who contributed to shaping Chinese history were practitioners of cultivation. In fact, cultivation of moral character was a prerequisite for students of any serious study, and the ethical values derived from teachings of cultivation played an essential role in establishing and maintaining social morality.

Cultivation has also long been recognized for its effects on physical health and supernormal abilities. The health benefits of Tai Chi and martial arts, for example, are well known. All famous doctors and physicians throughout Chinese history were practitioners of cultivation. Some of them had developed abilities to visualize meridian channels and points in the human body, some could see through the human body to detect illnesses, some could see how components of herbs function in the human body, and some could emit energy to cure diseases. These practitioners of cultivation were entirely responsible for establishing the theory and practice of Chinese medicine, such as acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine that we know today.

Communist Party rule in China brought an abrupt end to this rich tradition of cultivation. The Communist Party’s atheist ideology and totalitarian power precluded any other ideas. Cultivation was branded as “superstition” and brutally persecuted. In the first two years after the Chinese Communist Party took power in 1949, two million people were executed in the name of “suppressing counter-revolutionary superstitious sects and secret societies.” It was not until the late 1970s that some schools of cultivation practice reappeared in society, but they confined themselves to teaching physical fitness and healing disease.

In 1992, Mr. Li Hongzhi began to give public lectures on his style of cultivation called Falun Dafa. He expounded that the key to cultivation is the improvement of one’s moral and mental quality. A practitioner should first of all be a good person with higher moral standards. One should make an honest living and give up selfish and harmful thoughts. In case of conflict, one should consider others first, search within oneself to find one’s own shortcomings, and never harm others for one’s own gain. Following the Falun Gong principle of “Truth-Benevolence-Forbearance,” practitioners of Falun Gong devote themselves to the cultivation of their inner selves, and regard the elevation of one’s heart and mind as fundamental. This, combined with five supplementary sets of gentle exercises of proven efficacy in health improvement, is meant to enable practitioners to achieve purposeful living, morality, total health, and true happiness. Simply put, the practice of Falun Gong is a choice, a commitment to be the best person one can be, and a way of living a moral and unselfish life.

Falun Dafa rapidly became very popular, and by 1999, just seven years after its introduction to the public, there were 100 million people practicing Falun Gong in China.

2. The Chinese government’s violent persecution of Falun Dafa in China

At the beginning, various levels of the Chinese government recognized and commended the benefits of Falun Dafa practice to people and to society, facilitating the spread of Falun Dafa in the early 1990s.

However, some hardline Communist Party leaders were affronted by the increasing popularity of Falun Dafa and could not accept the fact that, after more than 40 years of Marxist indoctrination, so many people, including Communist Party members, would look elsewhere for moral and spiritual guidance. Starting from 1994, the authorities gradually escalated their hostility toward Falun Dafa. As various intimidation and discrimination tactics were unable to frighten people away from Falun Dafa, on July 20, 1999, the Communist Party launched a violent persecution against Falun Dafa.

The Chinese government’s publicly stated objective of the persecution is to “completely eradicate Falun Gong”—to coerce each and every Falun Dafa practitioner to renounce Falun Dafa, to force all of them change their minds. To this end, Jiang Zemin, the former Chinese president who launched the persecution, has instructed the Chinese police force that “no measure is too excessive against Falun Gong.” With this total impunity, the only concern of the policemen is how to inflict the maximum amount of pain to force Falun Dafa practitioners to cave. Deaths under torture are written off as suicide. The forms of torture are so barbaric that United Nations Special Rapporteur Jahingir wrote in her annual report to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights: “Reports describe harrowing scenes in which detainees, many of whom are followers of the Falun Gong movement, die as a result of severe ill-treatment, neglect or medical attention. The cruelty and brutality of these alleged acts of torture defy description.” Most shockingly, the Chinese government has systematically harvested vital organs from live Falun Dafa practitioners. Internal information indicates the persecution has caused millions of death. With the Chinese government’s information blockade keeping the full picture hidden, the scope and severity of the atrocities are difficult to fathom.

At the same time, government propaganda machinery has also been running a hate campaign to demonize Falun Dafa in society so as to instigate ordinary citizens to assist the authorities to persecute Falun Dafa. The authorities also give out monetary rewards to informers who report on Falun Gong practitioners.

3. The Chinese government’s persecution of Falun Dafa practitioners overseas

To help their fellow practitioners in China, Falun Dafa practitioners around the world have worked to publicize the severe and extensive human rights violations happening in China and appeal for public conscience.

To stifle the practitioners’ efforts to reveal the brutality in China, the Chinese government uses economic pressure to coerce other governments to infringe on Falun Dafa practitioners’ civil rights.

One egregious example was the Icelandic government’s denial of entry, at the instigation of the Chinese government, of Falun Dafa practitioners from June 11–16, 2002, when Jiang Zemin visited Iceland. Both the Icelandic Data Protection Authority (ruling of June 6, 2003), and the Icelandic Ombudsman (ruling on December 5, 2005) found that the Icelandic government acted unlawfully by denying Falun Dafa practitioners’ entry.

Ill-treatment of Falun Dafa practitioners, under pressure from the Chinese government, also occurred when the Chinese president visited Germany in April 2002, France in January 2004, Argentina in November 2004, South Korea in November 2005, and Russia in March 2007.

The Chinese government has also instructed its diplomats to use economic favors to entice local governments and businesses to suppress Falun Dafa practitioners. Mr. Chen Yonglin, a former First Consul of the Chinese Consulate in Sydney, confirmed this after his defection in 2005. Falun Dafa being “political and controversial” is simply a smearing tactic that the Chinese government has used to demonize Falun Dafa practitioners.

The Falun Dafa issue that the San Francisco City Human Rights Commission is facing now is therefore a human rights issue in its most serious sense.

VII. Expressive content vs. expressive event

We have elaborated above that each and every of the Respondent’s pretext (more precisely, Mr. Hashimoto by himself) to reject us from the 2016 NCCBFGP not only is self-contradictory, but in and of itself reveals how the Respondent arbitrarily, willfully and callously treated us.

We notice that the Respondent weighed most heavily its defense on citing the Falun Dafa Ass’n v. Chinese Chamber of Commerce (points 10-12) case. The Respondent arguments in this regard reveal unequivocally how the Respondent interprets its obligation, as a city funds grantee, to the San Francisco Administrative Code Chapter 12C: “12C’s prohibition of discrimination does not apply to [its] decision of who to include in its content of expressive conduct,” and cannot “force the Respondent to include unwanted parade units.” The Respondent might as well forgo all its pretexts that actually do more harm than good but go straight to its claim that the 12C simply does not apply to whatever it wants to in conducting its expressive content!

What the Respondent tries to confuse is the content of an expressive conduct and the expressive conduct itself. The Summary Judgment of Falun Dafa Ass’n v. Chinese Chamber of Commerce does read that the City agencies “do not interpret that [12C’s prohibition of discrimination] to apply to an arts or cultural grantee’s decision as to the content of its expressive conduct,” an expressive conduct can be drastically different from the content of that expressive conduct. For example, a city-funded movie festival, for example, may choose to show Forest Gump, or Rain Man, or Saving Private Ryan. These are the content of this movie festival, and the City surely should not micro-manage the festival as to which movie to show. If the movie festival’s organizer conducts it in a way that prohibits women or Jews from participating, the City then has an obligation to intervene.

The same Summary Judgment acknowledges that parade and festival are inherently expressive events, and the Respondent also agrees that NCCBFGP is an expressive conduct. Expression events are participated by people who have feelings. While a painting using white ink cannot hurt the feeling of black ink, or an arias sung in Italian cannot hurt the feeling Chinese characters, art exhibits and opera performance prohibiting black or Chinese will for sure hurt their feelings. How social events are conducted have everything to do with fairness, and willful exclusion of certain group in city-funded events constitutes discrimination, as 12C explicitly prohibits.

The Respondent’s attempt to cite the Hurley is even less credible. First of all, when did we become an unwanted parade unit? We were accepted in 2016 NCCBFGP, so we were clearly wanted. If Mr. Hashimoto could decide just moments before the parade started that we had become unwanted, what would stop him from deeming us not wanted in the middle of the parade? If the Respondent’s claim of us violating its First Amendment rights stands, wouldn’t it by logic gives the Respondent the right to humiliate us at any minute throughout the parade? Is that how the Respondent understand what rights are?

Moreover, the Respondent’s claim that including us in NCCBFGP would have affected its message portrayed through parade is hypocritical at best. As we have questioned in part IV above, the Respondent may not have stayed true to its claimed expressive message, and cannot compare to Hurley. In the Hurley case, the Hurley organizer actively rejected public funds so it may complete control its message, and its rejection of a gay group is consistent with that message. Its first amendment right therefore stands. If the Hurley organizer accepted one gay group but rejected another gay group, the court would most likely not view its claim of its first amendment right fondly.

VIII. The San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce

We do recognize that the Respondent has accepted us to the 2005 NCCBFGP,as well as to the 2016 NCCBFGP initially. We also observe that Mr. Hashimoto’s attitude toward us is vastly different from other members of the Respondent. Despite the fact that Mr. Hashimoto wrongfully accused of us many things unfairly, it is quite obvious that Mr. Hashimoto knows very little about us. Mr. Hashimoto actually admitted to one of our members that the Chinese Chamber of Commerce told him that Falun Dafa is a “troublemaker” and that is why it refused to allow Falun Dafa to participate in the 2016 NCCBFGP.

We would therefore formally register to the HRC our concern of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce’s hostile action toward us. If Mr. Hashimoto is an unwitting victim of the Chinese government’s propaganda, then the San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce is a willing accomplice. Our fact sheet not only has documented the Chinese Chamber of Commerce’s influence on the Respondent, but also the Chinese Chamber of Commerce’s failed attempt to influence the Union Street parade organizer to disallow us in their parade.
Point-to-point rebuttal

Item 1:

Respondent has not “consistently rejected” the “Tian Guo Band,” “Divine Land Band” or the Celestial Band” from participating in the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Grand Parade. However, in 2007 and 2016, Respondent rejected applications from the “US West Divine Land Marching Band” (WDLMB; and in 2017, Respondent rejected an application from the Japan & US West Tian Guo Marching Band” from the Grand Parade.

Respondent objects to the word “consistently” being applied. However, whatever word Respondent objects to, Complainant notes the fact is that Respondent has, in each and every case of submission of an application since 2005, been denied participation in the parade. As the reasons given for the 2016 rejection seem representative of Respondent’s thinking, please refer to the Complainant’s Summary Arguments, the responses to the remaining items, and the accompanying Statements of Facts for a more detailed explanation of Complainant’s position.

Item 2:

The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Grand Parade Policies and Guidelines states, “identification Signs and Banners: identification signs and banners must be in the same name as what appears in the application. Failure to comply will result in your rejection from the parade.”

As we noted in Summary Arguments, this was not applied evenly to all participants, but was singularly applied to us on the day of the 2016 NCCBFGP.

We note that there is a reference in the application to the NCCBFGP Policies and Guidelines. Atsuko Kajita, the 2016 NCCBFGP Chair, handled the Complainant’s application. All interactions were casual, informal, warm, and friendly. Information conveyed was almost always verbal or in the form of email transmissions. In all communications, after the assignment of line-up number #41, the Complaint took the Parade Chair at her word and had no reason to believe she did not have the authority to make the decisions she made. Not once did Atsuko ever mention the Guidelines.

Abraham Thompson, who handled the WDLMB application, often exchanged emails with the Parade Chair. A copy of a several pages of exchanged emails is included in Statement of Facts. Not only was our banner disclosed in the application, Atsuko Kajita received a full picture of the entire Japan Divine Land Marching Band, with the banner, along with a large number of web addresses of pictures of the band, in Japan, Taiwan, and the US, holding the banner. No one from the Cherry Blossom parade informed Complainant that there was any problem. No one sent an email or called on the phone. Even on the day of the parade, when Complainant showed up two hours early in order to set up, and put up the banner perhaps an hour or so before the start of the parade, no one approached Complainant to say there was a misunderstanding.

Just at the start of the parade and over a megaphone, Richard Hashimoto shouted loudly at the WDLMB, for all to hear, and much to everyone’s embarrassment and dismay, that it could not participate in the parade. Atsuko, however, had a different view and even asked some supervisors to help get the WDLMB back to parade.

Please see the separate Statement of Facts for Item 2, which shows that, in 2016, six participants used eight banners that were different from their application names. Yet their non-compliance with the banner requirement did not result in their rejection from the parade. Why was Complainant singled out?

Item 3:

On April 17, 2016, Richard Hashimoto did not say “you are a religious and political organization” and you are not permitted in this parade.” Rather, on that date. Mr. Hashimoto informed the WDLMB that its application stated its name was “West Divine Land Marching Band” but that the parade marchers carried banners identifying the “Falun Dafa” and said, “You are a controversial group and are political and this is not a political event.”

As indicated in the Summary Arguments, this is one of those instances where, it seems, Respondent uses wording to make its seemingly spur of the moment response more palatable. We note, however, that members of the WDLMB remember hearing the word “religious.” Their written statements are included in the Statements of Facts. Respondent points out that parade marchers carried banners which said “Falun Dafa” and seems to have drawn certain conclusions therefrom: “You are a it religious group and are political and this is not a political event.”

Again, we question, first, why this issue was not raised before the application was accepted. Why was it not raised before the WDLMB was given a parade number, before the WDLMB arrived at the parade in full costume, before the WDLMB waited two hours from the time of arrival until the parade was about to start? Why was an announcement made over a megaphone without any attempt to mediate or discuss?

Second, we question how well thought out the decision actually was and whether a committee made this decision or whether any other person besides Richard Hashimoto was even involved in it.

Third, identifying Falun Dafa as a “religious” group, as a “controversial” group or as being “political” without explanation of what this means suggests that such statements themselves were being used as labels and the labels were grounds for rejection from the parade. As our Summary discusses, these labels are unrelated to any expressive content, but rather to Respondent’s ulterior motive that had nothing to do with expressive content at all. This in itself is discriminatory.

Although these are addressed in the Summary Argument, let us look at whether there is a factual basis for these observations?

First, about Falun Dafa being a religious group:

We suspect that Mr. Hashimoto did not want to admit using this word religious as a reason for prohibiting participation. Perhaps it does not look good to be against a group’s participation because it is religious. Then he would have to explain why every religious group was not prohibited from participation and why singling out Falun Dafa was not discriminatory. By the way, Falun Dafa is from the Buddhist school and Buddhism is also a part of Japanese culture. Hmm!

Second, what makes a group controversial? If it is in the least bit controversial is it ipso facto rejected? For example, if a group believes in something rather obvious such as being truthful, and another group believes in lying, does that make the group “controversial?” If it complains of discrimination, is it, by that very fact, “controversial?” Mr. Hashimoto, however, did not indicate what makes this group controversial. The summary also addressed that the political invitees who were not elected by 100% of the electoral vote were controversial. What gauge was used, if any, to determine the participant’s level of controversiality?

Third, Mr. Hashimoto did not indicate what makes this group or any group political. The Guidelines state, “No parade unit shall be used for a political purpose, distribution of campaign material, promote partisan positions or ballot proposals.” WDLMB does not have a political purpose, does not distribute campaign material, and does not promote partisan positions or ballot proposals. Yet he did not give any indication other than using the labels, to say what makes the WDLMB “religious,” controversial,” or “political.” When does the use of unsubstantiated labels degenerate into the emotionalism of name-calling?

In fact, the only entity anywhere that criticizes Falun Dafa for “being political” is the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). We question why Mr. Hashimoto would use this criticism to reject Falun Dafa from the parade, but let us look at it as this issue, which was also addressed in the Summary.

Mr. Hashimoto actually admitted to one of our members that the Chinese Chamber of Commerce told him that Falun Dafa is a “troublemaker” and that is why it refused to allow Falun Dafa to participate in the events that led to the case mentioned in item 10 below. Is the United States now doing the bidding of the Chinese Communist Party?

Fourth, why didn’t any other person involved raise this issue earlier, before the parade, rather than at the event itself? The persecution of a particular group may be considered political, but to respond to the Communist Party’s persecution is not any more political than the Jews response to the Holocaust. It is a human rights issue. Those responsible should have asked us who we are and given us a fair chance to identify ourselves. The fact that this did not happen, means Mr. Hashimoto didn’t take the city contract seriously and, to the extent that he represents the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) viewpoint, is himself being political.

Fifth, to bring the issue to a personal level, two band members have written and submitted a description of the specific torture and inhumanity they suffered before they managed to escape from the clutches of the Chinese Communist regime to the freedom enjoyed in the United States. The Summary stated, “The Chinese government’s publicly stated objective of the persecution is to ‘completely eradicate Falun Gong’—to coerce each and every Falun Dafa practitioner to renounce Falun Dafa, to force all of them to change their minds.” The existence of these band members and the millions of others who survived the attempt to “eradicate” them is a continual reminder of the CCP’s inhumanity. In turn, we remind all those who know someone who have been persecuted that the decision to “eradicate” any group, whether using a gas chamber, harvesting their organs, conducting a suicide mission, or any other violent means, is itself being political. To object to such violence is an expression of our humanity and our compassion for those who suffer. That is not political.

Sixth, is it any wonder that the Chinese Chamber of Commerce doesn’t want Falun Dafa to be seen in a parade? But why Richard Hashimoto?

Item 4:

On April 17, 2016, Mr. Hashimoto did not tell WDLMB to leave. After Mr. Hashimoto informed WDLMB that it could not participate, the Grand Parade began to march and the WDLMB stayed behind.

This typifies the Respondent’s word game and utter disrespect of the Complaint. Is there any consolation in being disallowed to participate an event but not being told to leave?

Nevertheless, Mr. Hashimoto did tell Abe Thompson that the group had to leave.

Item 5:

The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Grand Parade Policies and Guidelines states, “identification signs and banners must be in the same name as what appears on the application. Failure to comply will result in your rejection from the parade.”

This is dealt with in Item 3.

Item 6:

WDLMB did not disclose in its 2016 application its intent to carry a banner that said “Falun Dafa.”

This is untrue and is a deliberate false accusation.

We described in our response in Item 2 as well as in Statement of Facts that we were open in our intention to carry a banner that said “Falun Dafa.”
We also document in Statement of Facts an exchange between Mr. Hashimoto and Abraham Thompson. When accused of trying to trick the Respondent in accepting us, Abraham tried to show Mr. Hashimoto evidences that was not the case:
Abraham said, “I can show you right now.”
Hashimoto said, “No, I don’t need to see it now because your application came with a different name.”
Abraham said, “We said clearly that we are Falun Dafa in our initial email.”
Hashimoto said, “I don’t see that. We didn’t see that.”

If Hashimoto’s refusal of accepting our proof was due to a moment of heat, the Respondent should have all the facts now to know not to make this false accusation. In fact, Atsuko Kajita confirmed that she knew we were Falun Dafa practitioners and approved us as such.

Again, this deliberate fabrication in the face of the HRC investigation show the Respondent’s wonton disrespect of the Complaint.

Item 7:

Regarding the 2017 Grand Parade, WTGMB was never accepted into the parade. Eric Ching never gave WTGMB a confirmation that it could participate in the parade.

Again, the Respondent tells untrue under broad daylight and in the face of an HRC investigation.

Complainant holds that Eric Ching did give a verbal confirmation. In addition, Ching sent Abe Thompson an email asking why WTGMB did not file an application for 2017. Please see the accompanying Statement of Facts for a more detailed discussion of this occurrence.

Item 8:

The annual NCCBF showcases “the color and grace of the Japanese culture and the diversity of the Japanese American Community.” Applicants approved by Respondent to participate in the Grand Parade have always had a significant relationship with Respondent’s expressive message and/or the Japanese American community.

First, we wonder what changed after the band participated in the parade in 2005? Since “Applicants approved by Respondent to participate in the Grand Parade have always (emphasis added) had a significant relationship with Respondent’s expressive message and/or the Japanese American community,” what happened? We must have had a significant relationship in 2005. What changed?

We note that these are words perhaps preparatory to the use of Hurley to demonstrate that Respondent’s acts were totally in line with its guaranteed right to free speech. However, we question why, when Complainant mentioned participation of a Japanese Divine Land Marching Band or a Japanese & Taiwan Divine Land Marching Band performing in Okinawa, Saiama City, or at the 5th Gifu Nobunaga Festival, Respondent did not consider these applicable. Are we not all one? Can we not all celebrate the cultural heritage of Japanese culture and/or the Japanese American community?” No indication is given as to what differentiates all of the other participants, many of whom had a lesser connection to the celebration of Japanese heritage, from WTGMB. We do note, however, that when such participation was mentioned to Mr. Hashimoto, he responded, “That might be in Japan. This is San Francisco.”

Not only is the criterion to differentiate between those who have such a relationship and those who do not missing from the explanation, but numbers of other participants seem not to have met the alleged criterion either. The lack of a written criterion and the loose application of any criterion that may exist suggests an ulterior motive.

We do, note the all-encompassing acceptance of the Japanese government, not only of Faun Dafa, but of the sister band in Japan, the Japan Divine Land Marching Band. But then, that was Japan and this is San Francisco.

We further draw attention to this comment about the street fair from Yelp:

“Most of the tents are chinese people selling typical chinatown type trinket crap at highly marked up prices. I thought this was supposed to be a JAPANESE cultural event.”
Of course, in the parade, they mention Japanese culture, but in the street fair, they mention Asian culture.

Item 9:

The law is clear that a parade is a form of expressive conduct and, as articulated unanimously by the United States Supreme Court, its message is entitled to protection under the First Amendment. (Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston (1995) 515 U.S. 557, 569.). The Court in Hurley held that forcing a parade organizer to include an unwanted parade unit would violate the parade organizer’s First Amendment rights.

First of all, when did we become an unwanted parade unit? We were accepted in 2016 NCCBFGP, so we were clearly wanted. How did we change from being to not being wanted? Did Hurley do that to Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston? If Mr. Hashimoto could decide just moments before the parade started that we had become unwanted, what would stop him from deeming us not wanted in the middle of the parade?

Second, while this is not a lawsuit and involves a contract with the city to receive city funding, we will address this issue. Respondent alleges that the “law is clear that a parade is a form of expressive conduct and, as articulated unanimously by the United States Supreme Court, its message is under the first amendment. However, the referenced case, Hurley v. Irish Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Group of Boston (94-749), 515 U.S. 557 (1995) is not applicable to this situation. In Hurley, a private party, the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council put on the parade. In 1992 the Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston (GLIB) was allowed to participate in the Veteran’s parade. Subsequent acts demonstrate several salient differences between Hurley and the issue at hand. First, in Hurley, “the state court’s application had the effect of declaring the sponsors’ speech itself to be the public accommodation.” In a subsequent year the Veterans Council declined the funds it normally received from the city, thereby making it a private organization.,_Lesbian,_%26_Bisexual_Group_of_Boston

It was after that declination of funds that the Supreme Court found the Council was considered a private party. In the current situation the respondent actually receives funding from the City of San Francisco and is bound by the terms of the contract it signed with the city, thereby, in fact rendering it a public accommodation rather than a private party.

Sakura Matsuri may be attempting to hold that any decision it makes regarding participation of a group in a parade it sponsors and no matter how arbitrary or how discriminatory and no matter what the basis, is entirely up to its own discretion and the contract it signed with the city is irrelevant. We hold that the contract applies as to the issue of actual discrimination.

With regard to government participation in discrimination, in Collin v. Smith, F2nd 1197, the National Socialist Party of America (the Nazi Party) decided to hold a parade in Skokie, Illinois where over half of the residents were Jewish and many were the survivors of concentration camps. Skokie issued an injunction, but the Supreme Court dismissed the injunction as unconstitutionally infringing on the Nazis’ First Amendment right to political expression. This reinforces the finding that a government cannot discriminate.

Finally, for Respondent merely to state that each and every one of its choices involves expressive content is not the same as actually having a clearly defined and consistently applied expressive message, both of which appear to be lacking here.

Item 10:

In 2006, the U.S. Western Falun Dafa Association filed a complaint against the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the City and County of San Francisco stating three causes of action, including a claim alleging the Chamber’s violation of the California Unruh Civil Rights Act for denying Falun Dafa’s application to participate in the San Francisco Chinese New Year Festival’s parade street fair and flower fair. (US. Western Falun Dafa Ass’n v. Chinese Chamber of Commerce (2008) 163 Cal.App.4th 590, 595.) The Superior Court granted the Chamber’s motion to strike the Unruh claim and granted the Chamber’s motion for summary judgment against the Falun Dafa’s remaining two causes of action.

This case does not apply for several reasons. First, no Unruh claim is being made here. Second, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce is a direct expression of the viewpoint of the Chinese government itself. For example, in one instance where Falun Gong was allowed to participate in a parade, the Chamber stopped Falun Gong before it entered Chinatown so that Chinese government officials in attendance could exit the review stand. In another instance Falun Gong was informed that it had been excluded from the Street Fare because it opposed the policies of the Chinese government. We presume the policy it opposes is the arrest and persecution of its own members simply because of what they believe. In the present situation, we are not sure how Falun Dafa is not expressive of the Japanese content of the parade as it is so widely accepted in Japan itself. Third, in the referenced case, Falun Gong was denied the application for a booth at the Street Fair and, in 2004, passed out pamphlets, both of which are expressive. In the current situation, none of Falun Dafa’s actions can be considered expressive as a banner is only a form of identification. Fourth, Respondent gave up its right to discriminate when it signed a contract not to discriminate in order to receive government funds.


Item 11:

San Francisco Administrative Code Chapter 12C’s prohibition of discrimination does not apply to a grantee’s decision of who to include in its content of expressive conduct. The San Francisco Administration Code cannot be construed to force Respondent to include unwanted parade units. Including Complainant or any of her bands would have affected the message portrayed through the parade. Respondent would not have been able to distance itself from WDLMB’s message during a moving parade.

Complainant disagrees that the San Francisco Administrative Code Chapter 12C’s prohibition against discrimination allows respondent to make arbitrary or baseless prohibitions against potential parade participants using discrimination that is prohibited under that law. Respondent receives government funding and signed a contract not to discriminate. Therefore, it cannot discriminate.

Furthermore, Respondent has shown an inconsistency in demonstrating that is has an expressive message, what the expressive message actually is, and how complainant’s presence is inconsistent with its expressive message. While Mr. Hashimoto has accused complainant of being “religious” “political” or “controversial,” we fail to see how these labels apply to complainant, let alone how complainant’s mere presence affects Respondent’s “expressive message” even as ill-defined and arbitrarily applied as it is.


Item 12:

Falun Dafa’s claims of unlawful discrimination in Western Falun Dafa Ass’n v. Chinese Chamber of Commerce (Super. Ct., S.F. City and County, 2007), posing almost identical facts, and both the San Francisco HRC and the court have ruled against Falun Dafa. There is no reason that the outcome of Complainant’s claim against Respondent should be decided any differently.


Complainant does not agree that the facts are identical to those in Western Falun Dafa Ass’n v. Chinese Chamber of Commerce. They are not. Western Falun Dafa involved the Unruh Act. The facts here involve a parade. Moreover, the procedures in this instance are very, very different.


The Respondent did not adhere to written, clear-cut procedures that were properly communicated to its own staff, let alone to complainant. Rather it used verbal statements that disagreed with other of its verbal statements. It stated things about complainant that were inaccurate and/or based on a biased attitude toward complainant rather than on facts or evidence. It attempted to instill in its procedures an imported attitude toward human rights and discrimination which would not hold true in the United States of America and which bear no resemblance to truth as Westerners understand it.


Item 13:


Respondent acted reasonably, respectfully informing parade units that detract from its expressive message that they are not permitted to participate.


Complainant does not agree that respondent acted reasonably or respectfully in its manner of summarily dismissing complainant from its participation. Complainant, based on a staff member’s verbal statement of acceptance, did several weeks of preparation and rehearsal. WDLMB assembled on site with all instruments in place, in full costume, ready and fully expecting to participate. It did not expect to hear over a megaphone (item 7 of complaint.) with the entire assemblage and all participants listening, that its participation was denied. It was not given any reasonable explanation for such an action other than that the Chinese Chamber of Commerce considers Falun Dafa a “troublemaker.” Furthermore Abe Thompson was chewed out in front of witnesses. Mr. Hashimoto kept turning his back on him. It was needlessly embarrassing, and hardly respectful.

Item 14:

Complainant, the WDLMB, the WDLMB or any other organization that Complainant was affiliated with, could have easily obtained its/their own separate permit and organized its/their own parade.

Whether any other organization could have easily obtained a separate permit and organized its own parade is beside the point as it does not obviate the action of discrimination on a basis seemingly having nothing to do with an “expressive purpose.” If that was not discrimination, the issues in Brown vs. the Board of Education 347U.S. 483 (1954) need never have been decided.