SAN JOSE DEMONSTRATION
PUBLIC NATIVITY SCENE
by Dave Kong
California State Director
On Sunday, December 5, twenty atheists from San Jose and the Bay Area
demonstrated in front of thousands attending San Jose’s annual holiday
parade. Standing in front on the nativity scene in Plaza de Cesar Chavez,
the protesters objected to its presence on public property and its support
and promotion by the city of San Jose.
The nativity is part of Christmastown, an elaborate display owned by the
nonprofit group Christmas in the Park and erected every year in the plaza.
In 1994, the organization moved the nativity after receiving complaints, but
returned the display the following year. The original display has since been
replaced with a larger, more elaborate version.
While Christmas in the Park is a nonprofit organization, it receives a
substantial portion of its funding from the publicly funded Convention and
Visitors Bureau. Last year, American Atheists objected to the city about its
support of the display. After discussions with city officials stalled, we
staged our first demonstration. This year, in order to attract more
attention and educate the greatest number of people, we purposely chose the
day of the annual parade.
We attracted few supporters from the crowd, although several parade
participants expressed their sympathy, including a famous local chef. One
woman, who after seeing our signs warned her children that “Jesus is number
one,” was especially hostile. During the parade, she pushed protester John
Messina, who fell into her daughter. The woman then summoned a policeman and
tried to have John arrested for assaulting her daughter, but the officer was
reasonable and just told John to move away from her.
TV cameras typically pan past the nativity as the parade passes, but this
year they strategically avoided our location. However, demonstrators were
clearly visible to the mayor and councilmembers as they passed by. Most
significantly, we caught the attention of the chairman of the Christmas in
the Park board. She introduced herself to us, and to some degree, was
sympathetic. While nothing was resolved, the lines of communication were
opened and we agreed to discuss the issue at a later date.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the protest. It takes a
significant number of demonstrators to gain respect and recognition, and your
participation was vital to our success.
© 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 by American Atheists.