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L.A. Won't Be Part of Mass 'Liberty Weekend' Swearing In

June 10, 1986|WILLIAM OVEREND | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles has been scrubbed as one of five sites for a mass naturalization of new citizens by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger on July 3 because federal judges refused to hold the ceremony in the Memorial Coliseum or at Dodger Stadium.

The induction ceremony--with Burger swearing in 20,000 new citizens over a television hookup from Liberty Island in New York--is planned as part of an ABC spectacular called "Liberty Weekend," marking the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty.

Chief U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real said he was contacted by David L. Wolper, who is producing the show for ABC, and was told that no other Los Angeles locations would be suitable for the naturalization ceremony.

"We said we would do it in the Music Center," Real said. "That wasn't good enough for Wolper. He wanted the Coliseum, Dodger Stadium or nothing."

Real said Wolper's proposal was rejected at a meeting of Los Angeles federal judges, partly because a previous experiment at the Coliseum with a mass open-air naturalization ceremony was "a complete disaster."

"(The) Immigration and Naturalization (Service) talked us into it once before several years ago, and it was impossible to operate," Real said. "The people were uncomfortable and it turned into a political rally."

The chief judge also questioned the propriety of making the induction of new citizens part of a commercially sponsored television production.

"We're not in the entertainment business," Real said. "We swear in more new citizens in Los Angeles than any other city in the country every year, and we're going to keep doing it in the regular way."

Real said that more than 70,000 people were naturalized in Los Angeles last year, with an estimated 96,000 to be sworn in during 1986. He said induction ceremonies for groups of 1,000 to 3,000 are routinely held at the Convention Center and at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

"I think we're doing our job and I hope we're doing it in a dignified way in which new citizens come in the way they should," the judge added.

Wolper, who produced the opening and closing ceremonies at the Coliseum for the 1984 Summer Olympics, has predicted that the "Liberty Weekend" show July 2-6 will be a "50-goose-bump event."

A spokeswoman for Wolper said the television producer had hoped Los Angeles would be part of the five-city induction ceremony because it is Wolper's hometown. She said the producer would have no additional comment on the subject.

Because of the impasse over an appropriate site in Los Angeles, Wolper and ABC settled on San Francisco as the fifth city for the television hookup, along with New York, Washington, Miami and St. Louis.

A court official said there was no opposition by federal judges in San Francisco to participating in the mass ceremony, and said plans there are under way to have 1,000 new citizens sworn in by Burger over the television hookup. The site will be Crissy Field, a park near the Presidio.

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