ACLU Sues DNC for Plans to Silence Protest at Convention

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Tue, 07/08/2008 - 11:12am.


 The protest zone used by protesters at the Democratic National Convention will be in the far south corner of Lot A - more than two football fields away from the Pepsi Center's main doors. Protest groups and the ACLU say the distance will make it impossible to communicate with people attending the convention. - Photo by John Sopinski

The designated protest zone at the Democratic National Convention will be more than two football fields away from the Pepsi Center - a revelation that drew new legal challenges Monday from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU, which represents 13 protest groups, says the site effectively denies protesters their right to free speech because delegates and others attending the DNC won't be able to see or hear them.

According to a map released by the city late last week, the protest zone will be in the southern corner of Lot A, about 700 feet from the Pepsi Center. In some places, the view of the building's main doors is obstructed by trees and sculptures.

"No human voice, or any other sound . . . can ever hope to reach a person at the entrance," lawyers for the ACLU wrote in an amended complaint filed in federal court in Denver.

But Denver city attorney David Fine said the city is confident people in the area "will be within sight and sound of the delegates."

The location of the protest zone is significant to demonstrators because most of the area closest to the Pepsi Center, including adjacent sidewalks and streets, will be closed to the public for security reasons.

In a complaint filed in federal court, the ACLU is asking U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger to order the city and the Secret Service to locate the protest zone, which will be surrounded by a wire mesh fence, closer to the Pepsi Center.

Krieger has scheduled a trial for July 29 - less than a month before the convention starts - to settle that and other issues raised by the ACLU. Krieger was also asked to:

* Bar authorities from searching people entering the protest zone unless police have probable cause, or from declaring that police have the right to search anyone in the protest area.

The city has not said how it will handle searches, but Fine said Monday that, "Simply put, we are going to abide by the Constitution."

* Allow protesters to hand out leaflets to people attending the convention who are within the secured perimeter of the Pepsi Center. The city has said this will be prohibited.

* Allow parades to pass near the Pepsi Center and at times when delegates are present.

The city's approved parade route runs from near Civic Center, west on Colfax Avenue and north on Speer Boulevard to Lari mer Street. People may then walk through the Auraria campus to Seventh Street and Auraria Parkway, which is the entry and exit point for the protest zone in Parking Lot A.

It does not include Chopper Circle or Ninth Street adjacent to the Pepsi Center as the protest groups want, and the route through the campus will not accommodate floats or vehicles.

The city is allowing parades only between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Convention organizers have said delegates will arrive at the Pepsi Center each day around 3 p.m., about an hour before the convention program begins.

* Approve alternate parade routes for two groups. One group wants to hold an immigration parade that would start at 29th Street and Speer Boulevard and run south to Sunken Gardens park. The other wants to march from Civic Center to the federal courthouse at 18th and Stout streets to urge the release of "political prisoners." The city has denied both requests.

City officials and the Secret Service have said they must balance the rights of people to express themselves with the need for security during the DNC, scheduled for Aug. 25-28.

They insist the public will still have ample opportunity to communicate with the delegates and others attending the convention, whether it's outside the Pepsi Center or at events scheduled throughout the city. or 303-954-5343

What the ACLU wants

When the ACLU first sued Denver and the Secret Service in federal court, it wanted information about parade routes and the protest zone during the Democratic National Convention.

The government wanted to keep the plans secret for security reasons, but so far has said:

* The protest zone will be 53,414 square feet in the south corner of Lot A, a parking lot near the Pepsi Center's main entrance.

* The zone will be surrounded by a fence that people can see and hear through.

* Parades will start near 14th Avenue and Bannock Street, head west on Colfax Avenue, then north on Speer Boulevard to Larimer. Pedestrians may then walk through the Auraria campus to the protest zone at Seventh Avenue and Auraria Parkway.

* Parades will be allowed only between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and no alternate routes are allowed.

* Details such as how many people will be allowed inside the protest zone, whether protesters will be able to use sound amplifiers and if everyone entering will be subject to search have not been decided or have not been made public.

Now the ACLU is challenging some of the plans, saying they violate constitutional rights to free speech. They asked a federal judge to:

* Move the protest zone closer to the Pepsi Center and ensure it's large enough for everyone who wants to enter.

* Bar police from searching people who enter unless they have probable cause.

* Allow alternate parade routes and allow parades in the evening and that pass directly by the Pepsi Center on Ninth Avenue and Chopper Circle.

* Allow protesters to hand leaflets to delegates.

Sara Burnette - July 1, 2008 - source

Tag this page!
Submitted by SadInAmerica on Tue, 07/08/2008 - 11:12am.


Warren Bonesteel (not verified) | Thu, 07/10/2008 - 8:44am

Does anyone else find it odd that the government is "re-locating" the most desperate of Americans to government approved centers? Is just me, or does it bother anyone else that American citizens are not allowed to voice an opinion in public unless those Americans are contained within and behind a compound surrounded by eight-feet high wire fencing? ...with armed government agents outside of, and surrounding, that same fenced compound? This is not freedom. This is not security. This is slavery.