May 02, 2008

ACLU Files Lawsuit Against Denver, Secret Service For DNC Plans; Update--Denver's Protestor Arrest Plans Developing

. . . developing . . .

“If they announce it very close to August that, yes, you will have your permits, these groups are now shut out of hotels, shut out of flights, buses are booked to come to Denver and it’s impossible for them to logistically come here and exercise their First Amendment right. In our opinion, it’s a planned tactic”--Glenn Spagnuolo, Recreate '68

The Colorado ACLU and self-proclaimed non-self-promoter Glenn Spagnuolo of Recreate '68 have earned themselves a spot in the "paper of record":
Groups planning parades or protests at the Democratic National Convention filed a lawsuit here on Friday charging that the Secret Service and the City of Denver are threatening free speech — not because of tight security rules, but by the very lack of them.

The suit, filed in Federal District Court, says that delays in establishing legal parade routes, and unanswered questions about security arrangements around the convention center, are undermining efforts to plan for events when Democrats gather here from Aug. 25 to 28.

Mark Silverstein, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, which is representing 12 groups in the lawsuit, said they had no choice but to turn to the court. With just four months until the convention, the groups want a judge to speed the scheduling and the issuing of rules governing activities outside the Pepsi Center.
. . .
The attorney for the City of Denver, David Fine, said in a statement that the city was not trying to thwart free speech.

“No one has been denied the right to protest,” Mr. Fine said. “In fact, you will see a vigorous exercise of free speech during the convention in many ways and in many places. That being said, we will review the plaintiffs’ papers and respond as necessary.”

The groups suing include several that plan to draw attention to various issues and causes, like the Troops Out Now Coalition, which opposes the war in Iraq. Another group, Citizens for Obama, wants to march on behalf of a favored presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.

One member of the lawsuit coalition, Glenn Spagnuolo, from a group called Recreate 68, which is planning multiple demonstrations on issues including health care and the war, said at a news conference that he thought the delays had been deliberate.

Every passing week of uncertainty, Mr. Spagnuolo said, hobbles the efforts to recruit people to come to Denver and speak their minds.

“If they announce it very close to August that, yes, you will have your permits, these groups are now shut out of hotels, shut out of flights, buses are booked to come to Denver and it’s impossible for them to logistically come here and exercise their First Amendment right,” Mr. Spagnuolo said. “In our opinion, it’s a planned tactic.”
Yes, it's all about you, Glenn.

And that's Mr. to you unwashed rightwingers!

Drunkablog has more, including how Denver will be handling the potential arrests of thousands of DNC protestors while the ACLU continues to whine . . .

Because they really, really want to know:
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado announced the filing of a lawsuit against the City of Denver and the U.S. Secret Service today in an effort to force them to disclose plans for an anticipated demonstration zone during the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in August and to obtain more information about parade routes and permits during the event.

Plaintiffs in the case consist of a total of 12 groups that plan to hold actions during the convention, including Recreate 68, the American Friends Service Committee, the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, and Citizens for Obama.

"Our purpose is to vindicate the rights not only of the [plaintiffs], but everyone who wants some opportunity to communicate their views in conjunction with the Denver convention," said Mark Silverstein, legal director for the ACLU's Colorado chapter.

The ACLU has said that it is filing the suit over First Amendment violations that happened at the Democratic convention in Boston in 2004, where so-called "free-speech zones," which consisted of concrete barricades under a rail line, were set up outside the security perimeter of the convention site.

A Boston judge ruled that the zones were unconstitutional shortly before the 2004 convention but said that there was not enough time to change the plans. ACLU officials says they are trying to make sure the same thing doesn't happen this time around, which is why the organization is filing the suit at this time.

"No one will tell us what these restrictions are," Silverstein said. "We've been trying to find out for a year what these restrictions are."
The Rocky Mountain News has more:
"Ultimately, it's the federal courts that are sort of the last resort protectors of constitutional rights," Mark Silverstein, the ACLU's legal director, said today.

"It's been the federal courts that are the ones to say law enforcement has not struck the proper balance here between security concerns and citizens' fundamental First Amendment rights," he said.

Silverstein said the city is dragging its feet on processing applications for parade and park permits, affecting protesters' planning efforts, and that it has yet to reveal where the so-called free speech zone will be located.

The city says it's waiting for the Secret Service to determine the boundaries of a security perimeter, and the Secret Service says that decision may not happen until July, he said.

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