August 19, 2008

DNC Protester Dos and Don'ts Released

**Update--Jeralyn Merritt at has posted a pdf of the pamphlet.

We're waiting for a fuller report including the pamphlet itself, but law enforcement has announced that a pamphlet will be distributed to protesters reminding them of their rights--and their legal obligations--in conducting themselves during the DNC:
Police have issued some advice to protesters at the Democratic convention about what they can and can't do.

A pamphlet tells protesters they can be arrested if they refuse an order to disperse, even if they aren't breaking any law. Other grounds for arrest include blocking streets, sidewalks or parades and disrupting public assemblies.

Police say it doesn't matter if those actions are civil disobedience or symbolic actions.

Police also remind protesters of their rights. They can protest on public sidewalks without a permit as long as they leave enough room for others to pass and obey traffic signals. Speech that angers other people is protected, but speakers can be arrested for advocating violence or breaking the law.
Glenn Spagnuolo of Recreate '68 was quick to reject the pamphlet:
It was put together with the help of the city's Agency for Human Rights and Community Relations and modeled after reminders issued by other previous convention cities, such as Los Angeles, said Lucia Guzman, the agency's executive director. She said thousands of copies have been printed and they'll also be available after the convention leaves town.

Glenn Spagnuolo, co-founder of protest group Recreate 68, said he thinks it's the police, not protesters, who need a reminder about the First Amendment.

"We have a pamphlet called the Constitution. A lot of us have read it already," he said.

Spagnuolo also thinks the pamphlet's arrest warning is intended to discourage people from protesting at the convention, which starts Monday.

Guzman disagreed.

"We've always meant it as a supportive document. I'm sorry people are looking at it the other way," she said.
It is doubtful that any such document, whether well or ill-intended, would do much to sway protesters from their self-appointed demonstrations.

Just as the protesters began issuing their preemptive "law enforcement is to blame" for any violence meme months ago, Denver's law enforcement is trying to do a little preemption of their own by giving protesters advanced warning.

It's gonna be a fun week.

More from Spagz and Unconventional Action:
"We are making a commitment to non-violence," said Glenn Spagnuolo of Re-create '68, a group planning protests for a variety of progressive causes.

"We'd like to see minimal show of force by the police unless necessary," Spagnuolo said. "They could stage out of sight from the protest and be called in case they're needed at a protest."

Asked for a successful example of a mass protest marked by mutual respect between protesters and police, Spagnuolo pointed to a large anti-war rally outside the Republican National Convention in New York City in 2004.

"When people said, 'OK, we're being allowed to protest, we're being allowed to march,' there's no reason to get in that kind of confrontational, adversarial role, and it went off without a hitch," Spagnuolo said.

Ben Yager of the activist group Unconventional Denver hedged when asked if activists planned to be arrested and incarcerated during DNC protests. Asked to define success for his organization, he defined disruption.

"Everything's pre-decided, everything's preplanned," Yager said. "They have a script of everything they're going to say and making them deviate from that script, making them step outside the box of what they are comfortable doing and address what democracy really is."

Still, Yager says he did not see any point in antagonizing police into violent confrontations.

"I don't think anyone gets satisfaction out of getting beat up," Yager said.
Of course, some of the law enforcement buildup and planning stems from the earlier heated rhetoric from protesters like Spagnuolo.

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