ACLU Files Suit Against Denver, Secret Service

    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.”

    Plaintiffs say they also want to know more information regarding parade routes and the parade permitting process during the convention, which has not yet been disclosed.

    Chicano activist Nita Gonzales, with the Escuela Tlatelolco Centro De Estudios, said that she has been planning a “Somos Americanos” parade during the convention and submitted permit papers in March.

    “We have yet to know if that’s going to happen,” Gonzales said.

    City officials have said that a parade route will be made available to demonstrators during the event, but it is not known where it will be located or how permits will be applied to the plan.

    Representatives with Recreate 68 and the ACLU say they have been meeting with the city to discuss issues like zones and parade routes since last summer, but they say the talks have not succeeded in their obtaining any information.

    Silverstein also said that the suit was somewhat unprecedented in that his organization is filing legal papers regarding First Amendment rights when security plans for such rights have not been disclosed.

    Stay tuned to Colorado Confidential for more coverage.

    Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.

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