Denver, Feds balk on disclosing DNC demonstration zone

It’s not just Hillary Clinton who is mentioning the 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy to further its own purposes. The city of Denver is using the incident as justification to conceal information about demonstration zones where activists will be allowed to gather during the Democratic National Convention in August, according to court papers.

In a legal brief filed yesterday, the City and County of Denver denied it had an obligation to divulge the information and that doing so would pose a great security risk. The response to the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado’s federal lawsuit further argued that the city is "in the middle" of its security preparation, nearly three months ahead of the convention.

Here are some excerpts:

Security at national political conventions has been of paramount importance since the assassinations in the 1960’s of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, the attempted assassinations of Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and the riots at the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles when demonstrators used slingshots to pelt delegates with projectiles. Security concerns increased exponentially after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and remain extraordinarily high for, among other reasons, the current war in Iraq and the constant threat of terrorism or extremist violence.

Currently, the City and several federal and state agencies are in the middle of planning security and operations for the convention site and the surrounding areas in Downtown Denver.

The paramount objective of the City and the Denver Police is to ensure the safety and well-being of all persons who live in, work in, or visit Denver, during the 2008 DNC. The enormity of this task cannot be overstated.

A critical component of the City’s security and operational plan is that the details of such plan remain strictly confidential. The public disclosure of any security measures, including those sought by Plaintiffs (such as the location and contours of the secure perimeter and the details concerning the size of any "demonstration zone," its precise location, proximity to delegates, types of barriers, and restrictions on entry) are precisely the type of information that would allow those who wish to cause harm to devise plans to thwart security.

The longer the City’s security plans are in the public domain, the greater the risk to safety and security. Publicly disclosing these details now could require the implementation of additional or different security measures.

Finally, the disclosure of confidential security measures is not a constitutional requirement of the First Amendment or precedent of the United States Supreme Court or Tenth Circuit. Indeed, such precedent compels denial of the Motion.

The U.S. Secret Service also filed a response on Friday stating that the ACLU does not have a right to know information about the demonstration zones during the convention and that "the balance of harms weighs clearly and heavily in favor of the Secret Service.

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

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