Denver lags in DNC security disclosure

Democrats may be attending their national convention a week before the Republicans hold theirs, but key details surrounding civil rights and security-related preparations for the Republican National Convention have been made more readily available in the host city of St. Paul, Minn., while law enforcement officials in Denver remain mum on their specific plans.

 

The Denver Police Department and federal U.S. Secret Service are busy coordinating security for the Democratic National Convention Aug. 25-28.

 

Currently, the department and federal agency are facing three convention-related lawsuits focusing on civil liberties issues of permitted protest space and parade routes, arrest procedures and purchases of crowd-control weapons for the event, because activists who plan to demonstrate in Denver say the public has a right to know such details in order to avoid First Amendment violations that have plagued previous political conventions.

 

In contrast, law enforcement in St. Paul, Minn., the location for the Republican National Convention set for Sept. 1-4, have already disclosed a parade route and new weapons that are expected to arrive before the event. The city is also facing less civil rights-related litigation than Denver.

  

Contrast and compare:

 

St. Paul: 1 ACLU lawsuit

 

In March, the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota filed a lawsuit against the city of St. Paul on behalf of RNC demonstrators to get law enforcement to disclose information on a parade route for protests, including the location of the route and when activists would be permitted to converge. The St. Paul Police Department released its planned route in mid-May, although protesters still plan to challenge the itinerary, calling it “logistically impossible.”

 

Denver: 3 ACLU lawsuits

 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado has filed three lawsuits dealing with convention issues in the span of one month. The first seeks information on where and when activists will be allowed to protest, a second to determine how protesters will be processed in the event of arrests, and the third is trying to persuade the city to disclose weapons purchases that are being made by the police department in preparation for the convention. As a result of the first lawsuit, the city has agreed to release details about a parade route later this month, but the legal actions are still pending.

  

St. Paul: Parade route disclosed

 

The St. Paul police disclosed a parade route in May for activists planning to the demonstrate outside of the Republican convention, with an itinerary that starts at the Minnesota state Capitol and ends at the Xcel Center, where the event will be held.

 

Denver: Parade route not disclosed

 

As part of a partial agreement reached with the ACLU, Denver has agreed to announce a parade route by June 12, but the information will not include a specific end point to the itinerary.


St. Paul: Weapons purchases made public

  

The St. Paul City Council has made it no secret that the city is purchasing more than 200 Tasers for police officers that will arrive before the convention.

 

Denver: Weapons purchases not made public

 

The Denver Police Department is using taxpayer money to purchase new equipment and weapons for the Democratic convention, but will not disclose many details about what they are, arguing that it is not in the “public interest.” Open records requests to the department to obtain such information have been denied, prompting the ACLU of Colorado to file a lawsuit seeking to disclose the items, which could be used for crowd control during the event. The Denver City Council has approved purchases for the convention, but specific weapons have not been disclosed, leading to speculation over what the police are buying.


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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