USA Today raps Denver for treating free speech like the flu

USA Today’s editorial board has joined a growing cacophony of critics of the way that Denver officials — including Mayor John Hickenlooper — are, as longtime activist Nita Gonzales puts it, merely paying "lip service to civil liberties" when it comes to free speech and the upcoming Democratic National Convention.

In an editorial today, the five-million circulation daily blasts Denver officials for regarding constitutional rights as “nuisances,” and attempting to keep demonstrators out of sight and sound of the convention site — in essence breaking a February promise. From the editorial:

The delegates who’ll wave signs, speak their minds and nominate a presidential candidate at the Democratic National Convention next month in Denver will be treated by the city like royalty. But the people who want to wave signs, speak their minds and demonstrate outside the convention hall have already gotten a taste of Denver’s hospitality. They’re being treated like a bunch of pests …

… A February promise from Mayor John Hickenlooper that at least one designated parade route would end "within sight and sound of the convention site" was essentially abandoned. The route now ends several blocks away, and parades must end one hour before convention sessions begin.

St. Paul, the site of the Republican National Convention, gets a break from the newspaper’s editorial board, as city officials there will allow marchers to walk almost to the convention hall. The catch, of course, is that they must end their parade by midafternoon. Concludes the editorial:

Both cities’ leaders need a remedial course in American values. In 2004, in the face of Boston’s oppressive rules, U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock put it well when he wrote that protesters "are not meddling interlopers. … They are participants in our democratic life." It’s tough to participate when you’re behind a fence and blocks away from where you can be seen and heard.

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