ACLU drops fight over DNC protests

August 7, 2008 3:52:22 PM PDT
The American Civil Liberties Union said Thursday it will not appeal a federal judge's ruling that upheld the city's decision to limit protests during the Democratic National Convention to a fenced-in demonstration zone, and to end all marches more than a quarter-mile from the site. Judge Marcia S. Krieger had ruled Wednesday that the restrictions do not infringe on protesters' free-speech rights. She also said that since the Sept. 11 attacks the law has shifted to favor security over First Amendment rights.

"That's sad, but that's the state of the law," said Mark Silverstein, ACLU-Colorado legal director.

Silverstein said the lawsuit yielded several victories, including getting the city to issue parade permits in a timely manner, install a public address system in the demonstration zone so delegates can hear protesters and allow protesters to put literature on tables along a sidewalk for delegates.

Glen Spagnuolo, co-founder of protest group Recreate 68, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said his group was still considering its response.

"Basically the way we'll be appealing it is we'll be appealing it in the streets," he said.

Protest groups had complained the demonstration zone and march routes keep them out of earshot of delegates.

The 47,000-square-foot demonstration zone that protesters call the "freedom cage" will have a chain-link fence atop concrete barriers on three sides. The fourth side will be open to pedestrians on a street south of the Pepsi Center, where the convention will be held Aug. 25-28.

Delegates will pass within 200 feet of the zone as they walk to arena, with nothing separating them and the demonstrators other than the barriers and fence around the zone. Krieger acknowledged in her ruling that most delegates will be arriving by bus.

Protesters wanted to be closer.

At the 2004 Democratic convention in Boston, demonstrators were kept behind concrete barriers and outside the secured boundaries of the convention site.

Krieger's ruling didn't address security at Invesco Field at Mile High, the Denver Broncos' football stadium where Barack Obama will give his acceptance speech Aug. 28. The city has designated a 53,000-square-foot parking lot adjacent to the stadium as a demonstration zone.

Silverstein said the ACLU will not challenge the restrictions at Invesco Field because the setup is better than at the Pepsi Center.