Denver: Dem convention protesters get day in court
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado ” A trial is under way this morning in a lawsuit filed against Denver and the Secret Service by protesters who want to demonstrate during the Democratic National Convention.
The groups, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, say security measures will violate their right to free speech.
Denver and the Secret Service say the plans are necessary because of the high level of risk involved with the event.
Among the issues is a so-called “public demonstration zone,” a fenced area planned for Lot A of the Pepsi Center. Protest groups say the area ” the closest they will be allowed to get to the DNC ” is too far away from delegates.
They also are opposed to a parade route they argue does not allow them within sight and sound of delegates.
“It’s really not what free speech is about,” Tom Mestnik, a member of the Re-Create 68 Alliance, said outside the federal courthouse this morning.
He was one of five protesters who stood outside before the hearing with duct tape covering their mouths.
Glenn Spagnuolo, another member of the Re-Create 68 Alliance, held a sign that read “Freedom doesn’t belong in a cage.”
He and two others were dressed in orange jail jumpsuits. On the back of one of the suits were the words “Dissent is not a crime ” yet.”
The trial is expected to last all day today. Closing arguments are scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger will hear testimony today regarding only issues at the Pepsi Center, where the first three days of the convention will be held Aug. 25 to 27.
A separate trial is scheduled for next month to consider similar issues at Invesco Field at Mile High, where Sen. Barack Obama will accept the Democratic nomination for president on the convention’s final night, Aug. 28.
Krieger has not said when she will rule on the complaint, but the case is being heard on an expedited basis.