The 2008 Democratic National Convention is looming – and the recurring questions about free speech, public spaces and national security are on the minds of freedom-loving people everywhere.
Not surprisingly, those who plan to protest at the Democratic National Convention next month will most likely be confined to a fenced in “designated protest zone.” This will put the dissenters, their voices and their signs about 700 feet from the Pepsi Center, where the convention will be held. The city is citing security concerns to justify the sequestering of protesters, many of whom are members of peace groups like CodePink, United for Peace and Justice, the American Friends Service Committee and Students for Peace and Justice, just to name a few.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit stating, among other things, that the city of Denver is violating protesters’ First Amendment rights. Since the “protest zone” is far from the Pepsi Center, and since parts of the “zone” have an obstructed view of the building, delegates will be able enter and exit the building without ever seeing or hearing demonstrators.
The ACLU unsuccessfully challenged Boston’s “free speech zones” – enclosed by concrete, fencing and netting – during the 2004 Democratic National Convention on similar grounds.
"Free Speech Zone," Boston 2004.
A judge will make final decisions about the Denver’s plans for protesters on July 29.
If this wasn’t enough, Arapahoe County officials are readying themselves for a protester spillover from neighboring Denver County. Arapahoe County commissioners are considering an ordinance that would prohibit demonstrators from using gas masks and ban any "bar, shaft, rod, cable, wire or other hard metal, hard plastic or any length of lumber," unless the dimensions "do not exceed a thickness of one- fourth inch and a width of two inches" (read: poles for large banners), according to the Denver Post.