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ACLU Sues Denver And Secret Service

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By Erin Rosa

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado announced it was filing a lawsuit against the city of Denver and the U.S. Secret Service today in an effort to disclose plans for an anticipated demonstration zone during the Democratic National Convention in August and to obtain more information about parade routes and permits during the event.

Defendants in the case are 12 groups that plan to hold actions during the convention, including Recreate 68, the American Friends Service Committee, the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center and Citizens for Obama.

"Our purpose is to vindicate the rights not only of the [defendants], but everyone who wants some opportunity to communicate their views in conjunction with the Denver convention," said Mark Silverstein, legal director for the ACLU's Colorado chapter.

The ACLU has said that it is filing the suit over First Amendment concerns stemming from the 2004 Democratic convention in Boston, where so-called "free speech zones," which consisted of concrete barricades under a rail line, were set up outside the security parameter of the convention site.

A Boston judge ruled the zones unconstitutional shortly before the 2004 convention, but said that there was not enough time to change the plans. The ACLU says they are trying to make sure the same thing doesn't happen this time around, which is why the organization is filing the suit now.

"No one will tell us what these restriction are," Silverstein said. "We've been trying to find out for a year what these restrictions are."

Defendants say they also want to know more information regarding parade routes and the parade permitting process during the convention, which has not been disclosed.

Chicano activist Nita Gonzales, with the Escuela Tlatelolco Centro De Estudios, said that she has been planning a "Somos Americanos" parade during the convention and submitted permit papers in March.

"We have yet to know if that's going to happen," Gonzales said.

City officials have said that a parade route will be made available to demonstrators during the event, but it is not known where it will be located or how permits will be applied to the plan.

Representatives with Recreate 68 and the ACLU say they have been meeting with the city to discuss issues like zones and parade routes since last summer, but say the talks have not succeeded in any information.

Silverstein also said that the suit was somewhat unprecedented in that his organization is filing legal papers regarding First Amendment rights when security plans for such rights have not been disclosed.

Stay tuned to Colorado Confidential for more coverage.