Lawsuit: Denver police trying to suppress Occupy protest
DENVER — Seven Occupy Denver demonstrators and supporters filed a lawsuit in federal court yesterday accusing Denver police and city officials of trying to suppress the protest by arresting or harassing them — including writing traffic tickets for drivers who honk their horns in support.
The lawsuit cites nearly 100 arrests of protesters in raids on Occupy Denver encampments near the state Capitol in Denver.
Two of the plaintiffs said they were ticketed for honking their horns in a show of support when they drove past the encampment. Another said he was ticketed for stopping briefly in a no-parking zone to give a protester a cap.
The other four plaintiffs said the arrests and tickets have had a chilling effect on their First Amendment rights.
Their lawyer, Denver civil rights attorney David Lane, said the lawsuit was filed yesterday.
The lawsuit asks a judge to order police to halt the alleged attempts to stop the protest.
Police spokesman John White said the department did not have a concerted effort to ticket people for honking or stopping. He referred other questions to the city attorney’s office. An attorney there didn’t return a call for comment in time for this story.
The lawsuit says city officials devised a plan Oct. 13 to silence the protesters by selectively enforcing city ordinances on honking, parking, sidewalk rights of way and park hours. That was followed by four raids when police made about 97 arrests, the lawsuit says.
The suit also cites a notice posted near the protesters’ encampment warning them of an ordinance that forbids leaving anything on streets and sidewalks. The notice says people could be sentenced to a year and jail and fined $999 if they are convicted of violating the ordinance.
“The sole reason for ticketing protesters who have put small items on the sidewalk is to punish them and to retaliate against them for their First Amendment protected speech,” the suit says.