Trial begins on DNC protest plans |

Trial begins on DNC protest plans

Glenn Spagnuolo with Recreate 68 and other protestors assembled early Tuesday morning,, July 29, 2008, in front of the Federal Courthouse in Denver. Protesters are hoping to persuade a federal judge to let them get closer to delegates at the Democratic National Convention. (AP Photo/The Rocky Mountain News, George Kochaniec, Jr.) **DENVER POST OUT**
AP | The Rocky Mountain News

DENVER ” Protesters argued they should be able to get within sight and earshot of delegates to the Democratic National Convention as a trial in a lawsuit challenging designated parade routes and demonstration zones got under way Tuesday.

Thomas Mestnik of Recreate 68, which plans at least five marches during convention week, said free speech means a group can be within sight and sound of where it wants its message to be delivered.

Recreate 68 co-founder Mark Cohen insisted his group was committed to peaceful and nonviolent demonstrations.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado and more than a dozen advocacy groups argue in the suit that the parade route and demonstration zone mapped out by the city keep protesters from being seen or heard by delegates entering the Pepsi Center, where the convention begins Aug. 25. Denver and the Secret Service are named as defendants.

Denver’s plan would allow protesters to get as close as a parking lot on the Pepsi Center’s grounds during the first three days of the convention and they would have to leave by 3 p.m., about the time delegates are expected to begin arriving each day.

The last day of the convention will be held at Invesco Field. A hearing on a plan to keep protesters at the stadium property’s border will be held Aug. 12.

On the stand Tuesday, Cohen said visual images captured by the media during the marches would not display protesters in relationship to the Pepsi Center.

“There will be no visual connection between the parade and the Pepsi Center, making it appear we would be marching with no purpose in mind,” he said.

Tent State University, which says ending the Iraq war would allow for better funding of education, also plans to march during the DNC. It hopes to start its march near the Pepsi Center as opposed to ending there, as the city’s route outlines, because Tent State members would like to symbolically turn their backs on the Democratic Party.

Joanna Pease of Tent State University said the party’s leaders are not listening to the youth of America.

The city has rejected the plans of Tent State members to camp out in City Park during the convention. Members will be allowed in the park during the day but must leave by the city’s regular 11 p.m. park curfew.

At the Pepsi Center, authorities plan to build a fence to surround an area where delegates, VIPs, former presidents, and others with credentials for the convention will pass, said U.S. Secret Service agent Steven Hughes, who is overseeing security during the convention.

He said it would provide extra protection from the possibility of any explosives or objects that could be hurled over the fence, he said.

“As delegates arrive, we want to offer them the opportunity to walk safely into the Pepsi Center,” he said. “We don’t extend our perimeter further than we believe is necessary.”

Closing arguments were expected Thursday.

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