Federal judge: DIA must allow emergency 24-hour permits for protests, can't restrict sign size

DENVER – A federal judge on Wednesday ruled that Denver International Airport and the city of Denver must change some of its rules to accommodate protests at the airport, like the one that happened in late January in response to President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration.

Police at DIA drew the ire of many of the protesters, whom were told to leave because they did not have a proper seven-day permit required by the city.

Two of the protesters filed a federal lawsuit in early February saying their civil rights had been violated when they were forced to leave, and that the requirement of the seven-day permit was “ridiculous.”

They sought a preliminary injunction against the seven-day permit rule, calling it “unconstitutional.”

U.S. District Court of Colorado Judge William J. Martinez on Wednesday agreed with parts of their lawsuit, but struck down others.

Judge Martinez ruled that the city and airport will have to issue an “expressive activity permit” sought with 24 hours’ notice if the applicant “seeks a permit for the purpose of communicating topical ideas reasonably relevant to the purposes and mission of the Airport”, so long as the activity could not have been foreseen seven or more days in advance.

This means that protests that come together quickly, as the January one did because of the executive orders, could still receive a permit if they give the airport a day’s notice.

Judge Martinez also ruled that the airport and city must “make all reasonable efforts” to accommodate the requested location of a protest or gathering both inside and outside of the airport’s terminal as long as it’s at a place where “the unticketed public” is normally allowed.

The judge also struck down rules barring picketing inside of the airport’s terminal, as well as a rule that restricted the size of signage used during protests.

However, Judge Martinez ruled that the airport and city will not be required to accommodate a “truly spontaneous” demonstration, though both will be allowed to provide accommodations.

He also ruled that protesters would not be allowed to determine the exact location within the terminal they wish to demonstrate, giving the airport some say as to where the gatherings could be held on airport property.

He also refused to strike down the seven-day permit rules as “unconstitutional,” as the plaintiffs had sought.

This is a developing news story; stay posted to Denver7 for updates.


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