Protests over President Trump’s travel order at Denver International Airport are the basis of a free-speech lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Denver Monday.
Two activists from El Paso County, Eric Verlo and Nazli McDonnell, are suing the city of Denver, its police department and the sergeant who told them they would be arrested at DIA on Jan. 29.
Protests occurred at airports across the country the weekend after President Trump’s executive order refusing refugees and restricting travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
Airport security and Denver police told those who gathered inside the terminal they could not hold up signs and that they must have a permit seven days in advance to hold a gathering in the terminal. No one was arrested either day.
“We were able to stand with our signs, but we were under threat of arrest,” Verlo said.
The lawsuit seeks to do away with DIA’s policy regarding all such protests, said high-profile Colorado civil rights attorney David Lane, who is representing Verlo and McDonnell.
“Anytime armed representatives of the government tell you that you need to be quiet and move, that’s a problem,” he said. “That’s not free speech.”
Police are accused in the suit of “harassing” protesters by asking them to move on, which the complaint alleges was a violation of their constitutional rights to free speech and due process.
“The airport’s core responsibility is to ensure the safety, security and movement of its passengers,” DIA spokesman Heath Montgomery said in an e-mail Monday afternoon.
“The airport has longstanding rules and regulations related to free-speech activities. Denver Police and the airport worked to balance the rights of individuals to express themselves with the need to protect passengers and airport operations. It’s important to note that no one was arrested during these activities, and many protesters expressed their appreciation for the way this spontaneous gathering was managed.”