[Hpn] Democratic convention PROTESTS: ACLU sues LA, police for more access FWD police for more access FWD

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Sun, 02 Jul 2000 12:40:47 -0700 (PDT)

ACLU filed suit in behalf of - among others - Jennafer Waggoner,
editor of Making Change, "a newspaper for the poor and homeless".

FWD  Associated Press - AP Wire Service - June 30, 2000


  By Michelle DeArmond
  Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A coalition of activists bent on capturing
the attention of Democratic National Convention delegates sued the
city and Police Department on Friday for greater access to the
August event site.

Authorities have created a buffer zone around the Staples Center
and the Los Angeles Convention Center that will keep protesters so
far away ``they will be invisible,'' said Daniel P. Tokaji with the
American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. The zone
violates the protesters' free speech rights, he said.

``The Constitution may not be put on ice simply because the
Democratic convention is in town,'' Tokaji said at a news
conference after filing the lawsuit in federal court. ``If the LAPD
has its way, this will be the Un-Democratic National Convention.''

The plaintiffs want a preliminary injunction to prevent the city
and police from keeping protesters outside the current planned
``no-access zone'' and from requiring protesters to get parade

Tokaji hopes to get a July 17 hearing on the issue.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Service Employees
International Union, Local 660; the D2K Convention Planning
Coalition, a group organizing protesters; the L.A. Coalition to
Stop the Execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, supporters of a man
convicted of killing a police officer; the National Lawyers Guild,
Los Angeles chapter; Jennafer Waggoner, editor of a newspaper for
the poor and homeless; and state Sen. Tom Hayden, a delegate to the
convention and protester.

Tokaji suggested authorities move the perimeter of the buffer
zone closer to the Staples Center so that protesters can gather in
two parking lots across the street from the main entrance.

The plaintiffs say they have no plans to use a demonstration
area authorities have designated on the opposite side of the giant
parking lots. The plaintiffs claim there's no way delegates would
ever see or hear protesters from that location.

Three of the plaintiffs have filed permits to conduct a parade
and should be allowed to do so through the streets of downtown,
Tokaji said, ending at an intersection outside the Staples Center
and within the current no-access zone.

While refusing to comment specifically on the lawsuit, police
defended their convention plans as the result of yearlong planning
by police, the FBI, the Secret Service and multiple other
government agencies.

Law enforcers had to weigh responsibilities to the community,
the convention and the protesters, he said.

``It's in keeping those three priorities in mind that we have to
come up with a secure zone,'' said Lt. Horace Frank. ``They've been
taking all matters of security into consideration and that is how
they've determined the security zone.''

If protesters don't like the demonstration area, he said,
they're welcome to protest elsewhere outside the no-access zone, as
long as they do so lawfully. The designated demonstration zone will
be equipped with a stage, a microphone and restrooms, he said,
whereas other areas won't have those benefits.

About a dozen groups have told police they are interested in
using the demonstration area, said Frank, who disputed claims that
delegates wouldn't be able to see and hear the protesters.

``Trust me, their voices will be heard by the delegates,'' he
said. ``They have full view of the Staples Center.''

Ben Austin, spokesman for the convention host committee known as
LA Convention 2000, described the demonstration area as a
``phenomenal piece of protesting real estate'' that gives activists
``easy access to the delegates and the residents of Los Angeles.''

``We put it right square in front of the Staples Center so we
could engage in a dialogue,'' he said.

When asked about Tokaji's suggestion that the buffer zone be
shrunk so protesters can get access to two parking lots outside
Staples Center, Austin said he would defer to the judgment of the
Secret Service and the FBI, who have to make these plans every four

Peter Ragone, a Democratic National Convention Committee
spokesman, said committee officials had been in touch with the ACLU
about the protesters' complaints, but offered no specific comment
about the ACLU's suggestions.

``We will work with all of the parties to ensure that these
issues can be resolved in a way that protects freedom of expression
of demonstrators, while also being mindful of the security of
delegates who are expressing their views as well,'' he said.

The city attorney's office did not immediately return a phone
call Friday.

A motion recently passed by the City Council, and now under
review by a city committee, would designated Pershing Square as a
protest site. Tokaji noted that the motion does not conflict with
the lawsuit. Activists still want to use the square, which is near
some delegate hotels, but do not consider it a substitute for
closer access to the Staples Center.

AP-WS-06-30-00 1907EDT
Received  Id AP100182208E5F3E on Jun 30 2000 18:09


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