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Lawyer accuses Denver of rights abuses during Occupy Wall Street movement

6:03 PM, Nov 21, 2011   |    comments
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David Lane, a prominent lawyer who's taken on other first amendment cases in the past, says the city is using a heavy hand, picking and choosing ordinances to use to try and stop the protests.

He plans to seek an injunction in U.S. District Court in a filing on Tuesday.

Lane is concerned about curfews imposed on the space at Civic Center Park, but even more so about what he sees as an overreaction from the city.

That includes tight enforcement of parking rules that keep people from dropping off supplies for the protestors and public warnings to drivers not to honk their horns in support of the protestors.

"All we have to show is that people are being chilled in their ability to express themselves under the first amendment," Lane said. "We have plaintiffs, for example, who want to drive by the protests and honk their horn who now feel like, 'Gee, if I honk my horn, I'll get a ticket.'"

In the course of reporting on the story, 9NEWS crews noticed a handful of drivers who honked their horns driving by the protests. None were pulled over by police.

Still, it's the threat of punishment for expressing their views that concerns Lane the most.

Lane is highly critical of Denver Mayor Mike Hancock's response to the Occupy Denver movement.

"The mayor of Denver apparently lacks the political will to stand up to the cops and say, 'These people have a right to protest. Just leave them alone,'" he said.

The mayor's office did not immediately respond to our request for an interview, but City Councilman Charlie Brown supports the mayor.

Brown says the city's response has been "firm but fair," despite cases of vandalism during the protests and a general sense of disrespect.

"The mayor wanted to meet with them and they elected a dog to go meet with the mayor," Brown pointed out. "That's a slap in the face. This thing will wear out and not soon enough, frankly."

Brown says the city is striking the right balance between safety and free speech and adds that Denver officials are prepared to defend themselves in court.

Lane says rather than nit-pick with protestors over ordinances, city officials should consider counter-demonstrations if they aren't happy with the Occupy Denver protestors.

The case could go before a judge as early as Monday.

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