A video making the rounds on social media shows Denver Police Commander Tony Lopez talking to a group of people protesting President Trump’s executive order on immigration at Denver International Airport on Saturday.
RAW: Denver Police commander speaking to protesters at DIA
"Put all the signs away that have anything to do with first amendment expression, political message," urged Lopez. "Based on legal advice we are getting at this time, from the city attorney, what's being displayed, is a violation of airport rules and regulations."
The airport lays out the rules and regulations clearly online. You can see them for yourself here.
If you want to protest at DIA, you have to submit an application seven days in advance -- something the protesters did not do.
“We have to ensure that people who use this airport are safe and able to go about their business uninterrupted and that's going to remain our focus,” said Heath Montgomery, spokesperson for DIA.
"I cannot carry the constitution without a permit?” asked one protester. “Correct. According to airport rules and regulations,” responded Lopez.
DIA officials posted on the Next with Kyle Clark Facebook page on Monday stating, in part:
We want to make it absolutely clear that a person has the right to carry a copy of the Constitution as an individual in the airport, however the airport has certain requirements for protests/free speech activity so as not to disrupt operations. This video is only a snippet of the conversation and lacks important context of the officer explaining the airport's rules and the law.
"These people were far from a violent, a threat, or posing a threat of violence to anyone,” said Darren O’Conner who shot and posted the video in question.
But beyond safety, airport officials say they have to ensure airport operations aren't affected.
9NEWS legal analyst Scott Robinson says this is likely not a violation of free-speech laws. The Supreme Court has ruled before that airports are not traditional public forums, giving airport officials the ability to impose reasonable restrictions.
"This is not city hall. This is a place where people from around the world are moving and going about their business," said Montgomery.
Montgomery stressed that what's not seen in the video is Commander Lopez working with everyone to find a compromise. Eventually DIA and DPD allowed the protesters to move to another part of the airport, something even O'Conner says he appreciates.
“I was happy that the people stood so firm in their right to speak publicly and in the end the police recognized that,” he said.