Guest Columns

LINKHART: DEMONSTRATORS ARE NOT THE ENEMY

No sh--! Radical activists are p---ed at intimations of poopy shenanigans

The sh-- is finally hitting the fan at City Hall, as Democratic National Convention planners prepare for protests through various protection mechanisms. The latest ordinance presented and adopted by City Council makes sure that protesters don’t use containers of human waste or other noxious liquids to stop police or disrupt the convention.

What? No sh--? Yes, we’ve actually made it illegal to carry a Super Soaker full of urine or a bag of feces to a demonstration if the police can prove the bearer intends to use it to prevent police or public activities. We put the same restrictions in place for handcuffs, chains or other tools.

Demonstrators appearing at City Council’s public hearing on the new ordinance charged that these activities already are illegal. Indeed, under current law, if people block a city street by linking their arms with handcuffs encased in pipes so that they can’t be cut apart, they can be arrested.

The problem arises when the police try to arrest a group like the one described above. It could take many hours to break them apart in order to clear the right of way. So the new law allows the police to confiscate such materials or arrest people who have them, provided they can show an intent to use them for harmful purposes.

Representatives from some of the protest groups are indignant at the suggestion that they might use such tactics. Nevertheless, Denver’s safety officials have come to City Council meetings equipped with evidence of similar past activities in other cities have given us reason to be concerned about the potential for similar activities here.

And, yes. We even heard from a Denver Fire Department official who said there is a house in Denver being used to store urine to be used at demonstrations.

Even if we think it’s unlikely that protesters in Denver will engage in such activities, we have to be prepared for the worst. Plus, it doesn’t harm anyone’s constitutional rights to say that it is illegal to carry certain items with the intent to do harm. In fact, we regulate graffiti materials in the same way, arresting people who carry spray cans if the police can prove intent to paint graffiti.

Law enforcement agencies expect the huge majority of demonstrators during the Democratic National Convention to be peaceful, not disruptive. Personally, I think it would be great to see thousands of people in the streets speaking out for world peace or other causes. Let’s not recreate the violence of 1968. Let’s recreate the civic engagement. The real enemy is apathy.

Doug Linkhart is an at-large member of the Denver City Council.