Following Lawsuit, DIA Honors Expedited Process for Protest Against New Travel Ban

Tuesday's protest at DIA.
Tuesday's protest at DIA. Eric Verlo
Update: The Tenth Circuit has denied an emergency stay filed by the city of Denver that tried to halt the decision by U.S. District Court Judge William Martinez in February that the Denver International Airport has to accommodate expedited permit applications to demonstrate in the Great Hall.

DIA was still awaiting this decision last week when it honored a rushed permit application filed by a group protesting President Trump’s revised travel ban. That story is detailed below.

As of Tuesday, March 14, Martinez’s initial decision has been upheld: DIA cannot make demonstrators wait as long as seven days to obtain a permit to demonstrate.

According to David Lane, one of the civil-rights attorneys litigating the case: “This is a huge victory for the First Amendment and the right of all citizens to protest Trump’s Muslim ban.”

Original post:

On Tuesday, March 7, a group of demonstrators gathered at Denver International Airport to welcome refugees and protest President Trump’s new “travel ban,” which he signed on March 6 and goes into effect on March 16.

The protest was an echo of a larger demonstration that took place at the airport on January 28, following Trump's initial travel ban. But there was a significant difference between the two: Tuesday's demonstration was permitted, as organizers had been able to obtain an expedited permit from DIA. That was not the case during the January protest.

A recent lawsuit and court decision addressed problems at the protest on January 28 and made it easier for protesters to obtain a permit.

Amal Kassir discusses permits with DPD Commander Antonio Lopez on January 28. - BRANDON MARSHALL
Amal Kassir discusses permits with DPD Commander Antonio Lopez on January 28.
Brandon Marshall
At that earlier action, organizers, who included Amal Kassir and Nadeen Ibrahim, say that they had not been able to obtain a permit because DIA requires seven days to process a request. Heath Montgomery, an airport spokesman, added that his office never received a formal request for a permit on January 28. Even so, hundreds of demonstrators flocked to the airport to decry Trump’s executive order affecting refugees and travelers. Once there, Kassir and others found themselves arguing with police officers who threatened the demonstrators with arrests since the event was unpermitted.

Civil-rights lawyers saw the situation as problematic. Following the January 28 airport protest, a team of lawyers, including Andrew McNulty and David Lane, filed a lawsuit over DIA’s permit rule – “Rule 50” — calling it unconstitutional and a restriction of free speech.

On February 22, Federal District Court Judge William Martinez agreed with the plaintiffs, issuing a ruling that requires DIA to have an expedited process whereby protesters can apply for and obtain a permit within 24 hours.

That case is still being litigated after the Tenth Circuit of Appeals recently stayed Martinez’s decision.

Even so, officials at DIA appear to have taken notice, approving the permit for Tuesday’s demonstration within 24 hours rather than seven days.

click to enlarge Protesters on January 28. - BRANDON MARSHALL
Protesters on January 28.
Brandon Marshall
According to airport spokeswoman Mindy Crane, “We received a permit request from this group on March 5, and we responded with an approval on March 6. However, we have always acted as quickly as possible on these kinds of requests. Remember, while our Rule 50 requires at least seven days' notice, we don’t always take that long to approve. Each situation is unique, and some are more complicated than others. You should also know that our original Rule 50 remains in effect following a stay ordered by the Tenth Circuit Court.”

The approved permit for Tuesday’s action was applied for by one of the plaintiffs in the civil-rights lawsuit, Eric Verlo. According to Nadeen Ibrahim, who created the Facebook page for Tuesday’s demonstration, getting a permit for Tuesday's demonstration was “directly related to the lawsuit.”
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Chris Walker is a freelancer and former staff writer at Westword. Before moving to the Mile High City he spent two years bicycling across Eurasia, during which he wrote feature stories for VICE, NPR, Forbes, and The Atlantic. Read more of Chris's feature work and view his portfolio here.
Contact: Chris Walker