Court Order Says Denver Must Accommodate Protesters At DIA

A federal judge has ordered the City and County of Denver to revise policies restricting protests at Denver International Airport.

The issue stems from protests at the airport's Jeppesen Terminal against President Donald Trump's executive order imposing a travel ban on refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.

During those demonstrations, police threatened to arrest activist because they didn't have a permit. A permit application for a free-speech event at the airport must be submitted a week in advance under airport regulations.

State Rep. Joe Salazar (D-Westminster) was on hand for the protest. He asked Denver officials to expedite a permit application for the demonstration but was surprised to find that no such process existed.

"I told them that I thought that was ridiculous and that they needed to have an expedited process," he said.

Police also told protestors that holding political signs in the terminal constituted "speech-related activity," which also requires a permit under the airport rules.

Salazar believes his appeals to Denver officials kept police from acting on the arrest threats.

But two protesters weren't satisfied with the lack of enforcement. Nazli McDonnel and Eric Verlo filed a lawsuit in federal district court against the city and sought a preliminary injunction against the seven-day permit restriction.;

Judge William J. Martinez, an Obama appointee, heard the motion for the injunction last week. Wednesday morning, he ruled that the airport must fast-track a permit for demonstrations responding to events that could not have been predicted a week in advance. Those protest actions must also be "reasonably relevant to the purposes and mission of the airport" — which would seem to include the travel ban.

Additionally, his order said the airport's regulation against "picketing" will not be enforced inside Jeppesen Terminal. That means restrictions cannot be placed on the size of signs beyond what is "reasonably required to prevent the impeding of the normal flow" of foot traffic in the terminal.

The ruling wasn't a complete win for the plaintiffs. The court said it wouldn't declare the seven-day permit requirement unconstitutional in all circumstances.

The court also didn't say the airport had to accommodate "truly spontaneous demonstrations" unless it wishes to do so. Under the order, protesters also can't "unilaterally determine" where they wish to demonstrate inside the terminal.

Officials with the airport said they are reviewing the decision and would offer comment later.

The order granting the preliminary injunction is embedded below: