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Lawmakers kill bill banning police surveillance of peaceful protesters

By The Associated Press

04.27.02

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DENVER — A bill that would have prohibited law enforcement agencies from collecting information on peaceful protesters died April 25 after lawmakers expressed concern about hindering police activity.

The House Civil Justice and Judiciary Committee killed House Bill 1449 by Rep. Peter Groff, D-Denver.

Groff said he proposed the bill because of the Denver Police Department's collection of files on peaceful protest groups and individuals.

"We must infringe on law enforcement activities to protect the undeniable rights of the First Amendment," Groff said. "Nothing and no one, not even the police department, is larger and more important than our constitutional rights."

In March, the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado said the Denver Police Department was illegally keeping files on peaceful protest groups.

Mayor Wellington Webb and police officials have launched a review of the approximately 3,400 files to determine if any information was gathered illegally.

Denver police spokesman Sgt. Tony Lombard said monitoring peaceful protesters is necessary to help protect the public and the protesters themselves.

"You don't want to infringe on First Amendment rights, but it's tough for police to decide who in a group is the bad guy," he said.

Supporters said the effect of keeping such files is to deter people from participating in protests or other activities.

"We want to make sure that government does not overreach and keep files on people so it doesn't have a chilling effect on our civil life," said Rep. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins.

Related

ACLU: Denver Police illegally monitor peaceful protest groups
Group asks mayor to stop practice of keeping files on individuals, organizations — including Quaker group and Amnesty International.  03.13.02

City police draft policy on photographing protests
Action comes in wake of complaints from civil libertarians, who charge recent practice by Worcester, Mass., police has discouraged demonstrators from assembling.  05.20.02

Panel: People listed in 'spy files' should be allowed to review reports
But recommendation that Denver police records on 3,277 individuals, 208 groups should be destroyed after 60 days draws fire from ACLU.  07.06.02

Police to use cameras to monitor D.C. demonstrations
Officials say they're publicizing the plans to comply with ordinance requiring advance notice when tactic is to be used.  12.23.02

Maine activists protest police surveillance at demonstrations
Civil libertarian contends people have right to engage in anonymous political activity without being monitored by police.  10.22.02

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