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Police action in Denver against "Occupiers"' assembly blatantly unconstitutional

By       Message P. A. Triot     Permalink
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By P. A. Triot

In the early-morning hours on Friday, Oct. 14, officers of the Denver Police Department and the Colorado State Patrol, dressed in riot gear, physically removed protesters from a public park in Denver owned by the State of Colorado.

"No one respects the First Amendment (to the U. S. Constitution) more than we do, but we have to enforce the law, said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, speaking on behalf of the state and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on Thursday. (Emphasis mine.)

What Hickenlooper does not realize is that everything in his statement once he uttered "but," points to the state's and Denver's complete disregard of and for the First Amendment.

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The First Amendment is one one sentence long. It reads:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (Emphasis mine, as those words are relevant to this discussion.)

It is understood that Congress, being the highest legislative body in the land, means all legislative bodies in the United States and therefore addresses all levels of government----federal, state and local.

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So, on its surface, no peaceable assembly of people can be restricted by any level of government.

However, as we all know, no right is absolute. For example, a person cannot yell "fire" in a crowded theatre, causing a panic in which others are injured or killed, and claim he is protected by the First Amendment right to free speech. Nor can a mob wielding pitchforks. fire arms and other   implements of violence claim the right to peaceable assembly.

So the U. S. Supreme Court on countless occasions has invoked what is known as the "clear and present danger" doctrine.

The "clear and present danger doctrine" regarding freedom of expression means that unless there is a "clear and present danger" that someone will be injured or killed, or property damage will be widespread, authorities cannot so much as interfere with the action of free expression, i.e., practice of religion, publication of the press, speakers expressing their thoughts, assembling "Occupy Wall Street" protesters or petitioning government.

In Denver's many-days-long "occupation" of public property, there was no hint of violence. There was no imminent danger of injury to either the general public or the protesters.

The governor and mayor shoulder the burden of proof of a clear and present danger.

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Hickenlooper's feeble effort to show cause for action against the "Occupiers" was, "Who would be liable if a fire broke out?" does not meet the clear and present danger standard set by the Supreme Court.

When it comes to understanding the U. S. Constitution, both Hickenlooper and Hancock, are in way over their heads and their incompetence is as blatant as their actions are blatantly unconstitutional.

If the two were truly interested in enforcing the First Amendment, they should have provided portable toilets and protection of the "Occupiers" from coming to harm. 

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P. A. Triot is the pen name of a retired journalist.

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