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ACLU Says Police Are Interfering With Occupy Protesters’ Rights

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ACLU legal director Mark Silverstein talks with CBS4's Rick Sallinger (credit: CBS)

ACLU legal director Mark Silverstein talks with CBS4’s Rick Sallinger (credit: CBS)

DENVER (CBS4) – After a weekend of arrests the American Civil Liberties Union says Denver police are using minor municipal laws as an excuse to interfere with protesters’ rights. Police say they are simply enforcing the law.

Cars have been stopping along Broadway to give donations to the protesters — food and other items. Now police are ticketing those who do so. The demonstrators call it harassment, but police call it enforcement.

“Now they are ticketing everybody who attempts to drop supplies,” Al Nesby with Occupy Denver said. “We’re already working on an alternate means of being able to get supplies over here.”

It comes after a weekend that saw around 20 arrests. There were skirmishes as police enforced laws like blocking the sidewalks with personal belongings, and no tents in the park. The ACLU is expressing concern.

“We want to call on city officials to put a stop to what I think is a police overreaction and (being) overly zealous of very minor Denver municipal ordinances,” ACLU legal director Mark Silverstein said.

Denver police say if the ACLU doesn’t agree with enforcement of the ordinances, they should try to change the laws.

The police insist they provoked no one, saying pepper spray was used only because demonstrators tried to tip over a car. Two officers were injured in the melee.

“The Denver Police Department’s priority is to the peace, safety and well-being; and the balance of that with our citizens, that balance of that with our First Amendment rights to peacefully and publicly assemble,” Det. John White with Denver police said.

But many of those in Occupy Denver feel police are out to try to shut them down.

“We were hunted on Saturday night. That was a hunt. That was an absolute hunt,” a protester said.

The day ended with protesters at the governor’s office to hold a meeting.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided on the matter of camping in public parks in 1984. It ruled protesters outside the White House could be blocked from camping without infringing on their rights of free speech.

The protesters say despite the police actions and the colder weather they have no plans to leave.

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