DENVER (CBS4) — A federal judge issued a ruling in a lawsuit by Occupy Denver protesters Wednesday morning and the Denver Police Department also apologized for text messages concerning the protesters.
The protesters accuse police of violating their First Amendment rights by selectively enforcing ordinances to harass them.
Federal Judge Robert Blackburn issued an order in favor of the city, denying protesters’ request for a temporary restraining order against the city to halt the alleged tactics. Blackburn said there was no evidence the city had a retaliatory motive to issue citations to the protesters.
The offenses included honking horns in support of the protest, stopping briefly to drop off donations and placing items on the sidewalk. The police testified the ordinances were not being selectively enforced and that the protesters were being accommodated to express their views.
The restraining order request stems from a lawsuit filed by seven protesters and supporters. They claim police and other officials are trying to silence them because they don’t like their anti-Wall Street message.
The judge hasn’t ruled on the lawsuit itself, only the protesters’ request for the restraining order.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said he is pleased with Judge’s decision on Occupy Denver.
As part of the lawsuit, the plaintiffs presented evidence of text messages between police officers on Oct. 14 and other dates where officers referred to the protesters as “hippies,” “yahoos,” and “wimps.”
“It’s unfortunate that they say that, but this is a country in which we have freedom of expression under law,” a protester told CBS4.
“The tone and tenor of some of these comments wasn’t professional and we regret the exchanges,” Lt. Matthew Murray said in a news conference.
Murray pointed out the officers have endured months of having to leave their families and enduring abuse from the demonstrators. The texts also warned of homemade weapons and balloons filled with fluid.
“This is not been easy and I’ve started to see some of the frustration of our officers. That’s not an excuse, but I want you to understand this a frustration they have felt on the street,” Hancock said.
The police department is looking the messages and trying to determine if disciplinary action will be taken.
Below is a apology released by the Denver Police Department over the text messages matter:
Unfortunately, a few communications between individual officers through a car-to-car text system have not met the standard of professionalism expected by the Denver Police Department and the citizens of Denver in regards to the Occupy Denver protests. We recognize this and have already taken steps to address the behavior and to remind all officers of our expectations. The Denver Police Department regrets the tenor and tone of some of these texts.
In a desire to be transparent to the people we serve, all of the relevant text messages regarding Occupy Denver are attached.
LINK: View The Texts
It is important to note that while not a defense for inappropriate behavior, many Denver Police Officers have now endured months of having to leave their families to come into work early, giving up their days off, and silently tolerating hours of taunting and abusive actions by some protestors.
It is common for employees in any line of work to vent their frustrations to co-workers. But more important, is the fact that the actions of the Denver Police Department and its Officers have reflected the City’s commitment to protect free speech. These are the words of a very few officers over a thirteen week period.
Notwithstanding these text messages, the Denver Police Department continues to respect and will defend the Constitutional right to peacefully protest.