Travel Ban Protesters in Denver Airport Lose First Amendment Suit

Protesters who demonstrated in Denver International Airport against President Trump’s travel ban aren’t entitled to an injunction against the airport’s requirement they obtain a permit seven days before a demonstration, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held Jan. 4.

The protesters didn’t show a likelihood of success on their claim that the requirement must have an expedited permitting process in exigent circumstances, the court said in an opinion by Judge Nancy L. Murphy.

The protesters demonstrated in the airport’s Great Hall for two days after the travel ban was announced in January 2017. Although no one was arrested, they were threatened with arrest for not having a permit.

They sued under the First Amendment, claiming the timeline for obtaining a permit must be truncated for spontaneous speech. The district court granted a preliminary injunction.

The lower court applied the standard for public forums, such as parks and streets, that are traditionally open for demonstrations, the appeals court said. That standard recognizes advance notice for demonstrations regarding suddenly relevant issues may not be possible, it said.

But for nonpublic forums that aren’t traditionally used for speech, such as the airport, restrictions on speech must only be reasonable, the court said. The seven-day requirement meets that standard, it said.

Judges Paul J. Kelly Jr. and Michael R. Murphy joined the opinion.

The Denver City Attorney’s Office represented the airport. Killmer Lane & Newman LLP represented the protesters.

The case is McDonnell v. City & Cty. of Denver, 2018 BL 2252, 10th Cir., No. 17-1071, 1/4/18.

By Bernie Pazanowski