ACLU Sues Over Olympic Protests

Tuesday, February 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union has sued to force Olympic security planners to disclose the sites where demonstrators will be allowed during the 2002 Winter Games.

After two attempts to get the information through the Government Records Access and Management Act, the Utah chapter of the ACLU filed suit Monday against the Utah Olympic Public Safety Command.

``Right now, they are focusing more on security and stopping terrorism, which is good, but we don't want to end up in court two weeks before the Olympics,'' said Janelle Eurick, an ACLU attorney. ``We'd like to send a message that we take these First Amendment zones seriously.''

The U.S. and Utah constitutions protect protests, and courts have required that places be set aside for demonstrations.

Eurick asked UOPSC last month for documents concerning the treatment of peaceful protesters during the games.

UOPSC spokesman Christopher Kramer said planners themselves do not know where the zones will be located.

Potential free-speech sites already have been chosen at venues stretching from Ogden to Provo and from Kearns to Park City, but Kramer said they are fluid.

``Until they are finalized, we are not going to know where the free-speech zones are located,'' he said.

The free-speech zones will be outside the fences surrounding venues.

When the zones have been determined, ``We'll sing it to the heavens,'' he said. ``If people want to protest, that's great and that's what makes America great. But we also want to make sure that no one gets hurt and no property gets damaged.''

He said the zones will be established soon. ``We are very close, but it's not a simple task to secure an area as complex as a downtown venue site.''

Eurick thinks the planners do not want protest groups to have the chance to mobilize and scout potential sites.

It is ``hard to imagine that they don't have something as simple as the fence lines decided at this point,'' Eurick said.