Denver city hall security guards turned away a man wearing a pro-reparations button. The city later said the guards will be re-trained.

The contractors will receive more training after misapplying the new rule. It’s the second free speech issue to pop up at city hall in recent weeks.
2 min. read
Former City Council At-Large candidate and now Denver Mayoral candidate Jesse Parris poses for a portrait in front of Centro Humanitario in Five Points, March 4, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Jesse Parris, a staple activist at Denver City Council meetings, was blocked from entering the Denver City and County Building on Monday, at least while he possessed a pin reading "Black Reparations Now. America Must Atone."

"I felt very irritated. This is fascism. This is what fascism looks like," Parris said. "For a button? Does that mean the City Council's buttons with their names on them are okay? Police emblems? All that stuff should be banned if that's the case."

Buttons are, of course, allowed at the City and County Building. But in turning Parris away, he said the security guards, who work for contractors HSS, showed him a July order from four Denver judges that bans "displaying signs or materials" -- but only in courtrooms and other areas belonging to the judicial branch, not in the City and County Building generally.

The guards also showed Parris a judicial order from August that restricts recording in parts of public buildings. Sheriff deputies wrongly enforced that order against activists in the city hall hallway last month.

The rule has nothing to do with buttons or outward appearances.

City hall houses all branches of government, which sprouts confusion at the entrance, said Ryan Luby, spokesman for the City Attorney's Office. The guards will be re-trained, he said.

"The City Attorney's Office, in collaboration with the Department of General Services, continue to train the city's contracted security personnel about what is and what is not allowed inside the City and County Building following the code of conduct order's recent release," Luby said in a statement. "General Services is fully investigating this incident and takes it seriously. Ongoing and additional code of conduct training will be conducted by the City Attorney's Office and General Services for contracted security personnel. The city does not have any policy barring the public from exercising a protected form of free speech."

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