A white identity group known for anti-immigration views has sued Mayor John Suthers. The move comes after VDARE’s conference in Colorado Springs was canceled by the Cheyenne Mountain Resort, following widespread backlash and an announcement by Suthers that the city wouldn’t provide resources for the event. The federal lawsuit alleges that Suthers and the city violated VDARE’s First Amendment rights.
(Note: VDARE’s attorney was also in contact with the Indy to dispute our description of the organization’s viewpoints in early 2018.)
Filed by VDARE Foundation on Dec. 21 in U.S. District Court in Denver, the lawsuit seeks $1 million in compensatory damages, unspecified punitive damages, prejudgment interest and an injunction forbidding the city and Suthers from denying services to entities and events based on “their controversial viewpoints and affiliations.”
Suthers, a lifetime Republican, former district attorney, U.S. attorney and Colorado Attorney General, was dismissive of VDARE’s claims.
“The matter is completely without merit, and I’m confident the city will prevail,” he tells the Independent through a spokesperson.
VDARE’s attorney, Randy Corporon of Denver, tells the Indy via email:
The lawsuit comes at a time when the GOP’s chief, President Donald Trump, has energized white identity groups across the country with his immigration policies, which have resulted in thousands of children being separated from their parents at the Mexican border and court battles over his executive orders to bar people from predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.
VDARE supports Trump’s policies and states on its website, “Diversity per se is not strength, but a vulnerability.”
It was widely reported that Jason Kessler, an organizer for the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia had written posts for VDARE.com. But VDARE also has more mainstream contributors — Michelle Malkin, whose syndicated column appears in the Gazette and other publications, has been featured on VDARE.com, as have right-wing Breitbart news personalities. VDARE founder Peter Brimelow says the site also has Democratic contributors.
The local, canceled event was to feature a host of anti-immigration speakers. Media Matters for America reported that they would include: “anti-immigrant writer Peter Brimelow, Breitbart.com columnist Tom Tancredo, and writer John Derbyshire, who describes himself as a ‘mild and tolerant’ ‘homophobe’ and ‘racist.’”
Brimelow, according to the lawsuit and VDARE’s website, has served as a writer/editor for MarketWatch, Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine, Barron’s, Financial Post, Maclean’s and National Review. He disputes that VDARE is based on white nationalism, calling the group, instead, “a coalition, agreed only on the need for immigration reduction.”
According to the lawsuit, VDARE booked the Cheyenne Mountain Resort on March 31, 2017 for a conference to be held in April 2018. The following August, VDARE grabbed headlines when its plans surfaced.
The resort, the lawsuit says, “was fully aware of VDARE and its mission, as well as the potential for media attention and possible protests arising from the Conference.”
But those plans folded after Suthers issued this statement on Aug. 14:
VDARE alleges the statement “amounted to a refusal to provide city services, including police protection, for the Conference due to, among other things, its controversial subject matter, VDARE’s controversial viewpoints and published content in opposition to current immigration policies, which Defendants termed ‘hate speech,’ and the negative media attention that the Conference had attracted.”
It’s worth noting that beyond basic services provided to all citizens, such as responding to emergency calls, the city doesn’t provide services for events held on private property as a general rule. Large special events (that block streets, involve more than 10,000 people, serve alcohol on public property, or include high-risk activities like fireworks) or other events held on certain public properties have to apply for special event permits. The event-holder still pays for services associated with the event, like police assigned to the event (and/or private security), unless it is deemed a city-sponsored event.
But the lawsuit alleges that after Suthers’ statement came out, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office told a Denver Channel 7 reporter that deputies wouldn’t provide coverage for the conference unless requested by the Colorado Springs Police Department.
Then, on Aug. 15, the resort said publicly it would not host the VDARE conference and canceled the contract, a move for which Suthers expressed approval. “I know I am joined by many Colorado Springs residents when I say I appreciate Cheyenne Mountain Resort’s action to cancel this conference, and its conscientious decision not to bring this group to Colorado Springs,” Suthers’ statement said.
But Suthers’ words and their results constitute a violation of the First Amendment, VDARE alleges. From the lawsuit:
The lawsuit alleges Suthers also violated the 14th Amendment of equal protection of the law in that “Defendants threatened to withhold city services based on Plaintiff’s speech and associations.”
As a result, the lawsuit claims, VDARE was deprived of its right to free speech, loss of revenue from the conference and negative publicity, and inability to conduct future conferences and events in Colorado Springs.
VDARE also alleges the city and Suthers retaliated against the organization for exercising its First Amendment right, which requires proof of three elements:
• that VDARE was engaged in constitutionally protected speech,
• that the city’s and Suthers’ actions caused VDARE to suffer injury that would chill a person of ordinary fitness from continuing to engage in that activity,
• that the city’s and Suthers’ action was substantially motivated as a response to VDARE’s exercise of constitutionally protected conduct.
A scheduling and planning conference in the lawsuit has been scheduled for March 11.
This lawsuit comes as the city is defending against another federal case brought by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2016, alleging violations of the Clean Water Act due to alleged lack of stormwater controls. The city has spent more than $3 million on that lawsuit so far.
Read the full VDARE lawsuit here:
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