- Matthew Schniper
- Suthers says the matter stands “without merit.”
The move comes after VDARE’s conference was canceled by Cheyenne Mountain Resort, following widespread backlash and an announcement by Suthers that the city wouldn’t provide resources.
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, downplayed VDARE’s claims: “The matter is completely without merit, and I’m confident the city will prevail,” he says.
VDARE’s attorney, Randy Corporon of Denver, says it’s the first lawsuit filed by VDARE “challenging a government official’s chilling of its free speech and peaceful assembly rights.” He adds it’s his understanding the organization has been unable to secure space for future conferences after Suthers’ public statement.
“This is especially troubling for those of us who support the constitutionally protected First Amendment rights of all groups, whether controversial, favored or disfavored in the eyes of governmental authorities, to peacefully assemble and share ideas,” he says.
The lawsuit comes as President Donald Trump has energized white identity groups 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 attempts to bar people from predominantly Muslim countries from the U.S.
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, wrote posts for VDARE.com. But VDARE.com also has more mainstream contributors, including Michelle Malkin, whose syndicated column appears in the Gazette and other publications, and right-wing Breitbart news personalities. The site also has Democratic contributors, according to VDARE founder Peter Brimelow, who the lawsuit says has worked for various publications, including Forbes Magazine and National Review.
Brimelow disputes that VDARE is based on white nationalism, calling the group “a coalition, agreed only on the need for immigration reduction.”
(Note: A VDARE attorney contacted the Indy to dispute our description of the organization’s viewpoints in early 2018.)
Media Matters for America reported the canceled event would have featured speakers like “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.’”
The lawsuit says VDARE booked the resort on March 31, 2017, for an April 2018 conference. The venue, 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.”
When news of the conference surfaced, Suthers issued a statement on Aug. 14, 2017, saying, “The City of Colorado Springs does not have the authority to restrict freedom of speech, nor to direct private businesses like the Cheyenne Mountain Resort as to which events they may host. That said, I would encourage local businesses to be attentive to the types of events they accept and the groups that they invite to our great city.”
His statement also said the city would not provide support or resources to the event, and “does not condone hate speech in any fashion.”
VDARE alleges it “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, as a general rule, the city doesn’t provide services for events held on private property. 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 or private security, unless it is deemed a city-sponsored event.
On Aug. 15, 2017, the Cheyenne Mountain Resort canceled VDARE’s contract, prompting Suthers to issue another statement: “... I appreciate Cheyenne Mountain Resort’s action to cancel this conference, and its conscientious decision not to bring this group to Colorado Springs.”
Besides alleging a First Amendment violation, the lawsuit accuses Suthers and the city of retaliation against VDARE for attempting to exercise its First Amendment right, as well as violating the 14th Amendment of equal protection of the law.
VDARE claims the result was a loss of revenue from the conference and negative publicity, and inability to conduct future events in Colorado Springs (presumably because no site is willing to host them).
A scheduling and planning conference in the lawsuit has been scheduled for March 11.