Open Records, Participatory Democracy - For over two years, the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah met with representatives from the Utah Olympic Public Safety Command (UOPSC) in an effort to ensure that during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, peaceful protesters have meaningful areas in which they can voice their opinions, and that our regular public forums remain open to free speech activities. Despite the fact that UOPSC joined the Salt Lake Organizing Committee at several public events to discuss its activities, our organization had not been given any plans for accommodating lawful protest.
ACLU of Utah v. Utah Olympic Public Safety Command (2001)
In an effort to clarify the status of such plans, in January 2001, the ACLU of Utah asked UOPSC for "public documents concerning the treatment of peaceful protesters during the 2002 Winter Olympics," including information about the location of free speech areas around Salt Lake City Olympic venues, the rules regarding conduct within the Salt Lake Organizing Committee’s secured area near the medals plaza and Delta Center, and information about the training and identification materials on the "mobile field forces" that will be used to control demonstrations during the events. Our request was made under Utah’s Governmental Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA) as an effort to avoid a last minute fight over important free speech issues.
Unfortunately, UOPSC chose to ignore both our GRAMA request and appeal, and on February 12, 2001, the ACLU of Utah and cooperating attorney Brian Barnard filed a complaint in the Salt Lake County Third District Court in order to gain access to the requested records. It wasn’t until the lawsuit that UOPSC answered our request, stating simply that "UOPSC has no records relating to the information you requested" except for information regarding officer identification. They referred us to the Salt Lake Police Department and SLOC, who had already informed us that they too did not have records regarding preparations for First Amendment activities. While UOPSC’s response ended our short-lived lawsuit, it was also an indicator of just how much work we needed to do to ensure that voices of dissent would not be excluded from the 2002 winter Olympic games.