A member of the Denver County Sheriff Dept. walks through the Arrest Processing Site. The 18-cell facility can hold up to 400 people and will be used as a temporary jail during next week's Democratic National Convention. (AP Photo)
By P. Soloon Banda
The Associated Press
Members of the media tour the area designated to be a holding cell for the Democratic National Convention this week. (AP Photo)
DENVER - Police have dropped plans to top the holding cells in place for use during next week's Democratic convention with razor wire after some groups started comparing the site to the detention facility for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"We rethought those plans and came up with a way to put a lid on the cells instead of the razor wire," Denver Undersheriff William Lovingier said Wednesday as he led reporters on a tour of the cells in a city warehouse that will be the "Temporary Arrestee Processing Site."
The cells will be topped with chain-link fencing, the same material used to make the cell walls.
The warehouse is a couple miles from the Pepsi Center, where the convention begins Monday. It also is about a mile from the South Platte River, which explains the protesters' nickname for it: "Gitmo on the Platte."
The warehouse has 18, 20-square-foot cells, and can hold up to 400 people waiting to be photographed, fingerprinted and issued a court date.
Authorities expect to be able to process up to 60 people an hour.
City officials said they don't anticipate mass arrests, but opened the center to allay fears that those arrested could spend long hours waiting.
The American Civil Liberties Union-Colorado and others raised that concern, citing the 2004 Republican convention in New York City, where some people were held for days at a converted bus depot.
"The important thing is this has to function as a normal jail," Lovingier said. "The nature of jail is to create an environment where you can maintain security and order, and one of our primary charges is the care and custody of inmates."
Meanwhile, Randall Terry, founder of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, said Wednesday that he and other activists plan to be arrested during the convention while protesting Barack Obama's support for abortion rights.
Terry said only that the protest would be a sit-in, declining after a closed-door meeting with police to say when and where it would be staged. He estimated that between 10 and 30 people would be arrested.