Captain sues Colorado National Guard’s top brass over First Amendment right to protest

Colorado Newsline: On May 30, Alan Kennedy, a captain in the Colorado National Guard, joined thousands of Black Lives Matter protesters in Denver to speak out against police violence and racial injustice. Like other peaceful protesters, he said, he was tear-gassed by police.

His commander, Maj. Richard Sandrock, said he was concerned Kennedy attended the protest. It was the third day of unrest in which Denver police fired tear gas, pepper balls, flash bangs and sponge bullets at protesters. By attending the protest, Sandrock said, Kennedy violated a Defense Department policy that limits the rights of military members to participate in protests where “violence is likely.” On July 12, Sandrock reprimanded Kennedy. 

Kennedy said he was shocked. He said the reprimand blemished his military record and was later used to block his promotion, effectively penalizing him for exercising his First Amendment rights while he was off-duty and not in uniform. Fearful of further punishment, Kennedy stopped protesting and writing op-eds. Citing these concerns, he spent months trying to get his commanders and generals to retract the reprimand. 

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