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10-03-2019 - Reno-Tahoe International Airport Statement Regarding Protests

Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) is about flying, jobs, emotional reunions and good byes. It’s about $3.1 billion in annual economic impact for Northern Nevada.

One thing RNO is not about is politics.

The video of Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren being pursued by Republican protesters in the airport terminal is not a reflection of Reno-Tahoe International or our beautiful region. That scene is counter to what RNO is all about. We don’t care how anyone votes, we care that you fly safely.

That’s why we developed a First Amendment/Picketing Process and Procedures Policy under NRS 614.160 back in 2016. It was intended to literally keep politics outside the airport. It sets aside free speech areas outside the terminal while protecting the safety and security of ALL passengers inside—no matter how they vote.

In light of the airport’s primary purpose, RNO is entitled to impose reasonable time and place restrictions on people who want to exercise free speech.  Second, for safety and security purposes, we need to know what activities are occurring in our terminal.  We have a permit that is easily filled out and provides protestors all of the information that they need with respect to time and place and provides us the information we need to ensure the safe and secure travel for passengers.

The Warren protestors clearly wanted a video harassing a candidate to post on social media. They never applied for a permit. In 2018, a handful of health care protesters greeted Republican Senator Dean Heller with signs in the airport and also failed to get a permit. Heller and his staff had a very positive and long standing relationship with the airport and did not make us aware of the protesters.

While these events were different in tone and vitriol, they both highlight the need for the protest policy to be better enforced. Airport police, security and operations personnel will increase their vigilance in the coming weeks to be better prepared for the intense political season ahead.

Unfortunately, permits, policies and good faith don’t play well on social media. But chasing a woman through an airport, does. Holding signs and asking questions of a weary Senator coming home after a historically tough vote looks good on Twitter.

But to RNO, Senator Warren and Heller were not pawns in a political game. They were equal in our eyes. They were not politicians. They were not Democrat or Republican. They were travelers who deserved respect and Nevada hospitality.   

And that is why we have First Amendment permits that will be better enforced in the future. We care about traveler safety, not their voting record.  

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