In the summer of 1994, local events in the Boulder moved us into
dealing with the Boulder Police Deparment's Zero Tolerance policy
towards the homeless, and the Rainbow Family. This lead to a period
of serious infringement of the rights of people of a certain "profile".
This group was characterized in the media as being all "Rainbows",
when in reality it was a loosely defined "appearance"
between Rainbows, Deadheads, and chronic homeless.
Deadheads Get Maced
September 14, 1994
Subject: Trespassing charges to be heard Friday, September 16, 1994
against 13 defendants
Thirteen persons will face charges of trespassing on Friday. The
Colorado Legal Eagles have conducted an investigation after local
press referred to the incident as a "RAINBOW RAMPAGE".
The investigation showed evidence that:
1. The defendants were charged after one of their friends was assaulted
and maced by Boulder police for sleeping in a car.
2. The situation was created as a direct result of a policy of
the Boulder police department to harass and drive "undesirables"
from Boulder. The department refers to this policy as "zero
tolerance". While many of the individual actions of department
members were blatantly unconstitutional the policy itself is unconstitutional
in that the officers on the street are choosing whom is desirable
and whom should be exiled from the City of Boulder.
3. The Boulder police department has provided media outlets with
false information to justify their actions, such as;
a) blocking the exits of the hospital parking lot with police cars
while screaming "leave! leave the area!" (expletives deleted)
then charging defendants with trespassing. No mention, in police
press reports, was made that it was not possible to "leave"
do to the blocking of the hospital road;
b) reporting to the press that only one or two persons was maced
when in fact all but one of the individuals was maced, many being
pulled from cars by their hair and maced 6 inches from the face,
no matter what individual conduct displayed;
c) reported to the press the officers gave every opportunity to
disperse peacefully, when in fact, it seemed to those present, police
personnel were deliberately inciting and pressing buttons with derogatory
statements and foul language;
d) reported to the press that security at the hospital removed
the individuals to the parking area and intimated they had caused
a disturbance, when in fact the only disturbance was after the police
arrived and began the assault;
e) defendents claim that it was impossible to comply with police
orders to leave the hospital parking lot because all the drivers
had been maced;
f) not all misleading, and sometimes blatatly false statements
4) The Boulder police violated standard department policy by refusing
to provide medical care to those that are maced, (the department
would latter make statements to the press that all those wishing
treatment were treated and individual police officers made false
statements to their superiors that defendants were offered treatment
when in fact all but one of the arrestees were virtually begging
for water and or treatment for their eyes and requests were ignored).
This situation arose from the same treatment and policy this office
investigated last month against homeless people and Rainbow Family
people. Officers on the street are acting with wanton disregard
for the constitutional rights of individuals belonging to a class
of individuals consisting of poor, homeless, Rainbow, Grateful Dead
followers or any other group the department selects for exile. The
Boulder police have usurped the Judicial branch of government by
beginning the punishment on the spot at the point of arrest at the
discretion of the officer. There has been, to date, no significant
oversight of officers conduct.
The Colorado Legal Eagles take the position that these issues must
not be ignored. We view this as first, extremely dangerous and sooner
or later someone will be seriously hurt or possibly even killed,
and second, egregious to our long held beliefs in tolerance and
Colorado Legal Eagles, P.O. Box 506, Nederland, CO 80466
October 3, 1994
SUBJECT: "Round Table" discussion arranged by ACLU; the
topic of discussion will be treatment by police of alternative lifestyle
WHERE: Boulder Public Library, conference room;
WHEN: Tuesday, October 4, 1994 - at 1:30 to 3:30 PM;
A five person panel will take public concerns on the Boulder Police
Department policy known as "zero tolerance" pertaining
to demographic groups labeled "undesirables".
The City will be represented by Boulder Police Chief, Tom Kolby.
Business interests will be represented by the Downtown Management
Commission and the Downtown Boulder Association. The ACLU and the
civil rights implications will be represented by Carla Selby, Chairperson
of the Boulder County chapter of the ACLU. Some of the persons effected
by the policy will be represented by Joseph Vigorito of The Colorado
The format will be ten minutes each for opening statements, followed
by a short panel discussion. The floor will then be open to the
public with a limit of three minutes of comment each.
The Colorado Legal Eagles wish to open a dialog with the city and
business interests on the ramifications of the "zero tolerance"
The Eagles will release to the public the results of its' investigation,
including video, still pictures, declarations of individuals, and
a summary of more than twenty interviews of witnesses and those
effected by the policy.
Colorado Legal Eagles, P.O. Box 506, Nederland, CO 80466
October 4, 1994
Public Roundtable On The Zero Tolerance Policy
October 4th Round Table Discussion on "Zero Tolerance",
and is the Boulder Police Dept. pursuing the best possible course?
The Colorado Legal Eagles are pleased to see this discussion begin.
Since our first involvement with this case (after the July 24th
demonstration that blocked 13th street at Pearl St. Mall), on two
radio shows and in all press releases, we have been calling on the
parties in interest to come together and explore other options.
It was plain, within the first few hours, some serious problems
were occurring. We, here, at these discussions, will either begin
to address these problems or let them fester into what might conceivably
be drastic consequences, in legal actions or worse, serious bodily
injury or even death.
None of us, as Americans, wish to look upon our police departments
as conducting themselves anything less then honorably. The citizens
first reaction is to not believe an allegation. This coupled with
the financial/social status of those who might come under scrutiny,
is very often exploited by police departments, and adds to the difficulty
of bringing the issue to light. After interviewing more than twenty
witnesses from the two cases we have highlighted we conclude the
time for discussion is over due.
On July 24th a spontaneous demonstration erupted resulting in the
closing of 13th Street. Numerous arrests were made. The immediate
question arose, what would cause these people to place themselves
in immediate jeopardy of arrest? Planned civil disobedience by those
with a particular political agenda are somewhat common. But spontaneous
civil disobedience can only be described as a civil disturbance
and dependent on the size of the crowd, can be explosive, sometimes
to a full blown riot. We found a high degree of polarization between
the police and various groups on the mall. Anger was very high.
SAMUEL and JULY 24
The demonstration began when a number of individuals were arrested
for allegedly blocking the side walk. They were handing out donuts.
The police began to confiscate personal items without warning of
a violation. Arrests were made for merely asking for items to be
returned. Police came in mass. They gathered in the alleys behind
the mall. They attacked without warning or provocation. They confiscated
and arrested and sometimes administered punishment at the officers
Individuals such as Samuel Mills, who had never been in a demonstration
before in his life found himself sitting side by side with and others,
blocking the road. Samuel Mills, AKA "JC" (for Jesus),
48 years old, and staunch Christian, when asked why did you block
the road said, "If the kids were willing to get out there and
stand up for themselves what could I do, just sit here and watch?
No.... they were standing up for me too. I had to go." Samuel's
attitude typified the feelings on the mall. They felt pushed and
pursued. They told of being chased from place to place at night
like dogs trying to find a place to sleep. Many of the places homeless
people camped, outside of the city limits, up the canyon or up on
left hand, along with places within the city were simultaneously
closed off to them. During the day they were preyed upon by police
for the smallest violation.
In Samuel's case, three times he had his sign confiscated and given
a citation abusively. Perhaps it was the content of his sign that
caused the confiscation. After all, others in close proximity with
signs begging for money and allegedly a job were not bothered. Samuel's
sign told of what the police were doing at night to homeless people.
The sign asked the question of Boulder people, "Do you want
your tax dollars spent for harassment?" and "Do you know
how your taxes are being spent tonight?" His sign also charged
"Jesus was homeless". All three times, Samuel's charges
were dismissed as the law they attempted to apply pertained to licensed
contractors need for a permit to erect commercial signs and not
to limit speech. Samuel's staff, a beautiful piece of art work he
had prayed for, was broken by the police while he was in custody.
The city has refused to adequately address his complaints. He sued
the police department for the value of his staff and was awarded
$154 which the city is still refusing to pay.
Chris and the Deadhead Kids
On August 24th Chris arrived in Boulder at 2:00 A.M. He was traveling
in a three van caravan with 18 people. They had all been together
for quite some time and referred to themselves as family. They were
coming from The Aspen Reggae Festival. They would be here for three
days and off to Arizona to the Grateful Dead concert. So they thought.
At 4:00 A.M. he was awakened by police. The police reportedly were
called to the residence for loud drumming. Two drums were being
played. Thirty minutes earlier Chris had gone to his car to rest
from the drive. An officer seen him in his car, parked in the ally,
sleeping. The officer told him to get out of the car. The officer
wouldn't respond to Chris asking three times "what for"
and "what am I doing wrong?" Only repeated loud demands
to get out of the car. Chris was maced six inches from his face,
had his arms wrench painfully too high, and smashed into the ground.
This was done in full view of all the Dead Head kids. Now, it can
be said that the Dead Head kids really do love each other. The resulting
chaos one could only imagine. Their brother was being abused right
in front of them and there was nothing they could do about it. Chris
was promptly exited from the area, and shortly thereafter in hot
pursuit three vans of angry young Dead Heads.
The kids wouldn't believe the officers at the police station that
Chris wasn't there. They thought he was in there someplace getting
beat up. The windows of two police cars were broken, with no witnesses
who did it. It was rumored two and possibly three people did the
vandalism, (although they reportedly never admitted it, it is generally
believed). Finally they were convinced Chris had been taken to the
hospital. They went there and were blockaded in the parking lot
by the police at the same time being ordered to leave the area.
After about a minute of conflicting instructions sufficient police
forces having arrived, they were surrounded, maced, pulled around
by hair, generally abused, and arrested for allegedly trespassing
the same parking lot they had been blockaded. The police had passed
judgment and administered punishment to all. No judge, no jury,
and innocent people were administered the punishment. The next day
the judge dismissed Chris's sleeping in the car charge because he
hadn't been in Boulder for the required 48 hours in using a vehicle
as a living accommodation and the officer lacked probable cause.
A Common Denominator
In both cases, the demonstration and the drumming circle, the situation
had gotten out of hand as a direct effect of department policy and
the resulting police actions. The get tough "zero tolerance"
philosophy translates on the mall (or anywhere else in the city
or country for that matter) as an attack. The individual officer
is turned out there with a "zero tolerance" order that
translates from him/her to we can't "tolerate" you. The
attack becomes personalized. Sometimes an individual or group fights
back. Sometimes people are hurt or killed.
In both cases people felt pushed to the point of fighting back.
Policies that bring all members of a demographic under scrutiny
are likely to run into trouble with some groups. A review of Boulder
Police tactics in certain instances shows a repeated lack of constitutional
scrutiny when dealing with politically incorrect groups. Such as
searching every car entering Boulder on Holloween, like all people
are suspected criminals during those hours.
It would be far more appropriate to except the reality of Boulder
as it is and abandon the social engineering project of "Zero
Tolerance". Establish a meaningful dialog with the various
populations. Abandon confrontational attitudes. Establish safe areas
were people can sleep. Prosecute only criminals and cease to persecute
demographic groups different than the mainstream. Work closer with
the community and business leaders to establish more acceptable
solutions for all sides.