Citizens Question Police Strong-Arm Tactics
Press Release from Colorado Legal Eagles
August 25, 2008
Contact:Colorado Legal Eagles
[Denver, CO] - The quiet start to a week of protests against the
Democrats at the DNC in Denver was shattered when the Denver Police
over-reacted to a small group of young anarchists and opened fire
with pepper bullets and pepper spray into the crowd indiscriminately.
Until the incident tonight, the major media story about the DNC
protests was how few protesters actually showed up and how easy
it would be for the Denver Police to keep track of them.
The pepper bullet incident happened on Monday around 7pm when a
small group of young anarchists covered their faces with bandanas,
linked arms and began to march down Colfax Avenue without a permit.
The Denver Police formed a riot line, but the anarchists refused
to stop, walking directly into police.
Without warning, the police responded with pepper bullets and pepper
spray, rushing into the curiosity seekers who had been following
the small group of anarchists and then sweeping up several hundred
peaceful people who were enjoying the Festival of Democracy in Civic
Center Park across the street.
Dozens of law enforcement then swept through parts of Civic Center
Park, firing their pepper bullets and spray indiscriminately. The
police herded anarchists, peaceful protesters, journalists and documentary
filmmakers across the park into a parking garage on 15th Street
near Court Place where they were surrounded by police and held for
several hours. Other people were surrounded in Civic Center Park
and tightly packed for up to 90 minutes. Many were then released,
but reports are about 100 were arrested.
Many innocent bystanders were injured, including an 80-year-old
man and several tourists.
For weeks, a group of mostly young anarchists from a group called
Unconventional Action had been planning events to "reclaim
the streets" through militant means. The police may have been
alerted to Monday's action by the group's posters, which have been
promoting an event called "Everything for Everyone: Improve
Your Material Conditions this Summer", an apparent looting
action that had been planned for Monday at 6pm starting in Civic
Ron Kovic, a disabled Vietnam veteran and author of the memoir
Born on the Fourth of July, who is in Denver to support the peaceful
protesters, was concerned by the violence. "We must remain
nonviolent. We must have the high moral ground," he said.
The anarchists are a very small minority of the protesters at the
DNC, but they always succeed in causing trouble and giving the peaceful
demonstrators a bad name. Peaceful groups organizing DNC protests
want to make it clear to the media and the public that they do not
condone the violent actions of these young people. Clearly, the
anarchists were looking for trouble with the police.
However, the police clearly overreacted, as they outnumbered the
anarchists by at least 20 to 1 and were much better armed. There
was no need to open fire into a crowd without warning and indiscriminately,
injuring innocent people. The police should have given the crowd
more warning before it opened fire and given a chance for innocent
bystanders to leave the area. This is similar to an incident in
Wyoming in July where peace activists and their children at the
annual Rainbow Gathering were indiscriminately terrorized by federal
law enforcement officers with pepper bullets and pepper spray without
See: DNC Police Riot Preview? Activists Declare Zero Tolerance
for Poorly-trained and Rogue Federal Agents
Until this police over-reaction, for the traditional media, the
biggest story of the counter-convention has been the lack of protesters
attending. Estimates of 25,000 to 50,000 protesters descending on
Denver for the DNC were way off target. At an antiwar march on Sunday,
one of only a handful of large marches during the week, less than
1,000 attended. At a rally today at the Federal Courthouse, there
were only about 200 people. All these gatherings had been peaceful
with zero arrests.
With crowds this small, a handful of young unarmed anarchists should
be no match for the heavily-armed Denver Police Department. Why
was there a need to open fire into a crowd without warning? Why
couldn't they have dealt with this small group of anarchists without
injuring innocent bystanders?
Instead of enjoying the small number of protesters, the Denver
Police Department has decided to intimidate and terrorize all the
DNC demonstrators. At the Festival of Democracy in Civic Center
Park on Monday, attended by only a few hundred people, the police
presence was massive. A report from one peace activist running an
information table at the Festival said the police presence was "outrageous"
and intentionally intimidating. He said roves of armed SWAT teams
constantly patrolled Civic Center Park throughout the day, and stood
by his table and videotaped him at length and at close range. There
have also been police on bikes, on horseback and in vehicles. The
activist said the police were "very intimidating, like they
were trying to scare us all away."
Another report on colorado.indymedia.org states that 5 members
of the Solidarity Radical Library and Revolutionary Center from
Lawrence, Kansas were arrested Monday in Denver without any reason.
The Denver Police have ruined what had been overwhelmingly peaceful
protests by over-reacting to a handful of young unarmed trouble-makers
and injuring innocent bystanders. The Colorado Legal Eagles implore
the police to show more restraint and use more communication to
control the crowds to prevent injuring innocent bystanders and civilians.
The Colorado Legal Eagles also urge these anarchist groups to cease
their intent to destroy property, defy police and use violent tactics.
These anarchists believe that property damage is not violent. But
behind every piece of property is a property owner willing to defend
it, even more so in the Wild West perhaps than in other places.
Violence against the property is violence against the owner. The
anarchist's tactics Monday resulted in nothing but innocent people
being injured and an opportunity for a week of peaceful protests
destroyed. The police had to act to keep the peace, even though
it has been a tense peace at best with their massive presence on
the streets and intimidating tactics. The anarchists chose to defy
that tenuous peace, and nothing has been gained.
Activists are calling for protests outside of the Denver Police
Department Building at 1331 Cherokee Street on Tuesday morning if
all the protesters have not been released yet. Bring drums and noisemakers.
Please call these officials and tell them you are ashamed that
they could not handle a few young anarchists without hurting and
terrorizing innocent people and peaceful protesters.
Chief of Police Gerald Whitman
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper
Phone: 720-865-9000 (Denver 311)
Ask for the Mayor's Office
Colorado Governor Bill Ritter
Phone: (303) 866-2471
Fax: (303) 866-2003
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