Citizens Question Police Strong-Arm Tactics at DNC
Contact: Colorado Legal Eagles email@example.com
For photos, see: http://www.coloradolegaleagles.org
[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 Center Park. http://www.unconventionalaction.org/downloads/anti-capital2_11x17.pdf http://www.unconventionalaction.org/downloads/lootin_bw.pdf
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 warning.
See: DNC Police Riot Preview? Activists Declare Zero Tolerance for Poorly-trained and Rogue Federal Agents http://www.coloradolegaleagles.org/dnc08/dnc.pr3.html
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
Online feedback form http://www.colorado.gov/apps/oit/governor/citizen/assistanceUtility/welcome.jsf
More background on this story: http://la.indymedia.org/news/2008/08/219905.php