DNC 2008: Anti-capitalista bloc scuffle started as staged fight between cops

From the Denver Post:

When a Jefferson County deputy unleashed pepper spray at unruly protesters on the first night of the Democratic National Convention, he did not know that his targets were undercover Denver police officers.

Now the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado is questioning whether that staged confrontation by police pretending to be violent inflamed other protesters or officers during the most intense night of the four-day event.

The protest occurred Aug. 25 at 15th Street and Court Place near Civic Center. Police ultimately arrested 106 people, the highest number of arrests in a single day during the convention.

According to a use-of-force police report obtained by the ACLU, undercover Denver detectives staged a struggle with a police commander to get pulled out of the crowd without blowing their cover. The commander knew they were working undercover, and the plan was to pull them out of the crowd and pretend they were under arrest so protesters would be none the wiser.

A Jefferson County deputy, unaware of the presence of undercover police, thought that the commander was being attacked and used pepper spray on the undercover officers.

The report says that the commander and an undercover detective were sprayed, but it does not indicate how many others were affected. The report also doesn’t say whether the pepper spray used on the undercover police was the first deployment of chemicals that night or whether the riot was already underway.

Denver police have said they were trying to control the crowd moving from Civic Center. The officers testified in court that they had intelligence that anarchists planned to gather in the park, then move toward the 16th Street Mall to wreak havoc at delegate hotels and other businesses. The activists had posted that plan on a publicly available website.

Full story here

FBI Spied Extensively on Anti-War Activists in Iowa

Iowa activists drew extensive FBI scrutiny

September 20, 2010

The FBI’s surveillance of a protest group in Iowa City prior to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., two years ago was far more extensive than initially reported, newly obtained FBI documents show.

Agents staked out the homes of political activists, secretly photographed and shot video of them, pored through their garbage, and studied their cell phone and motor vehicle records, according to records detailing the FBI’s counterterrorism investigation.

Federal agents and other law enforcement officers also watched and documented the protesters’ comings and goings at such places as the Iowa City Public Library; the New Pioneer Co-op natural foods store; the Red Avocado restaurant and the Deadwood Tavern; and the Wesley Center campus ministry of the United Methodist Church.

The FBI’s nine-month investigation in 2008 is detailed in more than 300 pages of documents obtained through the federal Freedom of Information Act by David Goodner, a former member of the University of Iowa’s Antiwar Committee, and provided to The Des Moines Register.

Continue reading

81 year old still swept up in DNC protest drama

Police restrain demonstrator at DNC protests, Aug 2009The only other demonstration Cecil Bethea ever attended was a 1970 protest at the Colorado Capitol of the shootings at Kent State.

So the 81-year-old jumped at the chance to watch for a few minutes last Aug. 25 when a group of anarchists squared off against police in Civic Center between the Capitol and the Denver City and County Building.

He never expected what happened next.

A photograph of Bethea published in the Rocky Mountain News, handcuffed with bowed head, became a rallying cry for protesters who argued that police at the DNC were unnecessarily heavy-handed.

Read the full Denver Post story

ACLU Files Suit Over Illegal DNC Arrests

Just days before the anniversary of a mass arrest that shut down a
downtown protest march during the Democratic National Convention (DNC)
last year, eight Plaintiffs represented by lawyers for the ACLU of
Colorado filed suit last evening in Denver District Court against Denver
and high-ranking police officials. The Plaintiffs, who include a legal
observer for the People’s Law Project (PLP), a journalist, students
documenting the march , and peaceful onlookers who observed the march
legally from the sidewalks, assert that they were falsely arrested
without probable cause and groundlessly prosecuted for crimes they did
not commit, in violation of the First and Fourth Amendments.

In an additional claim filed as a class action on behalf of nearly one
hundred persons, the ACLU charges that Denver illegally prohibited the
Plaintiffs and others held at the City’s special DNC detention center
from meeting with attorneys who came to provide legal advice and
consultation after the mass arrest.

“With regard to policing protest during the DNC, Denver police sometimes
got it very right, for which they deserve credit,” said Mark
Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “On this evening, however, Denver
police got it wrong, very wrong. Although Denver often allows street
marches to proceed without the required permit, the police chose to
crack down on this one. But police failed to distinguish between street
marchers and others who were participating or merely observing from the
sidewalks, where they had a legal right to be. If there is a case where
a large and potentially raucous public gathering threatens to get out of
hand, police can issue orders to disperse and clear the area, but no
such order was issued that night.”

The march started from Civic Center Park in the early evening of August
25, 2008. Participants marched on 15^th Street and the adjoining
sidewalks but were quickly stopped by a solid line of police at Court
Street. A second line of police– clad in full body riot armor and
carrying an array of less-lethal weapons–quickly closed in from behind,
confining hundreds of persons in a one-block stretch of 15^th Street
between Court and Cleveland. The encircled group included not only the
street marchers, but also participants who had been marching legally on
the public sidewalks, as well as legal observers, curious onlookers,
members of the press, and other nonparticipants. This large group was
detained a substantial time between police lines while Denver’s top
officials decided what to do.

According to the lawsuit, Denver carried out an arbitrary and groundless
mass arrest of an entire group of 96 individuals, knowing that the
roundup included numerous innocent persons such as the ACLU’s clients.
Indeed, of the 54 persons who did not accept an immediate plea bargain,
at least 38 were exonerated after jury trials or after prosecutors
finally dismissed charges. Although officers at the scene completed
statements under oath recounting “facts” that supposedly justified each
of the Plaintiff’s arrests, the lawsuit charges that these sworn
statements were “universally and materially false.”

“The arresting officers consistently swore that Plaintiffs were marching
in the street and that they ignored audible orders to disperse issued by
a police supervisor,” said John Culver, of Culver & Benezra, LLC, who is
litigating the case as an ACLU cooperating attorney, along with his
partner Seth Benezra. “As Denver later acknowledged, however, no order
to disperse was ever issued. Our clients did not participate in the
march in the street, and police never provided them with any opportunity
to leave the area.”

The ACLU asserts that its clients were falsely arrested and forced to
defend themselves in court proceedings from groundless accusations of
criminal conduct. All * *were charged with failing to obey a police
order to disperse. After Denver finally acknowledged that no such order
had ever been issued, City attorneys nevertheless persisted in
prosecuting the Plaintiffs for allegedly “obstructing” a public right of
way by marching in the street without a permit. With legal
representation from the PLP, all the criminal cases have now been
resolved in the Plaintiffs’ favor, either through dismissals or
acquittals after jury trials.

After their arrest, the Plaintiffs and most of the arrestees were locked
into holding cells at a vacant warehouse that Denver converted into a
detention facility for DNC-related arrests . At the warehouse, which
protesters dubbed “Gitmo on the Platte,” Denver refused to allow
attorneys to meet with or speak with any of the arrestees.

The lawsuit relies on a longstanding Colorado statute that requires
custodians of detention facilities to allow attorneys to meet with
detainees in a confidential setting. The law provides for penalties of
up to one thousand dollars for each violation. This claim is filed as a
class action, and the ACLU lawyers ask that the statutory penalty be
imposed on behalf of /all/ the persons swept up in the August 25 mass
arrest who were held at the City’s detention facility.

“Prior to the DNC, the ACLU advised Denver on multiple occasions that
Colorado law required them to accommodate attorney visits at the
detention facility, but Denver officials insisted that no attorney
visits would be permitted,” said Taylor Pendergrass, ACLU Staff
Attorney. “This lawsuit challenges Denver’s willful decision to deny an
entire class of persons a basic right long protected by Colorado law–to
consult with an attorney at any place of custody. Denver officials had
no legitimate basis for treating the detention facility as a legal black
hole where this fundamental Colorado law did not apply.”

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Nathan Acks, Tiffany Bray, Chase Goll, Eli
Hardy, Aminah Masud, Ian Morrison, Blake Pendergrass, and Kim Sidwell.
Defendants include Denver as well as police Commander Deborah Dilley and
Sgts. Anthony Foster and Anthony Martinez.

In addition to Culver, Benezra, Silverstein and Pendergrass, the
Plaintiffs’ legal team includes ACLU Cooperating Attorney Lonn Heymann,
of Rosenthal and Heymann LLC, who also represented arrestees in their
criminal cases on behalf of the PLP.

The Complaint, pre-DNC correspondence between the ACLU and Denver
regarding the issues raised in the lawsuit, and other materials are
available on the ACLU’s website at