Press Conference Exposes Police Misconduct and Challenges Media Distortions
Puts Mayor and Police Chief on Notice: Multi-million dollar lawsuit to be filed for violations of civil liberties
(Denver – Tuesday) Representatives from the Recreate 68 Alliance, the Troops Out Now Coalition, and Code Pink organized a press conference today at 3:15 in front of the Denver Police Headquarters to denounce police violence and to answer distorted accounts by the media.
Glenn Spagnuolo, one of the co-founders of the Recreate 68 Alliance gave an account of Police attacks which occurred on Monday night and early Tuesday. On Monday, at approximately 6:00, Denver police began marching through the Civic Center Park in military formation, pushing and harassing people gathered there. They also massed contingents of heavily armed police wearing riot gear at points encircling the city. At about 7:00, they began pushing and hitting a group of mostly young people. They responded by beginning to chant “No Justice, No Peace!” The police charged the group, hitting several of them with pepper spray.
Attempting to get away from the club-swinging police, the group moved onto Cleveland Street, joined by many others from the park.
The Police then blocked both ends of the block, entrapping the group as well as many bystanders. They began hitting people with their nightsticks and spraying pepper spray and pepper balls. It took more than an hour of negotiations for Recreate 68 organizers to secure the release of most of the people trapped on the block. At least 85 were arrested, with some estimates saying as many as 100.
Spagnuolo also described an incident on Tuesday morning, when right-wing hatemonger Fred Phelps entered the Civic Center Park, screaming homophobic hate speech. One of the Recreate 68 organizers, Carlo Garcia, told him to leave. The Denver Police responded by arresting Garcia, who has two brothers in Iraq. When Code Pink organizer Alicia Forrest questioned Garcia’s arrest, she was struck by police and arrested as well.
Spagnuolo put the Mayor, Police Chief, and Denver Police Department on notice that their acts of violence and acts of violence would be the subject of a lawsuit and that he and other organizers are meeting with attorneys to move forward with legal action. He noted several major protest-related lawsuits, such as those in New York and Washington, which have cost local governments millions of dollars.
Larry Hales, a leader of the Recreate 68 Alliance and of the youth group FIST (Fight Imperialism Stand Together), noted that any violence that has occurred during the protests has been initiated by the Denver Police. He said, “It’s amazing that this would happen during the DNC, with its platform of hope and change.” Hales reminded Denver and the Denver Police that “the whole world is watching. Is this the face you want to put on?”
Hales also stated since Recreate 68 has a permit to hold its activity in the Civic Center Park, that the police had no business there. He said that one of the demands of Recreate 68 is that all police be removed from the park.
Brian Vicente, of the Peoples Law Project, noted that the mass defense unit had received hundreds of calls reporting police misconduct. He noted that the police had engaged in arbitrary arrests the night before and had denied arrestees access to attorneys while at the Detention Center set up by Denver Police.
Ben Kaufman described the arrest of Carlo Garcia, who was assaulted and arrested by police. Kaufman noted the presence of highly-armed police, saying that “they are trying to play soldier, but Carlo has two brothers in Iraq who are real soldiers.”
Sally Newman of Code Pink described the arrest of Alicia Forrest, who was beaten and taken into custody for inquiring why Carlo Garcia was being arrested.
Mark Cohen, a co-founder of Recreate 68, questioned the role of the Democratic Party in suppressing civil liberties and attempting to silence protest.
Organizers noted that, even at the press conference, the city assembled a squad of riot police, some armed with automatic weapons.