Denver O22 reportback: Taking back the streets to remember Marvin Booker
In communities across North America October 22nd has become a day to commemorate victims of police repression and violence. For many communities, October 22, 2010 took on a more urgent meaning in the wake of severe police repression and violence that has plagued cities large and small. In Denver, this year's October 22nd event saw a rise in hostility towards the cops and an increased militancy from years' past.
Throughout 2010, police in the metro area have repeatedly made headlines with horrific acts of violence directed at community members. Ranging from allegations of sexual assault, rapes of children, murders, and beatings, news stories have painted a picture of a department that is clearly running amok and waging war on the residents of Colorado. Offending officers are rarely held accountable and department leadership deftly sweeps incidents under the rug to stave off an increasingly angry public.
One of the most violent and high profile incidents occurred in July. Denver Sheriff's Deputies serving as guards at the new Denver Justice Center murdered 56 year old Marvin Booker, a homeless preacher being held as a prisoner at the jail. Marvin had asked for access to his shoes before he would comply with orders to return to his cell. In response, five deputies tackled him, placed him in repeated choke and pain compliance holds, tasered him, and beat him. Marvin died shortly after the attack. While the local coroner deemed the death a homicide, the DA announced in late September that no charges would be filed against any of the officers involved.
In response, an ad hoc coalition called for a demonstration in the city in observation of O22. A cluster of diverse participants, most hearing of the march through fliers and handbills diffused around town, began to amass in Confluence Park. Folks were given access to candles, stickers with Marvin Booker's face, and a bilingual handout to give to passerby on the route of the march. A banner was unfurled, “When police attack, we will fight back” and quickly the group, numbering at about eighty, took the street and marched towards the 16th street mall, the commercial center of downtown Denver.
The makeup of the crowd is a particularly important and revealing factor in how this march went down. Few members of the local “left” were present. About two dozen Denver based anarchists, most of whom were involved in organizing the demonstration were on hand along with several members of RAIM and Comite Defensa Del Pueblo. Otherwise, the crowd was nearly entirely made up of street youth and other homeless people. The participation of liberals, non-profit organizers, radical collective house dwellers, and even other militant revolutionaries and most of Denver's anarchists was visibly lacking from the event. The march was almost entirely comprised of people that have direct experience with the police on a daily basis, who were motivated more by hatred at their direct social conditions than any reading of political theory.
Because of this, the mood of the march was pretty clear at the onset. Chants of “No justice, no peace, fuck the police” and “Cops, Pigs, Murderers” were loud and spirited. Previous debates that have plagued local activist circles for the last several months, about violence and nonviolence, about whether every cop is our enemy or not, were non-existent. The crowd was united by rage and a militancy that is all too rare in political actions in Denver or elsewhere.
Masked demonstrators dashed to passerby handing out fliers and slapping the stickers of Marvin on every imaginable surface, including shop windows, higher-priced cars, buses, and posts. The crowd gained more participants from the street, screaming Marvin's name and jeering at the cops beginning to follow.
Halfway along the route, a parked police car was redecorated by the demonstrators. Stickers of Marvin were put on the windows, tires were slashed, people took keys to the paint and various projectiles were thrown at it. This was all done directly in front of an unmarked police car coming to respond to the march, a real indicator of how fearless and angry the crowd was.
The crowd proceeded along the 16th street mall and towards the capitol building. Demonstrators blocked the large multi-lane street of Broadway, stopped traffic on Colfax street, and weaved the wrong way down several nearby streets in an effort to thwart the mounting police forces attempting to block the demonstration in from all sides. Originally, the march was set to go to the Justice Center, but several people pointed out that it would be easy to block the crowd in and that there weren't the numbers for a larger confrontation. Instead, the crowd filtered into Civic Center park where an impromptu rally was held and space was given for participants to share stories of police violence.
Shortly after the speakout session, a tactical decision was made to disperse into smaller groups and end the march. The event ended with really high energy and a feeling of collective power, and no arrests. Revolutionaries and street kids parted ways with hugs and laughs and promises to fill the streets together again very soon.
The text of the handout which was given to several hundred onlookers and passerby:
The cops murdered Marvin Booker.
And they'll get away with it.
Unless we stop them.
On July 9, a homeless black man, Marvin Booker, was murdered by jail guards at the Denver Justice Center. After demanding access to his shoes, Marvin was tackled, punched, placed into chokeholds, shocked repeatedly with tasers, kicked, and beaten by five guards. He died shortly after the attack.
Video of the entire beating exists, but has never been made public. Marvin's family has never even been allowed access to the video.
On September 28, the Denver DA's office announced that no charges would be filed against the deputies. Marvin is dead. Beaten to death while in police custody because he wanted his shoes. Marvin posed no threat. He had no weapon. He was a 5 foot 6 older man who was overwhelmed by the physical force of five sheriff's deputies and died. And now, no one will ever be held accountable for his death.
The deputies still guard other prisoners. At least one deputy, Faun Gomez, was involved in another questionable death of a prisoner in the past. They pose a threat to the lives of every prisoner they guard, yet they will face no repercussions for their actions.
The police of Denver have made it quite clear that they are at war with the people of Denver. News of their attacks and beatings make daily headlines in the local media. In the last several weeks Denver Police officers have been implicated in multiple beatings, sexual assaults on children, rapes, incidents where officers threatened jail time in efforts to solicit sex, and murders.
It has also been made quite clear that the perpetrators of these injustices will never be held accountable by the same system that they protect. There will be no accountability unless we, as ordinary people, are the ones to create it.
Until people physically fight back and stop police officers from attacking them or their friends, until there is civil unrest every time a cop murders someone, until our communities are able to defend themselves and deal with anti-social behavior without relying on outside police forces,cops will continue to murder, maim, rape, and assault.
While we spend our time watching talking heads lie to us on TV with false political promises in exchange for our votes, the police run amok. If we think change will come from politicians, from elections, from people other than ourselves, then we'll continue to be beaten in the streets and die in their jail cells.
It's up to us. To fight back. To shoot back. To riot and rebel. It's up to us to act. Every time the cops attack someone, we must respond. We must respond as if our lives and the lives of everyone around us depend on our action. Because in the end, they do.
In July, it was Marvin. Next month it could be any of us. Unless we all stop them.
Los policías asesinaron a Marvin Booker.
Y ellos quieren zafarse de esto.
Mientras nosotros no los paremos.
El 9 de julio, un pordiosero negro, Marvin Booker, fue asesinado en lac arcel por los custodios, en el Centro de Justicia de Denver. Despues de pedir sus zapatos, èl fue atacado, golpeado, trataron de afixiarlo (ahorcarlo), electrocutado repetidas veces con una pistola electrica y pateado por cinco policías. Él murio poco despues del ataque.
El video del ataque existe, pero nunca ha sido hecho pûblico. Inclusive la familia de Marvin no ha tenido acseso al video.
El 28 de septiembre, la oficina de la policía de Denver anunció que no pondrá cargos contra los custodios. Marvin esta muerto. Golpeado hasta la muerte mientras estaba en custudia de la policía, solo porque el quería sus zapatos. Marvin no era una amenaza, èl no tenia armas, èl medía 5.6 pies, un hombre viejo quien fue aplastado por la fuerza física de cinco policías hasta la muerte. Y ahora nadie es responsable de su muerte.
Los policías todavía resguardan a los otros prisioneros. Al menos uno de ellos, Faun Gomez, estuvo involucrado en la muerte sospechosa de otro prisionero. Ellos son una amenaza de muerte para cada prisionero en custodia. Ellos (los policًías) no enfrentaran ninguna repercusion por sus actos.
La policía de Denver ha dejado claro que estan en guerra contra la gente de Denver. Las noticias de sus abusos y golpizas estan diariamente en primera plana en los noticieros locales.
En las últimas semanas los oficiales de la policía de Denver han sido implicados en golpizas, asaltos sexuales de niños, violaciones, asesinatos e incidentes donde los oficiales piden tener sexo o amenazan con carcel.
Queda claro que los perpetradores de estas injusticias nunca seran juzgados por este sistema que ellos protegen. No seran juzgados mientras nosotros, la gente comun, seamos los que la creamos.
Hasta que la gente peleè fisicamente y le pongamos un alto a ellos y a sus aliados de estos ataques. Hasta que nosotros actuemos sin descanso cada vez que un policía mate a alguien, hasta que nuestras comunidades esten preparadas para defenderse y hacer frente a esta conducta antisocial sin contar con la fuerza policiaca. Los policías seguiran asesinando, mutilando, violando y agrediendo.
Mientras nosotros perdamos nuestro tiempo viendo en la television las mentiras del día con falsas promesas políticas a cambio de nuestros votos la policía mata gente de forma indicriminada. Sí nosotros creemos que los cambios vendran de los politicos, de las elecciones, de otra gente que no seamos nosotros mismos, entonces continuaremos siendo golpeados en las calles y asesinados en las celdas.
Depende de nosotros; defendernos, amotinarnos, revelarnos. Depende de nosotros que actuemos. Cada vez que un policía ataque a alguien, nosotros debemos responder. Nosotros debemos responder como si nuestras vidas y la vida de cada uno alrededor de nosotros depende de nuestras acciones, porque sino,al final, ellos lo haran.
En julio fue Marvin, el proximo mes puede ser uno de nosotros. Hasta que nosotros los paremos.