The Fuck the Police March, Arrests, and The Who by Phillip Reynes
The Fuck the Police March, Arrests, and The Who by Phillip Reynes
The Fuck the Police March (FTP) was attacked. I was there and saw no provocation. At least three where arrested. It was a hard thing to have to watch. People being hurt by , as one marching chant said, the army of the rich – the chant was "Police, the army of the rich." When the police ruched in the batons hitting and pepper guns pointed at people from point blank distances you could feel the violence they where trained to inflict. It of course could have been so much worse but for those hit, manhandled and arrested I guess that's a moot point.
I had seen the girl, in the photo above, at the front of the march. She was probably 18 but her youthful face and big smile and bubbly demeanor made her look young and add to the the fact that she probably weighed less then 100 pounds gave her the appearance of a girl. Contrast this with the 220+ pound storm trooper who is slamming her with his baton for the sake of it. The site of it made me so mad!!
Saturday started like any other Occupy Saturday at the park. There where the usual people there when Colorado Indy Media arrived at 10am. The Occupy the Moment people, a Buddhist group was there meditating and it was a beautiful day. Not much was going on at the park and people seemed to be taking in the fine weather. The Occupiers had had a tough week weather wise and the mood was relaxed as I made my way around talking to the protesters. People where just waking up and everyone seemed to have a smile.
The only event, in terms of a real protest that was scheduled was the Fuck the Police march that night at 7:00pm and so we returned to meet the marchers in front of the clock tower on the 16th Street mall where the march was to start. It was a windy but beautiful evening. There was a drum group down the street who was quite good – consisting of three drummers. The Indy Media staff sat and listened to them as we waited for the march to start. Spirits where high and people where happy and boisterous.
The wind picked up as the Marchers gathered across from the Clock tower at Skyline park on the 16th street mall. It was all the usual marches and a few new faces. People talked about there experiences with the police. One man recounted to me how he had been subjected to police abuse on more then one occasion. He was a vet and he was mad as hell about the Denver Police Department and the culture of abuse that exists there. I looked around and at that time (before the march) I did not see a lot of police and thought to myself that maybe the new police chief – Robert White – had figured out a better way to handle these marches. I know these people and they are not out looking for violence or a riot they just want their voices heard and the police in Denver to be restrained and not kill homeless street preaches (Marvin Booker) or beat down innocent people as has happened frequently in Denver. I was to be proved wrong.
There where lots of signs of every type and people where gearing up for the march down the 16th Street mall. Some kids – people under 25 – had some water balloons and where tossing them and laughing as the marchers gathered up to hear the root discussed and get ready to leave. There where about one hundred or so protesters at this point.
In my mind I ran down the most egregious cases and asked people in the crowd about them. It seemed all where aware of the cases I listed and many where friends or family of the victims of the Denver Police. What follows is a short list.
July 20, 2010: Jason Alan Kemp, 31, was shot at point-blank range and killed when he refused to allow officers to enter without a search warrant. The state troopers were investigating a minor traffic accident when they kicked in the door and blinded Jason with pepper spray when he refused entry without a warrant. Trooper Lawyer then allegedly fired one shot which struck Jason. He died at the scene. A trail is pending but given that the Denver police seem to be above the law – same for the State police – we can only have a small hope that justice for his killing will ever take place.
July 9, 2010: Marvin Booker, 56, was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia. Half-asleep about 3 a.m., Booker walked to the desk in his socks, forgetting to put on his shoes. The Denver Sharif killed him in a viscous beating for not wanting to leave his shoes – a precious thing to a homeless man.
March 16, 2010: Mark Ashford was walking his two dogs near the streets of 20th and Little Raven when he saw a police officer pull over a driver who had run a stop sign. Ashford claiming that he saw the man stop at the stop sign approached the police car to volunteer information and to appear in court about the incident. Ashford claims that the officer "didn't like it at all" and asked Ashford his ID, which he provided. Afterwards, another Denver Police officer arrived on scene and Ashford, who claims he was nervous, began taking photos of the two officers on his cell phone. Ashford's attorney, William Hart, claims that his client was arrested on suspicion of interference and resistance. After the incident, Ashford was taken to St. Andrew's Hospital where he was treated for a cut on his eye and a concussion. Despite the city spy cam video that was available, the officers were cleared of any wrongdoing. The city agreed to give a $35,000 settlement to Ashford.
April 4, 2009: At approximately 12:14 a.m, during the and arrest of his friend Shawn Johnson for allegedly using the women's restroom at the LoDo Night Club, Michael DeHerrera claims he was severely beaten by several DPD officers. Video taken by the DPD's own High Activity Location Observation (HALO) system shows DeHerrera talking on his mobile phone with his free arm across his chest grasping his other arm when officer Devin Sparks walks up to him, grabs his arm, and appears to start yelling at him. Within seconds Officer Sparks grabs DeHerrera by the head and throws him into the pavement. The video footage suddenly pulls away for roughly 35 seconds while DeHerrera is allegedly beaten. He is then led staggering to the back of a DPD cruiser and partially searched. He is then placed in the back seat of the cruiser. The officer then slams the door, which is stopped by what DeHerrera claims is his ankle, the officer then slams the door again which then closes. DeHerrera claims that he remembers nothing from after the initial alleged assault until waking up in his hospital bed due to post-concussion syndrome. Initial police reports filled out by Officer Sparks claim that DeHerrera "Spun to his left attempting to strike me in the face with a closed right fist.", a statement directly contradicted by the video of the incident. Both Johnson and DeHerrera were initially charged with interference and resisting arrest but the charges were dropped after the video came to light by Assistant City Attorney Vince DiCroce who said "there is no likelihood of conviction." The city settled with DeHerrera and Johnson for $17,500.
January 15, 2009: Alexander Landau and his passenger Addison Hunold were pulled over for an illegal left turn. Officer Randy Murr asked for consent to perform a search of the vehicle. Landau asked to see a warrant, to which Officer Randy Murr responded by punching him in the face and knocking him to the ground. Officer Murr joined by Officers Ricky Nixon and Tiffany Middleton proceeded to beat him for several minutes with police radios and a flashlight. When it was all over, Landau heard one officer say to him, "Where's that warrant now, you fucking nigger?". The City of Denver agreed to settle the case and gave Landau $795,000.00.
April 4, 2008: John Heaney was riding his bicycle past the stadium and allegedly ran a red light. He was stopped by Det. Micheal Cordova who was in plainclothes because he was working a sting operation against ticket scalpers. Cordova testified in court under oath that Heaney swung and punched at him several times, forcing Cordova to punch back. Cordova said Heaney “continued to throw wild punches at me, hitting me in the chest area several times forcing me to punch him in the face several times”. When he was asked how Heaney’s two front teeth were broken, Cordova responded, “I have not a clue.” John Heaney was charged with assault on a police officer and faced a minimum 3 year sentence, before a video tape surfaced showing it was Det. Cordova who attacked Heaney, tackling him, punching him in the face several times, and finally smashing his teeth into the pavement; the district attorney's office then dropped all charges against Heaney. A jury acquitted Det. Cordova on the assault charges and no charges were filed for his perjury. This is a cop who needs to go to jail!!
April 18, 2008: 16 year old Juan Vasquez ran from police and hopped several fences, an officer shouted for him "to stop or he would shoot him in the back." The officer threw his flashlight, hitting Vasquez "with such force that it shattered on impact," When Vasquez fell in the alley, the first officer jumped on his back, With that officer sitting on the boy's back, others began to punch and kick him as Vasquez "begged" them to stop. Two of the arresting officers testified that officer Charles Porter began jumping up and down on the teen's back while he was handcuffed and lying face-down on the ground. Vasquez, who is 5-foot-6 and 130 pounds, was hospitalized with a lacerated liver, a ruptured spleen, damage to both kidneys and bruised or fractured ribs. He spent 3 days in intensive care handcuffed to the bed. Porter was charged and acquitted of felony assault charges, he was the only witness at his defense and claimed the other officers who testified against him caused the injuries during the arrest and conspired to pin the blame on him. Vasquez filed a lawsuit for $1,300,000.00 and the city settled for "just under $1,000,000".
April 8, 2006: Evan Herzoff was walking home past the parking lot near 14th Avenue and Pearl Street when he came across officers arresting a man and he then began videotaping the arrest. Shortly thereafter he was approached by two Denver Police Department officers. Officer Morgan demanded Mr. Herzoff's identification. After examining Mr. Herzoff's identification, Morgan told Mr. Herzoff that he was free to go. When Mr. Herzoff subsequently asked for Morgan's business card, however, Morgan quickly changed his mind and told Mr. Herzoff, "Let's take you to jail instead." A trespass charge filed against Mr. Herzoff at the time of the arrest was dismissed after review of the video. After an internal investigation the city's independent police monitor Richard Rosenthal stated that officer Morgan would receive a "fair punishment" but refused to say what that punishment was. The ACLU filed a lawsuit on Herzoff's behalf after months of negotiations the city agreed to pay Herzoff $8,500, and the Denver Police Department will issue a training bulletin to all officers, stating that: “No retaliatory action shall be taken against any member of the community based on the request for identification.”
September 23, 1999: a Denver Police SWAT team performed a no-knock raid on the home of 45-year-old Mexican national, Ismael Mena, believing there to be drugs in the house. Officers shot and killed Mena. Police said that Mena pulled a gun on officers and opened fire, necessitating deadly force. Investigations alleged, however, that Mena's body may have been dragged from where it fell. Police reported that this occurred apparently while paramedics administered aid, and that gunpowder residue on Mena'a hands indicated that he had fired a weapon recently. Allegations of a police coverup of the shooting were never substantiated. Information from Mexican authorities indicated that Mena was a suspect in a homicide there. No drugs were found on the premise. Also, the American Civil Liberties Union criticized both the police department and the judge who approved the warrant for the following alleged problems with the affidavit: (1) relying on an unreliable informant, (2) failing to provide sufficient proof that drugs would be found on the premise, and (3) for failing to adequately explain how police would be endangered by knocking first. Joseph Bini, the officer who gave the address to the SWAT team, was charged with first-degree official misconduct, and sentenced to 12 months probation. The city of Denver later settled a lawsuit filed by Mena's family out of court for the amount of $400,000. Bini again made headlines in June 2008 when it was revealed that he was being investigated for unlawful sexual contact and child enticement.
These are the topics people talked about and to a person all there where mad as hell at the Denver Police and what they see as a fundamental lack of fairness or justice. I spoke with people who knew most of the victims and I spoke with many others who had been victims of these thugs in uniform as the march started. It was a mixed crowd with people of all ages. The young, the old, Veterans and middle class folks all united in the desire to make a better world and hold these thugs accountable. I asked people about the new police chief and there was little in the way of an opinion about him. Most said it was to soon to tell but they felt the Denver police and its culture would sabotage him if he was sincere and that was a big if in the minds of those who marched.
The march set off heading East down the 16th street mall towards the Pavilions and as we went the police presence increased exponentially. Dozens of bicycle and motorcycle cops as well as patrol cars flanked the marchers and trucks full of riot police dressed like storm troopers appeared and I felt this was a poor message for the Denver police to be sending to a group protesting the DPD willingness to be violent at the drop of a hat. I could not help but think of that song by the Who that had the line; “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” as I reflected on the police and the new chief.
One of the kids with water balloons through one at a cop. It landed harmlessly on the ground not even close to the mark. Other then that, and this was early in the march, the protesters made due with chanting slogans and making noise as they progressed around the pavilions picking up more people who joined in as the marchers passed. One young girl who stood out was happy with a infections smile and a skip in here walk seemed to typify the peaceful determination of these protesters to be heard.
As the protest continued it turned against traffic on several streets as it made its way towards Colfax from the Pavilions. I can't say why the root went the way it did but it may have been to try to make it harderhttp://colorado.indymedia.org/files/anti police march260212031.jpg" style="width: 309px; height: 206px; border-width: 2px; margin: 10pt; border-style: solid; float: right;" /> for the police to intimidate the marchers. More and more riot cops clinging to the outside of trucks seemed to be gathering and when the site of these jack booted thugs became ominous the marchers simply changed directions. The police clearly had a confrontational agenda in terms of both their presence and the demeanor of the forces that they mustered.
The march reached Colfax finally where it headed East towards the capital and its ugly end. The militarized forces of Denver’s police seemed to close in around the demonstrators as they went. Most of the protestors seemed not to notice and one even said to me that they wont attack a group of people protesting police violence why would they do that and prove our point we're peaceful, we're using our first amendment rights and it does not make sense to meet a anti-police violence march with violence.
I was less sure as I had just been talking to a news photographer who clearly was looking to make the marchers look bad and voiced his disdain for the marchers. I was less sure because the establishment press cares not a lick for the poor or minorities and seems here in Denver to be a tool of the 1%. I looked around and saw what can only be described as massive overkill on the part of the police presence. I was not alone at this point in my thoughts. One man a vet expressed concern to as we neared the capital.
Truck after truck arrived, with the storm troopers cling to the sides. Then sullenly one block east of the capital on Colfax they struck. I saw no reason for it. Even if some minor thing had been done by a protester what could be the reason or logic in then attacking a crowd of people who are protesting police violence. It was sudden and swift and violent.
In the seconds before the attack you can see that fun loving young person marching next to the police squad. Suddenly she turned from being a marcher to being hunted along with some other guy for no reason I could see. Yet, even if there was a reason, again where is the logic in assaulting a crowd of protesters who are protesting the fact that the Denver police are all to ready to assault people? To me the cops wanted a fight. It is a testament that worse did not happen but that is because of of the demonstrators reserve not the police!
Three where arrested that I know of. It's time Denver took a much hard stand against these sick thugs. Maybe people as violent and mean as the Denver police can only understand violence. Maybe if the police keep provoking people they will get what they want. Maybe a dead cop or two is the message that will get the attention of these thugs. That's where things will end up if the Denver police don't get a grip. You can't just abuse people forever and expect them not to defend themselves. Let's hope it does not come to that sad end. Let's hope that Chief White can make a diference. Let's hope he cleans house before this gets much much worse.
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