Tag Archives: State Democratic Convention

COS drops convention trespass charges

Park sidewalk
COLORADO SPRINGS- At this morning’s motions hearing in Municipal Court, the city attorney asked Judge Spencer Gresham to dismiss their case. Due to “discovery issues we cannot resolve” and “internal misunderstandings,” the city dropped the trespassing charges against Peter Sprunger-Froese and I. So let’s see. They arrest us in front of hundreds at the World Arena, detain us until our chance to protest the State Convention is over, put us through five court appointments, then decide we shouldn’t have been arrested? And they didn’t even say that.

It was rather hard to stomach. A city prosecutor explaining that complications with the evidence led them to conclude the case wasn’t worth pursuing. No apology, no admission of error. Simply that taking us to trial was now thought be too inconvenient.

This after claiming there was no additional evidence from World Arena surveillance cameras, no tape from a the police observation van across the street, no recordings from the spooks with parabolic dishes above the Hampton Inn, no better audio track and additional footage to accompany the chopped up inaudible video they did offer us, no transcript of the public meetings beforehand where contradictory descriptions were given of a planned demonstration area.

This after maintaining that a “Free Speech Zone” was clearly marked when their own video showed that it wasn’t.

This even after fighting our request for a jury trial.

We walk into court and the same stonewalling city prosecutor declares that the City of Colorado Springs has decided to be magnanimous and drop the charges.

To his credit, Judge Gresham did ask if the city’s request was based on finding the new evidence exculpable. No, your honor, said the city prosecutor, this was just about the mounting difficulties of complying with the requested discovery.

The judge asked if the defendants had any objections. Our attorney said no.

This was not something we’d discussed as being an available options, but our lawyer answered on our behalf. Peter and I would be apprised later that voicing any objections would have been deleterious to being cleared of the charge. Otherwise, we for damn sure had objections!

Can you usurp someone’s free speech only to admit later you had no cause? There was no apology actually. Can they do that? I am Goddamn incensed that my rights were shoved aside, handcuffed, escorted, photographed, fingerprinted, detained, driven to the other side of the city, made to wait for a ride back to my car, denied the chance to return to what I was doing before I was arrested, now it turns out, for no cause!

What about the repercussions? I’ve got friends thinking I’m a troublemaker, when in fact I didn’t make trouble. It was heaped on me by uniformed misapplication of authority. Can they do that? Others are now sheepish about expressing themselves publicly because those police officers acted illegally. That’s the chilling effect of law enforcement given too much power. Now what? Honestly I’ve got friends who in the past have shown great courage in the face of repression and injustice, made into sheepish cowards who think speaking up means being insufficiently peaceful.

This is the result of the City of Colorado Springs police making arrests however they damn please. Is that going to stand? How many more acts of police intimidation are we going to tolerate before the chilling effect silences everyone?

Probably you’ve discerned where the meat of this case might have been found. It would seem to be what the city wants to avoid coming to light. It’s where a civil case is going to find incredibly flammable fuel.

Will free speech arrest merit a jury trial?

COLORADO SPRINGS- I figured our Motions Hearing today would be a perfunctory affair. Wrong! The city is denying there is more evidence, they want us to waive our right to a speedy trial, and, they asked the judge to deny us a jury trial. Can they do that? The judge will give his written decision by Friday. On whether we have a Constitutional Right to a Trial by Jury.

A trial by a jury of one’s peers
It seems between the first appearance at which we were granted a continuance, then the arraignment where our attorneys set a pretrial date, neither of the judges asked about a jury trial. We entered a plea of not-guilty, but were never asked if we wanted a jury trial, nor asked to deposit a $25 payment. It wasn’t until the pretrial conference that the judge looked over the paperwork and noticed no deposit had been made to reserve a jury trial. A motions hearing was scheduled, where among our requests, we would have to ask for a jury trial.

Our attorneys cited precedent today, that even in the event of attorney negligence, the right to a trial by jury is considered so important that it’s been granted to defendants who’ve previously declined it. Regardless whose mistake, they argued, Peter and myself were clearly never asked and could under no circumstance be considered to have waived the right.

The city on the other hand explained that precedent in municipal court has long established that a trial by jury in petty offenses is not a Constitutional Right, and instead is a “Statutory Right.” Meaning that if the defendants have not followed every provision of the statute, they sacrifice their opportunity for a trial by jury.

Judge Hayden W. Kane II declared that he would issue a written decision on the matter, by the end of the week. This move does not look encouraging to us. The judge faced two very competent defense attorneys and perhaps didn’t dare rule against them in light of rebuttals they might have offered.

Evidence withheld from Discovery
Through discovery, the city has offered that the only evidence they have to show us, besides officers’ accounts, is a hand held video with unintelligible sound. Nothing else. At today’s motions hearing we proffered affidavits to the effect that men were observed with parabolic dishes above the Hampton Inn. As well, some CSPD officers observed the arrests from the basement of the World Arena, indicating that surveillance footage would be available from there.

The city has denied any of this exists, and in making the argument that cameras don’t always record their footage, the city lawyer explained that she learned policemen were observing from a van across the street, but that their cameras were only capturing a live feed, and weren’t recording. Whether you believe that or not, in either case those “witnesses” had not been revealed to us in discovery.

Peter and I are quite interested in video evidence because it was very plain to us that we hadn’t stepped over any tape. Surveillance footage would show that there was no division between a “booster zone” within the “free speech zone.” Audio will also demonstrate that our conversation with police was amicable and betrayed our earnest interpretation of where our speech was permitted.

But the judge appeared to give the rather novice city lawyer all the slack, offering her ten days to get the evidence to the defendants. If the judge decides we don’t have the right to a trial by jury, our lawyers will have to appeal. To my knowledge this will spoil our opportunity to have a speedy trial. A trial date has been set for August 29.

Convention free speech still in question

COLORADO SPRINGS- A motions hearing is scheduled Monday, Aug 18 at 9:30am, for defendants Eric Verlo and Peter Sprunger-Froese at the Colorado Springs Municipal Court. The two are charged with trespass at the Colorado Democratic State Convention. They were arrested for trying to exercise free speech rights, outside of what Police describe were the bounds of a “Free Speech Zone.” Motions on Monday will address discovery of exculpable surveillance evidence which the city and other law enforcement agencies have been denying to the defendants.

The legal proceedings thus far:
MAY 17 -Arrest for Obstruction, amended to Trespass
JUNE 10 -First appearance, received continuance
JULY 1 -Arraignment
JULY 29 -Pretrial meeting with City Prosecutor
AUG 18 -Motions Hearing

Private interests overlap with public

US SENIOR OPEN advertised on Colorado State Highway signTraveling down Highway 24 today I see parking directions for the US Senior Open which begins today at the Broadmoor. Look at this, a private event advertised with state highway equipment, in the public interest, of course, The U.S. SENIOR OPEN! I’m most interested in the private versus public distinction because DNC authorities are trying to emphasize the Pepsi Center being private property and thus in a position to say what speech should be free. I heard this argument in the Federal Courthouse yesterday. It’s the same rhetoric the Colorado Springs prosecutor has been asserting in the State Convention trespassing charges against our May 17 [attempted] demonstration there.

Both the state and national Democratic convention events are held on private property. But aren’t they somewhat public events? The political parties, the politics, the election, are all of vital public interest. In this free land of ours, it’s difficult to argue that the public doesn’t have an open invitation to participate in the election of its leaders, certainly to demonstrate its concerns. What’s decided at the convention certainly has public consequence.

I’m happy to say the judge yesterday was not yielding this issue to the lawyers for the Secret Service and the City of Denver. She reiterated that the DNC is a historic event of public interest. I’m hoping the Colorado Springs courthouse will see the state convention likewise. The grounds belonged to the World Arena, were leased that day by the Colorado Democratic Party to conduct business which would impact the Colorado public. We turned up with banners and are now facing trespassing charges because they we were standing in the wrong part of the area taped off for the public. We had only the CSPD officers’ word that the part we were standing on was for “boosters only,” and the further away part was for “protest.” Thus it was also only the officers’ subjective opinion to decide into what category our message fit. As it happens our banner that day was supporting of the Dems, but it didn’t feel like “free speech” anywhere outside the World Arena that day.

But to try to hide behind PRIVATE OWNERSHIP is highly unpatriotic. It invites scrutiny into all the private facilities receiving public funds to subsidize, wouldn’t you think? Park your Goddamn facility in your own authoritarian kingdom if you want to shred the Bill of Rights over it. This is America you Fascist warmongering war-profiteering facilitator enabler assholes!

I’m troubled by the greater privatization of public concerns. It’s been the trend to shift public works and private monies into private hands to glean the profits. Republicans are still after the public funds sitting in Social Security. Imagine if we’d let them invest that in private hands, in light of the housing/lending debacle/ripoff!

In some cases the incentive is also to restrict oversight. Private security firms are examples of moving authority-keeping tasks into the autonomous hands of corporate cronies. Private armies, private utilities, private water supplies, take control from the people, or the representatives of the people, and put it squarely into tools for aspiring totalitarians preoccupied only with taking it to the bank.

A sign for the golf tournament is no big deal. Certainly the City of Colorado Springs has a need to direct spectator traffic to the appropriate parking. But the example serves to show that private and public interests overlap when private wants.

Trespassing into the booster zone

Peter and I are now described as having been confused about where to express Free Speech at the May 17 state convention. We are being arraigned today at 1:30 at Municipal Court because the Democratic Party is sticking to the trespassing charges. Peter’s and my confusion had to do with how anyone, the World Arena, the Dems, or the police, could decide SUBJECTIVELY what speech belonged to what zone. Peter and I were waved into a Free Speech Area, then told to leave the better part of it because we weren’t “boosters.” Not in this America they can’t.

Riot police were standing by on Saturday

State Democratic Convention riot police contingent redeployed to concert brawlCOLORADO SPRINGS- Channel 5/30 News reporters were called away from the World Arena last Saturday to cover a stabbing at a public music event at the flea market. A fight broke out in a crowd of 2000 people and the first responders found themselves undermanned. Fortuitously, riot police had been standing by at the Democratic State Convention. At 1:30pm, this contingent (or fraction) was redeployed to provide backup. The KOAA TV camera captured the hardware the CSPD had anticipated needing to provide convention security on this otherwise harmonious and peaceful, uncloudy and idyllic Colorado Springs Saturday at the World Arena.

The riot police arrived via a sleepy Mountain Metro Transit bus.
Deployed by city bus

Anticipating a violent confrontation.
Upper body armor

Full and half plexi-glass shields.
Two types of shields

Do CSPD officers wear caps anymore?
Kevlar helmets

Looking for provocation.
Waiting with knuckles dragging

Showing their number.
Police line

“Coincidentally, a ‘crowd control’ team of police officers equipped with riot gear was already on standby across town at the State Democratic Convention.”

Activists not arrested for trying to get into the State Democratic Convention

The mugshot photographer forbid me making a toothy smileTO CORRECT POLICE BLOTTER DISINFO
(A friend asked me casually “how far did you get?” I was disappointed to admit that Peter and I were not arrested trying to get into the convention.)
The police team coordinating security at the Colorado Democratic State Convention used confusion and unreasonable exertion of authority to curtail public participation. Officers broke protest signs over their knees and used arrest, detention and relocation to keep dissenting voices from the public eye until the opportunity to demonstrate had passed.

The two protesters arrested on May 17 had posed no security threat. Neither were their voices disruptive of the convention goers. Their banner which read “Democrats please stop funding the war” elicited support from the attendees. Many delegates began booing the police actions as the two men were being arrested for questioning police directives which seemed to contradict previously negotiated access.

As the convention check-in began at 7AM, the two men entered the “Free Speech Zone,” walked to the edge of the police tape and unfurled their banner. The two were immediately informed by police officers that where they were standing was reserved for “boosters” only and that they must move back a considerable distance. A supervisor was called to the scene who simply commanded the activists to move. After declining to explain himself, he grabbed one activist by the wrist while SWAT officers subdued the other, grabbing his banner and peace flag and breaking the bamboo poles before throwing them to the ground.

Eric Verlo and Peter Sprunger-Froese were handcuffed and driven to an El Paso County sheriff’s station across the street, charged with trespassing, photographed, fingerprinted, and after a delay, driven 15 miles to a distant city police substation before being released in the parking lot and given back their phone. By the time the two were able to get a ride back to the convention grounds, it was after 10AM and all the delegates had entered the convention.

Perhaps you knew this already but you are forbidden to smile by the police photographer. In application this just means you can’t show your teeth. I couldn’t help but think of Tom Delay’s beaming mugshot head-shot, but I pursed my lips because I did not intend to let the CSPD portray me as a forlorn felon. When I learned that the mugshot had been published online by Denver’s 9NEWS, I asked a friend about the attitude I’d projected. in his words: “demented.”)

Dry Run at the State Convention

Police riot shieldsCOLORADO SPRINGS- Interviewers kept asking me ahead of time if the local Colorado Democratic State Convention was going to be a dry run for groups planning something big at the national convention in August. Their curiosity might have been piqued by the mention of PROTEST COLORADO on Michael Moore’s list of “more fun with dry runs” leading to the DNC. I told them I was aware of no such plans, but it became clear to me today that the news reporters had been on to something. There WAS a dry run in the works, and it was being carried out by law enforcement.

I was arrested at 7:05AM Saturday, through no planning of my own. There was confusion over where the First Amendment applied and where it did not. There was a “FREE SPEECH ZONE” which shared a police-tape demarcated area with a “BOOSTER ZONE” for those whose speech was regulated by the Democratic Party. Which part was which was not universally understood by either the public or many of the police officers. Police commanders alluded to previously agreed perimeters, while we asserted what we understood had been decided. Calling in a supervisor led not to a discussion but to the barking of orders, our mouths agape. The police seized upon the chance to arrest, process and hold us, until our opportunity to be heard had passed. We were mighty confused at the time, but in retrospect the police maneuver was carried out like clockwork.

It seems to be my habit to be blind sided by heavy handed authority. But I hope this does not detract from the principal dynamic at play. I am an ordinary American citizen, with an ordinary citizen’s right to express myself. Even playing within the post-911 limitations placed on our civil liberties, abiding by a “free speech zone,” my right to participate in our democracy is being muted by a false authoritarian concern for public safety.

Particularly indicative of the police strategy was what they did with Peter and I after our arrest. We were taken across the street to the Quail Lake Loop El Paso County Sheriff substation where we were booked and cited first for obstruction, then for trespass. Forms and fingerprints were completed twice amid pleasant conversation and clarification of the “free speech zone” boundaries. We were informed that we would be free to return to the convention grounds, but that a subsequent breach of the rules would be treated with more severity. Then, instead of releasing us there, or at the nearby Sand Creek police station, an order was received to deliver us to the northern-most police substation in the city 15 miles away. Peter and I were dropped off in the parking lot of the Falcon Substation at Academy Blvd and Briargate, and only then was my cellphone returned with which I could try to arrange a ride. By the time we were able to return to our friends and vehicles at the convention, the 7-10am demonstration was passed.

Several weeks beforehand the CSPD had conducted public meetings for citizens to hear about the convention security measures. I attended none of these meetings, but gained a general understanding from a symposium held by the ACLU attended by a CSPD representative. Another CSPD commander turned up on Tuesday May 12 at the monthly ACLU board meeting to apprise our members again of the city’s plans. It was here we learned that there were two “Free Speech Zones” to be made available to the public. Of particular interest were the now graciously added grassy almond shaped areas adjacent the main steps to the World Arena. From this briefing it was decided to relocate our banners to those parts, as they afforded visibility to all delegates attending the convention, not just those coming from the hotels along Geyser Drive.

On Saturday we discovered that those spots were not being offered to us. And this was the source of the confusion. Despite being reminded that a roomful of ACLU members and lawyers had witnessed what the convention organizers had purportedly offered to be public areas, the police held steadfast that no such close-up access would be given. There would have been no confusion on Saturday if an advance agreement from either side had not been presumed. There would have been less disappointment on our part if an area accorded free speech rights had not been perceived to have been withdrawn.

The application of a Free Speech Zone was almost farcical. Police Officers stood at the edge of the World Arena property checking for credentials. Helpers beside them called down the line, warning that no one without credentials would be allowed unto the property. When it came my turn to be asked, I answered that I had none. They were already telling me I could not enter when I was able to get a question in edgewise. I asked: “what about the Free Speech Zone?” They answered: “Oh, you’re here for the Free Speech Zone” and they waved me through. Without a description of where it was, or that it did not extend to the limit of the police tape. An ordinary public would not have known to ask to enter the area, nor about its limits.
Police tape extended toward but did not include areas 8 and 9

Of course there would be no problem at all if we hadn’t collectively relinquished the principle of Freedom of Speech. Why has it become so critical to public safety to shield people from each other’s speech? It used to be Sticks and Stones from which we needed police protection.

The extent of the security measures were leading all to believe that a personage of important political stature would be paying the convention a visit. By five in the morning all the street corners were manned by multiple motorcycle patrolmen. Suited men in dark SUVs were conducting security sweeps into the wooded hillside. Traffic signs on the interstate were warning drivers not to stop or slow along the shoulder. Police vehicles of all stripes were patrolling the parking lots, junior policemen were positioned in pickup trucks hauling coolers full of bottled water. When we arrived at the parking lot, unmarked vehicles converged upon us but exchanged information with each other without having to get out to address us.

Later in the day, Mark and I returned to the Free Speech Zone so that he could videotape my account of what had happened. Another of our party watched as men atop the roof of the Hampton Inn followed us though spotting scopes and pointed what appeared to be parabolic listening devices in our direction. None of which could be considered excessive for security precautions at such an event, although pretty clearly our protests have shown themselves to be of little threat. It would seem the purpose of the exercise Saturday was to get in some practice.

FRI-SAT Demo State Convention Demo

FRIDAY UPDATE: As usual our Stop Funding the War message was welcomed unanimously. Democratic delegates smiled, cheered and thanked us for “keeping at it.” Their enthusiasm was no doubt bolstered by the overwhelming honks we elicited from the rush hour traffic.

Michael Moore’s people picked up on Mark’s YouTube grab of the KRDO spot, for dry runs leading to the DNC. Join the demonstration FRIDAY 3-6pm at the DoubleTree Hotel and SATURDAY 7-10am in front of the World Arena. Details at PROTESTCOLORADO.ORG

Freedom of Speech in America IMO

Free Speech -use it or loose it.Reprinted from vol 30, no 2
Active For Justice:

As one on the receiving end of a rather abrupt truncation of free expression in last year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, and having participated this year with a toned-down message calculated to least offend, I don’t offer healthy prospects for Freedom of Speech as this nation progresses forward.

Even as the populace gets excited about a potential Obama victory, the candidate himself has been aligning with the disasterous policies of the current administration. Indeed Barack Obama has voted with Bush thus far. I predict therefore that voices for social justice will still feel the call to protest, and likewise the government’s need to silence dissent will continue.

More and more headlines tell of Americans deprived of their voice. Most recently a man was denied entry to a shopping mall on account of his t-shirt, despite courts deciding people have that right. Such indignant citizens are regularly arrested and detained, to be released without filing charges. The pattern has become to keep activists from public view until after whatever they are protesting has passed. Municipalities weigh the risk of incurring civil suits against the imperative to obfuscate criticism.

The PPJPC will have an interesting opportunity to test its members’ First Amendment protection with the 2008 Democratic State Convention coming to Colorado Springs. This will be no mere protest of a visiting dignitary, nor a picketing of a military facility. The convention will bring thousands of delegates together to the World Arena on May 16 and 17, where they will formalize the platform for their state party. The delegates will be skirting a panoply of issues, all of them relevant to the populace outside, many dear to us. Social justice groups from all over will be well served to take this opportunity to communicate with these delegates on the sidewalks and in front of TV cameras.

Citizens expect the Democratic Party to be more responsive to their constituents than Republicans, but the Democrats certainly haven’t
shown it. The state convention will be exactly the place to address such representative responsibility loud and clear.

The Colorado Springs city manager and CSPD have already begun expressing what they’d like to see, or not see, by way of public
demonstrations. They approve of the minimal turnout for the Bush protest of 2005, where activists were kept to Venetucci Boulevard. The
city is offering to host a forum to listen to public opinion while the convention continues without interruption. As yet there has been no
public mention of restrictions.

The World Arena sits on land stewarded by the El Pomar Foundation. Certainly the facility was built with participation from the city. The
street which connects Cheyenne Meadows Drive to Frontage Road, though it is marked “private,” has city curbs, signs and culverts. Whether the grounds are public or private could bear to be challenged in court. But as trends go, the police could feel safe in designating Free Speech Zones at certain areas of the grounds.

We don’t have to push it that far. The World Arena parking area is surrounded by several well situated public egresses from which to
demonstrate a message. We can choose to be seen by cars entering and exiting, or by pedestrians walking to and from their nearby hotel accommodations. There are places to hand out fliers and places visible to the convention doors. There is even a location prominent to where a national candidate, or two, could arrive, if the party deems it strategic to make a show for the Colorado delegates.

Efforts are underway to coordinate activist groups from Denver and Boulder to join us, to push the convention goers toward more
progressive, and in our case, moral ideals. This should prove a good measure of what Coloradans retain of their Freedom of Speech, and will be a good exercise for refining a message if we choose to participate in Denver demonstrations planned by our national colleagues at the Democratic National Convention this August.

PROTESTCOLORADO targets the 2008 Colorado State Democratic Convention

The City of Colorado Springs has interesting plans for you if you feel inclined to raise a citizen’s voice at the 2008 State Democratic Convention to be held May 16-17 at the World Arena. The city is hosting a public forum or two, scheduled to run at the same time as the convention, for the public to vent its concerns without having to disrupt the Democratic Party activities. Possible demonstration areas for the 2008 Democratic State Convention As for protest, they are hoping to see no more than the 2005 Bush visit demo which police contained to the west side of Venetucci Boulevard. This time however, there will be no presidential secret service prerogative to commandeer public property.
You may be excited about Obama, but has he promised anything substantive on issues dear to you? Come let the Democrats know what you think of their centrism –when it leaves unresolved immigration, economy, labor, environment, health care and war. Join the fun on Friday evening, May 16, as the delegates arrive, and all day Saturday May 17.
No permits are needed. Check PROTEST COLORADO for updates on logistics. Make this Representative Democracy a Participatory Democracy!