Friday, August 21, 2009

Suit filed over mass arrest during DNC

Suit filed over mass arrest during DNC


By Felisa Cardona
The Denver Post

Posted: 08/20/2009 09:44:48 AM MDT

Updated: 08/20/2009 01:37:35 PM MDT


Denver police shoot pepper spray at a group gathered for a DNC protest in downtown Denver on Monday, August 25, 2008. More than a hundred protesters were arrested on this night. (Noah Rabinowitz, The Denver Post)

Eight people who were arrested on the second day of the Democratic National Convention during a mass protest filed a lawsuit against the City and County of Denver last night alleging wrongful arrest.

The plaintiffs who filed their case in Denver District Court - are represented by lawyers for the ACLU of Colorado and include a legal observer for the People's Law Project, a journalist, students documenting the protest and onlookers along 15th Street and Cleveland Place on Aug. 25.

In addition, the lawsuit is seeking class-action status for nearly 100 people who were held at a special jail, dubbed "Gitmo on the Platte" and claim they were denied access to attorneys who came to provide advice.

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.

"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."

Police ultimately arrested 106 people, the highest number of arrests in a single day during the convention.

Silverstein said that of the 54 persons who did not accept an immediate plea bargain for their charges, at least 38 were exonerated after jury trials or after prosecutors dismissed charges.


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