Colorado Legal Eagles
"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance" -- Thomas Jefferson

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In the summer of 1994, local events in the Boulder moved us into dealing with the Boulder Police Deparment's Zero Tolerance policy towards the homeless, and the Rainbow Family. This lead to a period of serious infringement of the rights of people of a certain "profile". This group was characterized in the media as being all "Rainbows", when in reality it was a loosely defined "appearance" between Rainbows, Deadheads, and chronic homeless.

Deadheads Get Maced
September 14, 1994
Subject: Trespassing charges to be heard Friday, September 16, 1994 against 13 defendants

Thirteen persons will face charges of trespassing on Friday. The Colorado Legal Eagles have conducted an investigation after local press referred to the incident as a "RAINBOW RAMPAGE". The investigation showed evidence that:

1. The defendants were charged after one of their friends was assaulted and maced by Boulder police for sleeping in a car.

2. The situation was created as a direct result of a policy of the Boulder police department to harass and drive "undesirables" from Boulder. The department refers to this policy as "zero tolerance". While many of the individual actions of department members were blatantly unconstitutional the policy itself is unconstitutional in that the officers on the street are choosing whom is desirable and whom should be exiled from the City of Boulder.

3. The Boulder police department has provided media outlets with false information to justify their actions, such as;

a) blocking the exits of the hospital parking lot with police cars while screaming "leave! leave the area!" (expletives deleted) then charging defendants with trespassing. No mention, in police press reports, was made that it was not possible to "leave" do to the blocking of the hospital road;
b) reporting to the press that only one or two persons was maced when in fact all but one of the individuals was maced, many being pulled from cars by their hair and maced 6 inches from the face, no matter what individual conduct displayed;

c) reported to the press the officers gave every opportunity to disperse peacefully, when in fact, it seemed to those present, police personnel were deliberately inciting and pressing buttons with derogatory statements and foul language;

d) reported to the press that security at the hospital removed the individuals to the parking area and intimated they had caused a disturbance, when in fact the only disturbance was after the police arrived and began the assault;

e) defendents claim that it was impossible to comply with police orders to leave the hospital parking lot because all the drivers had been maced;

f) not all misleading, and sometimes blatatly false statements are listed;

4) The Boulder police violated standard department policy by refusing to provide medical care to those that are maced, (the department would latter make statements to the press that all those wishing treatment were treated and individual police officers made false statements to their superiors that defendants were offered treatment when in fact all but one of the arrestees were virtually begging for water and or treatment for their eyes and requests were ignored).

This situation arose from the same treatment and policy this office investigated last month against homeless people and Rainbow Family people. Officers on the street are acting with wanton disregard for the constitutional rights of individuals belonging to a class of individuals consisting of poor, homeless, Rainbow, Grateful Dead followers or any other group the department selects for exile. The Boulder police have usurped the Judicial branch of government by beginning the punishment on the spot at the point of arrest at the discretion of the officer. There has been, to date, no significant oversight of officers conduct.

The Colorado Legal Eagles take the position that these issues must not be ignored. We view this as first, extremely dangerous and sooner or later someone will be seriously hurt or possibly even killed, and second, egregious to our long held beliefs in tolerance and constitutional principals.

Colorado Legal Eagles, P.O. Box 506, Nederland, CO 80466

Public Roundtable
October 3, 1994
SUBJECT: "Round Table" discussion arranged by ACLU; the topic of discussion will be treatment by police of alternative lifestyle individuals;

WHERE: Boulder Public Library, conference room;

WHEN: Tuesday, October 4, 1994 - at 1:30 to 3:30 PM;

A five person panel will take public concerns on the Boulder Police Department policy known as "zero tolerance" pertaining to demographic groups labeled "undesirables".

The City will be represented by Boulder Police Chief, Tom Kolby. Business interests will be represented by the Downtown Management Commission and the Downtown Boulder Association. The ACLU and the civil rights implications will be represented by Carla Selby, Chairperson of the Boulder County chapter of the ACLU. Some of the persons effected by the policy will be represented by Joseph Vigorito of The Colorado Legal Eagles.
The format will be ten minutes each for opening statements, followed by a short panel discussion. The floor will then be open to the public with a limit of three minutes of comment each.

The Colorado Legal Eagles wish to open a dialog with the city and business interests on the ramifications of the "zero tolerance" policy.

The Eagles will release to the public the results of its' investigation, including video, still pictures, declarations of individuals, and a summary of more than twenty interviews of witnesses and those effected by the policy.

Colorado Legal Eagles, P.O. Box 506, Nederland, CO 80466

October 4, 1994

Public Roundtable On The Zero Tolerance Policy

October 4th Round Table Discussion on "Zero Tolerance", and is the Boulder Police Dept. pursuing the best possible course?

The Colorado Legal Eagles are pleased to see this discussion begin. Since our first involvement with this case (after the July 24th demonstration that blocked 13th street at Pearl St. Mall), on two radio shows and in all press releases, we have been calling on the parties in interest to come together and explore other options. It was plain, within the first few hours, some serious problems were occurring. We, here, at these discussions, will either begin to address these problems or let them fester into what might conceivably be drastic consequences, in legal actions or worse, serious bodily injury or even death.
None of us, as Americans, wish to look upon our police departments as conducting themselves anything less then honorably. The citizens first reaction is to not believe an allegation. This coupled with the financial/social status of those who might come under scrutiny, is very often exploited by police departments, and adds to the difficulty of bringing the issue to light. After interviewing more than twenty witnesses from the two cases we have highlighted we conclude the time for discussion is over due.

On July 24th a spontaneous demonstration erupted resulting in the closing of 13th Street. Numerous arrests were made. The immediate question arose, what would cause these people to place themselves in immediate jeopardy of arrest? Planned civil disobedience by those with a particular political agenda are somewhat common. But spontaneous civil disobedience can only be described as a civil disturbance and dependent on the size of the crowd, can be explosive, sometimes to a full blown riot. We found a high degree of polarization between the police and various groups on the mall. Anger was very high.

The demonstration began when a number of individuals were arrested for allegedly blocking the side walk. They were handing out donuts. The police began to confiscate personal items without warning of a violation. Arrests were made for merely asking for items to be returned. Police came in mass. They gathered in the alleys behind the mall. They attacked without warning or provocation. They confiscated and arrested and sometimes administered punishment at the officers discretion.
Individuals such as Samuel Mills, who had never been in a demonstration before in his life found himself sitting side by side with and others, blocking the road. Samuel Mills, AKA "JC" (for Jesus), 48 years old, and staunch Christian, when asked why did you block the road said, "If the kids were willing to get out there and stand up for themselves what could I do, just sit here and watch? No.... they were standing up for me too. I had to go." Samuel's attitude typified the feelings on the mall. They felt pushed and pursued. They told of being chased from place to place at night like dogs trying to find a place to sleep. Many of the places homeless people camped, outside of the city limits, up the canyon or up on left hand, along with places within the city were simultaneously closed off to them. During the day they were preyed upon by police for the smallest violation.

In Samuel's case, three times he had his sign confiscated and given a citation abusively. Perhaps it was the content of his sign that caused the confiscation. After all, others in close proximity with signs begging for money and allegedly a job were not bothered. Samuel's sign told of what the police were doing at night to homeless people. The sign asked the question of Boulder people, "Do you want your tax dollars spent for harassment?" and "Do you know how your taxes are being spent tonight?" His sign also charged "Jesus was homeless". All three times, Samuel's charges were dismissed as the law they attempted to apply pertained to licensed contractors need for a permit to erect commercial signs and not to limit speech. Samuel's staff, a beautiful piece of art work he had prayed for, was broken by the police while he was in custody. The city has refused to adequately address his complaints. He sued the police department for the value of his staff and was awarded $154 which the city is still refusing to pay.

Chris and the Deadhead Kids
On August 24th Chris arrived in Boulder at 2:00 A.M. He was traveling in a three van caravan with 18 people. They had all been together for quite some time and referred to themselves as family. They were coming from The Aspen Reggae Festival. They would be here for three days and off to Arizona to the Grateful Dead concert. So they thought.
At 4:00 A.M. he was awakened by police. The police reportedly were called to the residence for loud drumming. Two drums were being played. Thirty minutes earlier Chris had gone to his car to rest from the drive. An officer seen him in his car, parked in the ally, sleeping. The officer told him to get out of the car. The officer wouldn't respond to Chris asking three times "what for" and "what am I doing wrong?" Only repeated loud demands to get out of the car. Chris was maced six inches from his face, had his arms wrench painfully too high, and smashed into the ground. This was done in full view of all the Dead Head kids. Now, it can be said that the Dead Head kids really do love each other. The resulting chaos one could only imagine. Their brother was being abused right in front of them and there was nothing they could do about it. Chris was promptly exited from the area, and shortly thereafter in hot pursuit three vans of angry young Dead Heads.

The kids wouldn't believe the officers at the police station that Chris wasn't there. They thought he was in there someplace getting beat up. The windows of two police cars were broken, with no witnesses who did it. It was rumored two and possibly three people did the vandalism, (although they reportedly never admitted it, it is generally believed). Finally they were convinced Chris had been taken to the hospital. They went there and were blockaded in the parking lot by the police at the same time being ordered to leave the area. After about a minute of conflicting instructions sufficient police forces having arrived, they were surrounded, maced, pulled around by hair, generally abused, and arrested for allegedly trespassing the same parking lot they had been blockaded. The police had passed judgment and administered punishment to all. No judge, no jury, and innocent people were administered the punishment. The next day the judge dismissed Chris's sleeping in the car charge because he hadn't been in Boulder for the required 48 hours in using a vehicle as a living accommodation and the officer lacked probable cause.

A Common Denominator
In both cases, the demonstration and the drumming circle, the situation had gotten out of hand as a direct effect of department policy and the resulting police actions. The get tough "zero tolerance" philosophy translates on the mall (or anywhere else in the city or country for that matter) as an attack. The individual officer is turned out there with a "zero tolerance" order that translates from him/her to we can't "tolerate" you. The attack becomes personalized. Sometimes an individual or group fights back. Sometimes people are hurt or killed.
In both cases people felt pushed to the point of fighting back. Policies that bring all members of a demographic under scrutiny are likely to run into trouble with some groups. A review of Boulder Police tactics in certain instances shows a repeated lack of constitutional scrutiny when dealing with politically incorrect groups. Such as searching every car entering Boulder on Holloween, like all people are suspected criminals during those hours.

It would be far more appropriate to except the reality of Boulder as it is and abandon the social engineering project of "Zero Tolerance". Establish a meaningful dialog with the various populations. Abandon confrontational attitudes. Establish safe areas were people can sleep. Prosecute only criminals and cease to persecute demographic groups different than the mainstream. Work closer with the community and business leaders to establish more acceptable solutions for all sides.



Pray for Peace

© Colorado Legal Eagles

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