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"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance" -- Thomas Jefferson

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DNC Police Riot Preview?

Activists Declare Zero Tolerance for Poorly-trained and Rogue Federal Agents

For immediate release, August 18, 2008

Contact: Rob Savoye, Colorado Legal Eagles
Joseph Vigorito, Colorado Legal Eagles

[Denver, CO] -- Was the July federal attack on Rainbow peace activists a preview for DNC police riots? Colorado activists are asking Denver officials to adopt a zero tolerance policy for poorly-trained and rogue federal law enforcement officers who will be providing security at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in downtown Denver from Aug. 24 through Aug. 28. The Colorado Legal Eagles, a local civil rights group, is asking Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and Colorado Governor Bill Ritter to begin an investigation into brutal and violent tactics used on July 3 by federal agents in Wyoming against peace activists in the National Forest, in the hopes of preventing those same tactics from being used against peace activists at the DNC. The violent tactics, which injured several adults and children, include the shooting of pepper bullets into crowds of women and children, pointing semi-automatic rifles at children, and repeatedly tasering a man who was handcuffed.

Attendees of the annual Rainbow Gathering meet every year on the July 4 holiday in the national forest to camp, commune with nature, and pray for peace. This year's Gathering was in southwestern Wyoming near Big Sandy and was attended by about 6,000 campers. Every year, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) increases its attempts to disrupt and cause violence at the Rainbow Family's peaceful gatherings. This year's Gathering was no exception and was almost certainly used by the feds as a training exercise for the DNC.

The pathetic examples of crowd control exhibited by these federal agents is either extremely poor training or done intentionally to provoke the crowd. One incident occurred on July 3 in the Kid Village area of the Gathering, where all the children in the campground play. The incident began when twelve to twenty federal agents stormed into Kid Village, brandishing handguns, rifles, shotguns, tasers and pepper bullet guns with the intent to arrest one person for what was later said to be suspicion of marijuana possession.

Panic and terror ensued as the feds stormed Kid Village, which was crowded with dozens of campers and children. One woman who tried to ask the agents what was going on was brutally thrown to the ground and also arrested. No one knew why the camp had suddenly been invaded by armed federal agents

Several videos posted on the internet show what happened next in detail.

The hundreds of Rainbows in Kid Village try to dispel the tense situation by chanting "Om" (a type of meditation chant with calming effects.). Rainbow cries of "We love you" and "We mean you no harm" directed at the federal agents are heard.

Without any warning whatsoever, several USFS federal agents open fire into the crowd. Instead of trying to communicate with the crowd and control it, they started firing their guns at close range and at random, using what was determined later to be hard plastic pepper bullets. As the feds retreated with the two people they had arrested, they repeatedly opened fire without warning into the crowd, injuring both adults and children, and hitting one man in the face. There are also reports that the feds used rubber bullets and that one federal agent pointed his gun at several children and a baby.

The agents had no bullhorn and did not try to communicate with the crowd in any way, causing questions on whether or not they intentionally tried to incite the crowd to get angry and violent. Instead, they instantly formed a defensive posture, with guns pointed outward. The only ones who tried to control the crowd were several Rainbow peace activists. Shouts of "Stay back. Stay where you are" are heard from the Rainbows. Several peace activists who tried to help by standing as buffers between the federal agents and campers were shot repeatedly with pepper bullets in the back.

Police say these relatively new non-lethal weapons are similar to paint balls, however, they are not that innocuous. Photos of injuries caused by the pepper bullets show just how deadly these weapons are:

Pepper bullet injury, Wyoming Rainbow Gathering 2008

Pepper bullet injury, Wyoming Rainbow Gathering 2008. White powder is the PAVA in the bullets.

Pepper bullet injury, Wyoming Rainbow Gathering 2008

"In the days when cops only had guns and shooting people would kill them, they were a lot more careful about using weapons," says Rob Savoye, Colorado Legal Eagles. "Now that they have less than lethal weaponry, there is nothing to stop them from shooting at people. In fact, because these weapons are supposedly 'less than lethal', law enforcement is actually encouraged to start shooting at people. These weapons are extremely lethal, and the cops need to understand that."

Savoye continued, "These videos show the feds weren't sufficiently trained to deal with the stress of dealing with large crowds of people. They got easily upset in situations where they shouldn't have. I hope the DNC security force has a lot better training. Like the Rainbows, the DNC protesters are just people exercising their First Amendment rights and there is no reason to start shooting at them."

Joseph Vigorito, another member of the Colorado Legal Eagles, says, "It's clear they went in there to inflict pain and hurt people. There was no one posing any threat whatsoever. The feds were just looking to incite a response from the crowd."

This is likely to be a preview of what crowd control will look like at the DNC. The USFS federal agents presumably received the same training as the federal agents who will be controlling the crowds at the DNC. The DNC security is being lead by the Secret Service, with help from the National Guard and other federal agencies.

At the DNC, federal agents are likely to find themselves in instances where they must make an arrest in a crowd of people. Will they handle it the same heavy-handed way they did in Wyoming, storming into the crowd and shooting at random? Or will they come equipped with bullhorns to communicate with the crowd and a better tactic to arrest one person in the midst of thousands?

Denver received a $50 million dollar grant for security during the DNC. If the training of the federal agents in Wyoming is any indication of how well-trained the agents will be during the DNC, we are in store for a repeat of the "police riots" of the 1968 DNC in Chicago.

Contact Mayor Hickenlooper and Governor Ritter and urge them to have zero tolerance for any police "overreaction" during the DNC:

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper
Phone: 720-865-9000 (Denver 311)
Ask for the Mayor's Office

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter
Phone: (303) 866-2471
Fax: (303) 866-2003
Online feedback form

For more information:





Pray for Peace

© Colorado Legal Eagles

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