"The action I am taking is no more than a radical measure to hasten the explosion of truth and justice. I have but one passion: to enlighten those who have been kept in the dark, in the name of humanity which has suffered so much and is entitled to happiness. My fiery protest is simply the cry of my very soul. Let them dare, then, to bring me before a court of law and let the enquiry take place in broad daylight!" - Emile Zola, J'accuse! (1898) -

Saturday, August 16, 2008

"Gitmo on the Platte" Secret Service, CIA, Military Plans to Suppress Protest at the DNC in Denver. This is Intolerable and constitutes a Police Powers Act Of Provocation and signals that the Constitution shall not be in play in Denver. Denver will be different than Chicago in “68”!

Anyone who studies American history knows that freedom of assembly is always conditional on who is assembling, and why. Forty years ago, when students and youth poured into Chicago aiming to stop Democratic Party support for the Vietnam war , as the Mayor of Chicago sent the police into the streets to gas and beat the protesters bloody. Bedlam broke out inside the convention over the war in southeast Asia, and the war outside on the streets, as the youth chanted “The whole world is watching!”

Denver, CO (USA): Since early 2007, even before the city was announced as the location for the 2008 Democratic National Convention, activists have been planning to hold what Mark Cohen, of the Denver coalition Recreate68 calls the “biggest anti-war demonstration in Denver since Vietnam” in response to the convention. This plan has taken on even more urgency and righteousness as the Democratic Party now owns this war, having voted funds for it six times since taking over Congress in 2006.

For more than a year, the city of Denver stalled and blocked the granting of permits for marches, citing “national security” as the reason they couldn’t disclose “confidential” information on permits, which they wouldn't accept applications for. The Secret Service designated both the DNC (August 25-28), and the Republican National Convention (Sept 1-4 in St. Paul MN) as National Special Security Events. $50 million in federal funds for “security” went to each city.

The New York Times reports that “Federal and local authorities are girding for huge protests, mammoth traffic tie-ups and civil disturbances.” In an intensifying atmosphere less than two weeks before the convention, a “designated protest zone” is being built in the parking lot at the Pepsi Center, where the convention will be held. The 47,000 square foot pen of chain link fence will be double-fenced, with 8’ between fences to prevent “escape.” The closest edge of the zone is more than 700 feet from the convention center doors, almost completely blocked by huge media tents, and barely visible from the convention center. Reportedly, the cages will be ringed by concrete barriers and rows of police, with concrete barriers inside so that the crowd can’t surge together. See photos here

Recreate68 and a dozen other groups filed a lawsuit this spring to force the city to grant protest permits. The ACLU brought the suit against the city of Denver and the Secret Service. Cohen says, "The city said they couldn't disclose information because the Secret Service wouldn't tell the city their plans. But once we filed suit, suddenly the started releasing information. Then the second phase of the suit was to challenge the constitutionality of the security arrangements, which the judge of course upheld."

March permits were granted in June for each day of the convention, but only during the hours of 11am to 3pm, so that permits expire before the convention starts each day. Permit routes end more than a third of a mile from the convention center, and from the Invesco Mile High Stadium, where Barack Obama will give his acceptance speech on Thursday, August 28. Another “freedom cage” will be erected there. Rally permits were granted for Civic Center Park, about a mile from the convention, but ultimately denied for City Park, and larger venue further away.

During the trial on the lawsuit July 29, The Denver Post reported, “Mark Cohen testified that the security conditions around the DNC will make demonstrators look like animals in a cage and that the delegates won't hear them. He also said that the public demonstration zone is blocked by a media tent and other structures that limit ‘sight and sound’ access to the delegates. ‘It is not the image of fellow citizens but rather prisoners in a cage with no clear connection to the purpose of their being there,’ Cohen said.”

“Before the trial started, members of Recreate 68 staged a quiet protest outside the U.S. District Courthouse against the Secret Service and the city while wearing orange jail jumpsuits with the words ‘Dissent is not a crime yet.’ They also placed silver duct tape over their mouths.”

Under the rubric of the “war on terror,” the government argued that there should be no restrictions on their determination of what constitutes “national security” risks, nor on their ability to restrict the movement of people, or the methods or timing of protest. The federal district court judge sided with the government, ruling that the restrictions on protest are justified by “national security” concerns. “We are going to file our appeal in the street,” Glen Spagnuolo of Recreate68 said after federal Judge Marcia Krieger announced her decision.

The ACLU also brought suit against the government to determine what types of security equipment have been purchased. ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein told The Denver Post the ACLU had “learned that a manufacturer of pepper-ball guns had earned a contract with the city because the information was posted on the manufacturer's website, but the city has refused to say whether the purchase was made.” Ultimately the ACLU postponed the lawsuit, in exchange for an agreement that the city would disclose purchases. But all the ACLU received was a non-specific list, including more than $500,000 in equipment for the purpose of mass arrests.

Preparations for mass detentions, and crowd-control weapons, including use of portable plastic fences used in NYC in 2004 at the Republican National Convention, and “exercises” of BlackHawk helicopters flying over the city in June give an indication of just how much the local and federal authorities are concerned that mass protest may break out in Denver.

On August 13, CBS4 News broadcast footage of a previously undisclosed detention facility the city is preparing in a warehouse in northeast Denver. They report, “Inside are dozens are metal cages. They are made out of chain link fence material and topped by rolls of barbed wire…Each of the fenced areas is about 5 yards by 5 yards and there is a lock on the door. A sign on the wall reads ‘Warning! Electric stun devices used in this facility.’"

CBS4 news also reported that activists immediately called the facility “Gitmo on the Platte” referring to the local Platte River. The facility is “reminiscent of a political prisoner camp or a concentration camp," said Zoe Williams of Code Pink, who was shown the footage. And the blogs filled up. “’They hate our freedoms.’ Gee, George W. was right after all! Whoops, wrong country.” “If an organization were to plan to hold hundreds of dogs in those cages, the Humane Society would have to get involved.”

The Denver Post reports August 14 that the city is saying "the center will have air conditioning, water, restrooms and medical staff, as well as telephones for detainees to reach family and attorneys." But Mark Silverstein, legal director of the ACLU of Colorado said, "Colorado law requires that confidential attorney visits be accommodated at the temporary detention facility as well."

According to the New York Times, “The Secret Service, the Pentagon, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and scores of police departments are moving thousands of agents, analysts, officers and employees to Denver for the Aug. 25-28 convention. They will operate through a complex hierarchy of command centers, steering committees and protocols to respond to disruptions…The Denver Police Department will nearly double in size, according to federal officials involved in the planning. The city is bringing in nearly 1,500 police officers from communities throughout Colorado and beyond, even inviting an eight-person mounted unit from Cheyenne, WY.”