City of Denver v. George Floyd protesters
BY PEYTON GARCIA | @CITYCASTDENVER
DENVER GOES TO FEDERAL COURT
Here’s what’s going on:
The city of Denver is at the center of a federal civil lawsuit in the US District Court of Colorado. That’s a big deal. A group of plaintiffs made up of demonstrators who participated in Denver’s 2020 George Floyd protests near the state capitol is taking the city of Denver before a jury. The protesters are alleging that city police officers used excessive force on peaceful demonstrators causing long-lasting physical and psychological damage and violating their constitutional rights.
While protesters in cities across the country have filed similar claims against police in their own communities, this is the first case surrounding the 2020 protests in the nation to go before a jury. The trial is expected to last three weeks. Opening statements were delivered on Monday. The court began to hear witness testimonies yesterday.
How did it come to this?
Back in December of 2020, following an investigation into the Denver Police Department’s behavior during the protests, the city’s Independent Monitor released a report that said it found some of DPD’s actions to be “extremely troubling.” The city has already settled a multitude of lawsuits with other protesters from this same time period, totaling in a payout of more than $3 million. That investigation was sort of a catalyst for taking this case to court.
What are the plaintiffs saying?
The group of 12 protesters behind the lawsuit say they suffered serious injuries from DPD officers — one plaintiff was pepper sprayed in the face at close range, another says their skull was fractured. They also say they suffer from nightmares and other psychological trauma from the experience. The plaintiffs are educators, dentists, health professionals, and local business owners within the metro Denver community, and they say their first amendment rights were violated.
“They came to protest police violence and were met with police violence because the police did not like what they had to say,” said Makeba Rutahindurwa, an attorney for the protesters.
What’s the city have to say?
First amendment rights “are not unlimited.” Denver’s defense attorneys argue that the “unprecedented violence and destruction” police witnessed justified their actions. The defense reports that more than 70 officers were injured after people threw rocks, bottles, and fireworks at them.
“When justifiable anger turns to violence and destruction, it’s the responsibility of police to intervene as a matter of public safety,” said Lindsay Jordan, assistant city attorney.
City attorneys also argue that in the midst of the chaos, police officers were unable to differentiate between peaceful protesters and “agitators.” Therefore, the “behavior of the crowd as a whole” is what the jury should consider when determining if use of force was necessary.
What happens now?
We wait and let the trial play out. A lot of big name Denver officials are expected to appear on the stand, including Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen and former Independent Monitor Nick Mitchell (who launched the investigation in the first place).
A cache of memos that come from the Independent Monitor’s Office are also slated to be brought in and examined, and they’ve got people whispering. The notes allegedly show a police lieutenant and captain criticizing DPD leaders on the handling of the protests, citing a lack of supervision and training among responding officers.
Then, it’s up to the jury to decide if there’s enough evidence to prove whether DPD used excessive force and was not adequately trained on crowd control, and if so, how much money the city will have to pay the plaintiffs.
👉 Resources: Axios Denver, Denver Post, Denverite
In Monday’s newsletter I may have inadvertently panicked local Quiznos lovers — the original Quiznos location on Grant and 13th is NOT closed. In fact, reader Tim J. ate there for lunch last week. Thanks for letting me know, Tim! 😅
TODAY ON THE POD 🏘️
“There’s no other city in the United States right now where you, as a Black homebuyer, can go and get $40,000 in down payment assistance. That’s an unprecedented amount of money that recognizes the fact that we need to come up with radical solutions.” — Santhosh Ramdoss, a VP at Gary Community Ventures
Are $40,000 Loans The Key to Closing Denver’s Racial Wealth Gap?
Until recently, Justin Murchison wasn’t really thinking about buying a home. He was more focused on paying his credit card debt down, building a decent savings account, and taking care of his plants. Then he stumbled upon an opportunity that most young people in Denver only dream about right now: A path to buying your first home. City Cast Denver host Bree Davies chats with Justin about his journey to homeownership. Plus, we’ll hear from Santhosh Ramdoss, a vice president of impact investing at Gary Community Ventures, who helped create The Dearfield Fund that made Justin’s home purchase possible.
Picture your ad right here! 🪧
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So get YOUR message out to our city’s best audience right now in the City Cast Denver newsletter or on the City Cast Denver podcast. Learn more at citycast.fm/advertise or email us at email@example.com.
A NOTE FROM LIZZIE 🎭
City Cast Producer Lizzie Goldsmith just so happens to also be City Cast Denver’s resident theater expert. She recently saw a performance that she had to tell y’all about:
“Hey guys, I went to the opening night of ‘Refuge’ at Curious Theatre last weekend, and it absolutely blew me away. I’ve never seen anything quite like it on stage — a successfully bilingual story, heartbreaking puppetry, and the incorporation of magical realism in a story about the immigration crisis.”
Get more local theater recs from Lizzie right here!
OTHER ODDS AND ENDS
😍 “Baby, come back”: You can blame it all on us, Von. In a series of vague social media posts, former Broncos MVP Von Miller is hinting he misses us as much as we miss him. “I wonder if they will give me my old locker back?” he posted on his Instagram story recently with a photo of him as a Bronco. [Denver Post]
- 🏈 Rumors quashed: Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers agreed to a four-year contract with the Packers, ending long-running rumors that he might come to Denver. [Denver Post]
- 🏈 “One of the biggest trades in NFL history”: That’s what ESPN sports writer Adam Schefter is calling the Broncos’ securement of Super Bowl champ and former Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. And they only had to trade three players and five draft picks to land him. [ESPN]
🏠 Tiny homes for the unhoused: Denver’s tiny home village for people experiencing homelessness will get five additional homes, expanding from 19 to 24, when it relocates to a new property in Elyria-Swansea later this spring. The program is operated by the Colorado Village Collaborative and works to transition unhoused residents into stable housing. [Denverite]
- ⛺ More on the Colorado Village Collaborative’s efforts to aid the unhoused: Check out Monday’s episode of City Cast Denver, “Tackling the housing crisis one heated ice fishing tent at a time.”
🤫 Fuel up on the cheap: Yesterday, I shared reports about the country’s skyrocketing gas prices, noting that the highest rate in the state was $4.99 — yeesh! But the cat’s outta the bag now that Axios found and shared the cheapest pumps in the metro area. Inside Denver proper that’s the Phillips 66 at 3097 South Sheridan Boulevard with a rate of “only” $3.39 per gallon. [Axios Denver]
🚒 “We didn’t know better”: The Denver Fire Department is undergoing the painstaking process of ridding the fire station and its fire engines of the cancer-causing, extinguishing foam that’s been used for decades. The Colorado Attorney General plans to sue a number of foam companies for allegedly knowing about the danger, but not sounding the alarm. [KDVR]
⚖️ Hostility and disrimination within the DA’s office? A former high-ranking female prosecutor has filed a lawsuit against the Denver District Attorney’s office, alleging a toxic work environment that permits gender discrimination and acts of retaliaition. [BusinessDen]