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ACLU Objects To Denver Cop Precautions

From Denver’s Rocky Mountain News:


[New York Times caption from 2004:] F.B.I. agents and Denver police officers visited Sarah Bardwell, right, and a housemate, Sarah Graves, and two neighbors, Christopher Riederer, second from right, and Blake, who would not give his last name, at their homes to ask them about political and antiwar protest activities.

ACLU objects to police memo

By Berny Morson, Rocky Mountain News
August 21, 2008

American Civil Liberties Union leaders objected Thursday to a Denver Police Department memo asking officers to be on the lookout for stockpiles of items that could be used to fuel a riot during the Democratic National Convention.

The one-page memo said rioters in other cities have used items such as metal pipes or shields in confrontations with police officers.

Colorado ACLU legal director Mark Silverstein called the memo “unnecessarily provocative.”

“It has the potential to get police officers all amped up and looking for a confrontation at a time when what we need is cool heads and restraint,” he said.

Silverstein said the ACLU has no indication that officers have entered private property in search of suspect items.

Police spokesman Sonny Jackson said the department is being prudent at a time when large numbers of protesters are expected.

“We would be remiss if we did not take measures to protect the public,” he said.

Officers expect protesters will follow the law, but a few individuals might not, Jackson said.

Under a 2003 agreement, the Denver Police Department said it would stop keeping files on people with controversial political views. Officers were not to gather data on people without a “reasonable suspicion of criminal activity,” Silverstein said.

That agreement expired in May, however, and Silverstein fears the memo may mean the resumption of surveillance.

That is not the intent, Jackson said.

The memo only asks officers to be aware of items that might be used in riots, not to take any specific actions, Jackson noted.

“It just says be on the lookout, be aware. That’s all it does,” he said.

Sarah Bardwell, who lives in central Denver, said a police officer asked her on Friday why she was taking delivery of bricks.

Bardwell, who spoke at an ACLU press conference, said she explained that she was repairing her home, and the officer left.

The memo asks officers to look for items such as helmets or gas masks and stockpiles of nails.

The ACLU at work.

Under a 2003 agreement, the Denver Police Department said it would stop keeping files on people with controversial political views.

An agreement with whom? The ACLU again?

Is there nothing they won’t do to try to bring down our system of government?

By the way, the Rocky Mountain Times (and probably the rest of our media) will carry this story without bothering to Google any of those quoted.

For instance, Sarah Bardwell is a longtime darling of the ACLU:

Sarah Bardwell was an intern at the American Friends Services Committee in 2004 when agents of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, accompanied by Denver police in SWAT gear, suddenly appeared at the home in Denver where she lives with other antiwar and social justice activists.

And indeed, Ms. Bardwell was such a well known domestic terrorist political troublemaker that she was also questioned by the FBI in the run up to the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City:

F.B.I. Goes Knocking for Political Troublemakers

By ERIC LICHTBLAU

August 16, 2004

WASHINGTON, Aug. 15 – The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been questioning political demonstrators across the country, and in rare cases even subpoenaing them, in an aggressive effort to forestall what officials say could be violent and disruptive protests at the Republican National Convention in New York.

F.B.I. officials are urging agents to canvass their communities for information about planned disruptions aimed at the convention and other coming political events, and they say they have developed a list of people who they think may have information about possible violence. They say the inquiries, which began last month before the Democratic convention in Boston, are focused solely on possible crimes, not on dissent, at major political events.

But some people contacted by the F.B.I. say they are mystified by the bureau’s interest and felt harassed by questions about their political plans.

“The message I took from it,” said Sarah Bardwell, 21, an intern at a Denver antiwar group who was visited by six investigators a few weeks ago, “was that they were trying to intimidate us into not going to any protests and to let us know that, ‘hey, we’re watching you.’ ”

The unusual initiative comes after the Justice Department, in a previously undisclosed legal opinion, gave its blessing to controversial tactics used last year by the F.B.I in urging local police departments to report suspicious activity at political and antiwar demonstrations to counterterrorism squads. The F.B.I. bulletins that relayed the request for help detailed tactics used by demonstrators – everything from violent resistance to Internet fund-raising and recruitment…

F.B.I. officials in Washington have urged field offices around the country in recent weeks to redouble their efforts to interview sources and gather information that might help to detect criminal plots. The only lead to emerge publicly resulted in a warning to authorities before the Boston convention that anarchists or other domestic groups might bomb news vans there. It is not clear whether there was an actual plot.

The individuals visited in recent weeks “are people that we identified that could reasonably be expected to have knowledge of such plans and plots if they existed,” Mr. Parris said. ..

“This kind of pressure has a real chilling effect on perfectly legitimate political activity,” said Mark Silverstein, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, where two groups of political activists in Denver and a third in Fort Collins were visited by the F.B.I. “People are going to be afraid to go to a demonstration or even sign a petition if they justifiably believe that will result in your having an F.B.I. file opened on you.”

The issue is a particularly sensitive one in Denver, where the police agreed last year to restrictions on local intelligence-gathering operations after it was disclosed that the police had kept files on some 3,000 people and 200 groups involved in protests

So it looks like the police were right to ask Ms. Bardwell about her sudden interest in bricks.

And so much for her Quaker beliefs, eh?

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, August 22nd, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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