Dem convention protesters lining up to fight charges
September 17, 2008
DENVER, Colorado ” Manuca Salazar came to downtown Denver to protest the war in Iraq on the first day of the Democratic National Convention.
The protest ended Aug. 25 with Salazar in police custody for 10 hours. The 22-year-old Denver child-care worker is charged with, among other things, “throwing stones or missiles.”
She denies it and says she didn’t see anyone else throwing rocks, either.
“I wasn’t violent at all,” Salazar said.
Salazar is among more than one-third of the demonstrators arrested during the convention who are expected to fight the charges against them.
Of 154 people arrested, 29 have pleaded not guilty and are demanding jury trials, said Brian Vicente of the People’s Law Project, which is lining up defense attorneys for those arrested. Vicente said he expects another 30 to demand jury trials when they go before a judge in October.
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About 75 have pleaded guilty, said Vince DiCroce, director of prosecutions for the city attorneys office.
In cases that go to trial, the city will have to produce witnesses who can testify that the arrested people committed the crimes with which they were charged, Vicente said. In Salazar’s case, the city will need someone who saw her hurl an object, Vicente said.
Cathryn Hazouri, the executive director of the Colorado Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said her group is studying the cases to determine whether to bring a civil suit against the city for the treatment of the protesters.
Among those who said he would join such a suit is Bryson Smith. He was arrested even though, he says, he was not protesting.
“I was on the street and I couldn’t leave the street and I was arrested,” said Smith, 20, who lives downtown and delivers pizzas.
Smith said he was headed back to his car after spending time on the 16th Street Mall when he wandered into the same area where Salazar was being arrested.
Smith spent about 23 hours in jail until he was bailed out by his father.
Smith said his friend, who also was arrested, pleaded guilty and was released after paying a small fine.
“I pleaded not guilty. I’m getting an attorney and I’m going to fight it,” Smith said.
Among those who pleaded guilty was Mary Colsch, 75, of Caledonia, Minn. She was arrested on the second day of the convention with other anti-abortion protesters who were blocking a gate at the Pepsi Center.
She spent one day in jail rather than pay $149 in fines and court costs.
“To me, this life issue is the most important, and until we get to where abortion is illegal once again in the United States, that’s where I’ll be (on the issues),” Colsch said. “I don’t care about any other issue.”
Frank Anello, of Denver, said police grabbed him near the Auraria campus Aug. 24, the day before the convention began.
Anello, his pregnant wife and 3-year-old child were downtown to protest the war in Iraq.
He said the protest was already over, and Anello’s wife was using a porta-potty when a Humvee full of police in riot gear arrived. He said he was arrested after refusing to give his name or let officers search his backpack.
Anello said his face was covered at the time. He had covered it during the protest because he didn’t want police to identify him.
But, he said, police also had their faces covered.