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Sheriff Refuses to Release Camera of Journalist Arrested at July Demonstration

Posted: September 5, 2015 at 9:04 am by , in Early Morning News, Featured, Metro

“I particularly focus on police brutality because it’s a big problem.”

Pat Boyle, a producer and documentarian with the media group Unicorn Riot talked to KGNU last month about how he was beaten and arrested by Denver Police on July 21, 2015 during a demonstration against police violence, “but I don’t necessarily enjoy it.”

Boyle told KGNU today that police targeted him, jumped on him, took his equipment, and arrested him while he was filming the demonstration.  Representing him, civil rights attorney Lonn Heymann attempted to secure a release of Boyle’s equipment but sheriffs refused the request saying that the camera “was evidence.”  The ACLU and the union’s Legal Director Mark Silverstein, have become involved.

Boyle said that he continues to receive medical attention for a separated rib which he says happened when “I was violently arrested” by police.

The day before on July 20, 2015 a pro-police rally was held in Civic Center Park.   Boyle said that in a community that was still experiencing the trauma of losing another resident to another fatal police shooting, that the community felt it was an inappropriate time to hold such an event.   Denver resident Paul Castaway was fatally shot by Denver Police on July 12, 2015.

Denver resident Ron MacLachlan received a permit to hold a pro-police rally in Civic Center Park on July 21, 2015.  Residents of Denver questioned why it was an appropriate event to have, in light of the recent loss to the community.  Boyle explained, “People questioned how another Denver resident could think that somehow this was a good idea.”

A counter-protest was organized by the group Coffee Not Cops where Boyle said, “People came out and shut it down,” referring to the success of the counter-protest.

The next day, July 21st the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police held their annual conference in Denver.  There were six arrests of demonstrators.  Pat Boyle gives his account of what happened that day.  This is a summary:

“Activists protesting didn’t approve of what they were doing here, ties being strengthened and basically then continuing to collude against the people for standing up to this unaccountable wave of violence that’s perpetuated by the police and is ignored by the mainstream media

I’ve witnessed a lot of violence by the police.

Not only are they targeting people of color and indigenous people but they also target people for their political beliefs and I’ve documented that.

The violence has been happening more and more often and [the police] are getting more and more brutal.

I took the necessary precautions I thought to keep myself safe and wear a helmet.

While I was filming them I was violently arrested.  I was thrown across the cop car and thrown on the ground.  A cop jammed his knees into my back.  They kneed me in the head; luckily I was wearing a helmet.  If I hadn’t been I probably would have had to go to the hospital.  While I was in jail I still ended up going to the doctor, two times so far because I’m still having back problems.  But I had a bunch of bruises and scrapes and I currently am having a pretty still severe issue with my back.

http://www.unicornriot.ninja/?p=1008 (video provided by Unicorn Riot Alternative Media)

When activists go to the hospital, while they’re in jail, the police tend to add charges or just make the charges more severe.  I was worried about getting more charges once I was in there.  Going to jail can actually be fatal.  I was just worried about my safety and about what kind of charges that they were going to continue to try to add so they just gave me some ibuprofen and I just toughed it out.

After they arrested me they confiscated my helmet, a backpack, a gas mask, my camera.   I need that to work and now I’m actually unable to document events.

The police attempted to break my arm.  They have retractable batons that fold in half and they basically tried to nut-cracker my left arm.  I was not resisting.  I just lay there.  Once I screamed and tried to get my arm out of it, I was choked by a police officer.  There’s no video footage of that because everyone had been actually kicked; certain officers were actually kicking at people to tell them to go out into the street.  After that people were hit by cars.

Overall the courts have ruled that it is legal for you to film police interactions.  Often police will arrest you for things and it is your job to litigate your way out of it.  So you can film police but if you don’t have enough money to pay a lawyer, then your rights are still going to be easily violated by police.  What we’re seeing now is that journalists are being targeted and have been targeted in the past by police.  Seems like more of the independent media type journalists, more grassroots journalists are the ones who get targeted.  And we’ve seen an epidemic of that.

The Denver police have a history of targeting activists and protesters.

This is a situation where the police make it seem that the protesters are violent or are somehow a threat and this justifies their use of force.  This is generally what we see.

People are hurting and people need help and they need protection.

We’re seeing police brutality that’s being perpetuated and used against people whose politics they don’t like.  And people who are attempting to expose this kind of brutal and violent police behavior that Denver’s well known for but this is also a national epidemic.

The police brutality issue is being largely ignored by the mainstream media.

Denver has a long history of social movements and radical social movements here that goes overlooked.

Since 2011 the city of Denver has paid out 12 million dollars in excessive force and police murder cases.

Denver police use tactics called “snatch and grab.”  So you can have 150 people out in the streets and what they generally do is arrest 5-10 people and just slap them with multiple charges.  It doesn’t matter if they were actually doing it or not.  It’s just about intimidation.  They’ll usually slap activists with multiple charges so that when they attempt to plea out they’ll plea down to maybe one charge if you were hit with 3.  Typically the charges that protesters get are obstruction, trespassing, failure to obey a lawful order, those kinds of charges when [the police] really don’t have anything else.  Each one of those technically is punishable by one year in jail or $999 in a municipal court.  So then people will usually plea and maybe take one of those unless they take it all the way to court.  Usually people don’t have the support or money to be able to do.  If the police beat you and then put you in jail for one of those things, you usually aren’t looking at getting more charges unless you go to the hospital while you’re in jail.

Once you get to the jail, there’s usually a lot of harassment from the guards.  I was actually called by the woman who took my picture in the jail, “retarded” because I didn’t want to answer a question about whether or not I was at the rally.

I’m facing criminal charges but I will be filing a civil suit for violating my rights.

The general population is becoming more hyper-aware of police brutality.  The kind of myths around police and what they do in society is starting to crumble.  I think by documenting instances where that’s not what police are doing.  And their being to serve and protect and keep us safe is not actually what they’re here for.  This is an issue of punitive social control.  Police are the enforcement arm of the government that doesn’t want people speaking out, doesn’t want people being engaged.

It is crucial in a democracy that in order for it to function that people be aware of what is happening, and what is being done in their name.  And the police are going out and antagonizing large swaths of the general public and we’re being told that it’s for our own good.

Police will try to confiscate cameras as they have confiscated mine as well as cell phone video.  Taking video, as much as you can, and releasing it I think is a good start.  While you do have the right to film police, police will still have no problems violating your rights to film the police or protesting them.  You  have to be prepared that they’re going to take out violence on you. 

I thought things were getting to an unsafe level and so I started showing up with our equipment to protect myself.  I was really glad I was wearing a helmet that day.  Other things people need to prepare for is, it’s not fun, but they might arrest you and you might go to jail.  So you need to have people lined up beforehand who will support you who can come and get you out of jail, post bond for you or take care of your family or any other things that you need before you go.  It’s important that people who are out there are getting support from others who maybe can’t be out there or are unwilling to go out there right now.”

Boyles next appearance in court is September 15, 2015.  He says he is planning a civil suit against the City of Denver.

Pat Boyle’s work can be seen at Unicornriot.ninja