Headlines June 25, 2020

Headlines June 25, 2020

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The ACLU today filed a lawsuit against the city of Denver on behalf of  Black Lives Matter 5280 and individual plaintiffs who were injured by police while protesting police violence in late May and early June.

According to a statement from the ACLU, the lawsuit challenges the use of tear gas and “less-lethal” weapons that police used on nonviolent protesters who were demonstrating over the killing of Black men and women at the hands of law enforcement.

The suit says that the officers’ unjustified attacks on protesters’ First and Fourth Amendment rights caused both physical and emotional injuries. It also says that the police actions violated the Denver Police Department’s own internal use of force policies.

In addition to BLM 5280, plaintiffs include Elisabeth Epps of the Colorado Freedom Fund who has been working to eliminate cash bail state wide. Epps was gassed, shot and bruised multiple times with projectiles including one that hit her face. She shared photos of the bruising she suffered on her twitter feed.

The Colorado Freedom Fund, which Epps founded in 2018, is a community bail fund that bailed numerous protestors out of jail in Denver during the recent protests.

Adams County District Attorney Dave Young today released a statement defending his decision to not prosecute officers involved in the death of Elijah McClain, the 23-year-old Black man who died in August 2019 after being put in a chokehold and injected with ketamine.

McClain was confronted by police after a caller to 911 reported that a man was wearing a ski mask and waving their arms around. McClain was walking home from a convenience store, was listening to music, was not armed and did not present a threat to anyone. There have been renewed calls for a new investigation into his death in the wake of the recent anti-racism and police brutality protests.

In a statement today Young said ultimately, while he may share the vast public opinion that Elijah McClain’s death could have been avoided, it is not his role to file criminal charges based on opinion, but, rather, on the evidence revealed from the investigation and applicable Colorado law.

There are increasing calls from the community for Dave Young to resign. Aurora city officials have said they will initiate an independent external investigation and yesterday Governor Jared Polis said he has instructed his legal counsel to examine what the state can do in the case.

Signature collection begins today for a state wide ballot initiative that would increase setbacks for oil and gas drilling.

The initiative would create a 2,500 ft. safety zone around homes, schools, and waterways from any new oil and gas operations.

The current state setback is 500 ft for homes and 1,000 ft for schools, hospitals, and other high-occupancy buildings.

Anne Lee Foster with Safe & Healthy Colorado, the group behind Initiative 174, says that despite legislation passed in 2019 that changes how oil and gas is regulated, setbacks have not been addressed and still need to be increased.

“The idea of (SB) 181 is that the way oil and gas is regulated would change, but we have not actually seen that come to fruition yet, and that is part of the reason that we feel it is necessary to bring this initiative forward again, and attempt to put scientifically based regulations on the ballot,” she said.

Many of the groups involved with Proposition 112, a measure that was on the 2018 state wide ballot, are now involved in this new initiative. The two initiatives are almost identical in requiring 2500 ft setbacks. Initiative 174 adds superfund sites to the areas that would see a larger setback from new drilling.

Organizers must submit more than 124,000 valid signatures by early August to qualify for the ballot.

 

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Gov. Jared Polis announced Wednesday that he is looking into what his office can do to respond to the death of Elijah McClain, the 23-year-old Black man who died after being stopped by police in Aurora last August.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Governor Polis said that he was hearing from many Coloradans who have expressed concerns with the investigation of Elijah McClain’s death. As a result, the governor said that he has instructed his legal counsel to examine what the state can do.

McClain, a massage therapist, was confronted by police in August 2019 after a caller to 911 reported that a man was dancing to music while wearing a ski mask.

He was unarmed and on his way home from a convenience store, was put in a chokehold by Aurora police officers, given ketamine and then suffered two heart attacks on the way to hospital. He was pronounced brain dead 6 days later.

The Adams County District Attorney later determined that all three officers did not commit any criminal acts, and no charges were filed against them.

The city of Aurora recently announced that it would initiate a new independent, external investigation of the actions of police, firefighters and paramedics in the case.

Speaking at a press conference on COVID-19 on Wednesday Governor Jared Polis said that people should continue to practice social distancing and to wear face masks to ensure that the state doesn’t see a large spike in COVID-19 cases. Polis encouraged people to minimize contact with other people and to avoid large gatherings during the upcoming July 4 holiday.

“We don’t want our Fourth of July holiday in Colorado to be what Memorial Day weekend was in Arizona and Florida and lead to a renewed round of twenty times the level of virus, where you get to the point where it could be overwhelming our healthcare facilities,” he said.

Many July 4 fireworks shows have been canceled due to the pandemic including the shows in Boulder and Longmont.

In Denver, officials are warning about an uptick in the use of illegal fireworks in the city.

On Wednesday multiple Denver agencies held a press conference to address the issue saying they have received more than 750 complaints in recent days. This is about a tenfold increase compared to this time last year when only 69 calls for illegal fireworks were made to Denver police.

A spokesperson for the Denver Fire Department said Wednesday that the dangers of using illegal fireworks far outweighs any potential benefit, particularly with the dry weather and the potential for fires.

In Colorado, any fireworks that leave the ground are illegal unless you are a trained professional and you have a permit.