Legal Observer Witnesses Police Use of Force in Denver Protests

Denver police are coming under scrutiny for their use of force against crowds over the past four nights of protests. Rick Bailey, an attorney from Denver, was at the protests on Friday and Saturday as a legal observer, monitoring police activity.

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The National Lawyers Guild Legal Observer program was established in 1968 in New York in response to protests at Columbia University and city-wide antiwar and civil rights demonstrations. Bailey also participates in the Rapid Response Legal Observer program to monitor immigration enforcement in Colorado.

“A legal observer’s function is to, at a protest or in the context of the immigration, to observe what the law enforcement officers are doing and just record that and not make judgements, but just observe and record,” said Bailey.

Bailey told KGNU that he observed the protests being non-violent but he saw police use tear gas and pepper balls on protestors.

A spray-painted Denver garage door.

“I saw people get hit in the head with them (pepper balls) and it’s not a pretty sight. There was one guy who was clearly having an intense allergic reaction to that, (his) face was completely red.”

On Friday morning Denver Mayor Michael Hancock praised the restraint of police during the protests on Thursday night, but Bailey said he witnessed much more aggressive use of force, especially on Saturday night.

“My sense is that the police response was incredibly aggressive. I observed more of that on Saturday night but I observed some of it on Friday night and I did not see them being provoked,” he said. Bailey said that the protests were over racist police violence, so the crowds were expressing their anger against law enforcement. “So they’re shouting at the police but that does not to me seem to be a provocation, I did not see any kind of physical provocation.”

(Photo Credits: Doug Gertner)