By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
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By Michael Roberts
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By Patricia Calhoun
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The 2003 settlement of that suit required that the DPD no longer keep spy files on peaceful activists. If the department breaks that agreement in the run-up to the DNC, Barbara Cohen pointed out, "the ACLU and National Lawyers Guild will be ready to go to court."
Spagnuolo never had a chance to amass a spy file. A relative newcomer to Colorado, his first notice as a prominent activist came not long after his acquittal on charges stemming from Columbus Day 2004. In the spring of 2005, Spagnuolo, then a manager of several teen-outreach programs for the Longmont Parks and Recreation Department, became the subject of scrutiny after he called the Caplis and Silverman radio show — on a city-issued cell phone — and defended a certain embattled University of Colorado professor. On the air, Spagnuolo answered a question about police officers with this: "Nobody deserves to be killed. But if you're going to put a uniform on, I do have a lack of sympathy if you were killed."
Suddenly Spagnuolo was sucked into the Ward Churchill show and found himself invoking a similar First Amendment defense, claiming he was being persecuted for his political activities and beliefs. After he'd moved to Boulder County in the late '90s, Spagnuolo had helped found Longmont Citizens for Justice and Democracy, which successfully campaigned against a proposed Super Wal-Mart. With Spagnuolo at the helm, the group took on other causes. One year it protested at the offices of Lockheed Martin; the next year it protested at Representative Marilyn Musgrave's. In 2005, it successfully lobbied Longmont to change the name of a street that had honored John Chivington, the colonel responsible for the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre. That earned Spagnuolo credibility within Colorado AIM — and more scrutiny from outside.
Longmont was investigating Spagnuolo to see if he was working on his activist campaigns during city time; Churchill, Morris and sixty others showed up at a Longmont City Council meeting to support him. "I would say that my defense of [Churchill] kind of pushed it over the top as far as the media," Spagnuolo says today. "Not all of us strive for that type of attention; it's good to have some anonymity and organize under the radar. But sometimes we don't choose history, history chooses us."
Spagnuolo was eventually cleared of wrongdoing, but even though he wasn't officially disciplined, he felt that Longmont considered him a liability. The majority of the anti-gang and teen programs that he oversaw were assigned to others. "I was basically being warehoused," he says. "I was collecting a nice paycheck, but I wasn't feeling like I was making a difference in the community."
But soon Spagnuolo would get the chance to make a big difference in a very different, brand-new community: Woodbine Ranch, sixty miles to the south in Douglas County.
Woodbine Ranch sits on 56 acres tucked in a valley where the foothills become the mountains just west of Sedalia. More than a century ago, the valley was used by the Northern Ute as a meeting place for exchanging goods. In the 1920s, Woodbine Ranch emerged as a retreat for Chicago mobsters who went there to gamble and hunt; they used tommy guns to mow down deer and other unlucky wildlife, according to one newspaper article. After that, the ranch functioned as a restaurant and event facility until the '50s, when Woodbine was turned into a YMCA-style Christian summer camp owned by the Rocky Mountain Conservative Baptist Association.
When Glenn Morris saw the property in 2004, he immediately saw it as a place where he could create something long-lasting and positive that showed a world he would like to see rather than one he was simply against.
Morris had joined Colorado's chapter of the American Indian Movement in the early '70s, while still a student at East High School. After graduating from Harvard Law School, he worked on Native American legal issues before returning to Denver. Along with co-director Ward Churchill, he built Colorado AIM into one of the most politically active — and controversial — chapters in the nation. But Morris's high-profile visits to Libya and Nicaragua led to conflicts with the national AIM leadership that resulted in the Colorado chapter splitting into a separate faction in 1986. Now 52, with a squarish jaw and sturdy build that fits well with the long-sleeve shirts and native-print vests he usually wears, Morris carries the brooding seriousness of a man who's spent much of his life ready for battle.
Morris and activist Pavlos Stavropoulos had been talking about creating some kind of community. Stavropolous, who's originally from Greece, has run a variety of social action groups and often writes and lectures on anarchist philosophy; the 42-year-old identifies as an anarchist the same way his neighbors in Littleton identify as Republicans — only he doesn't vote. Instead, he works to put his principles into practice. His family on his mother's side had acquired a substantial inheritance through the sale of some Texas real estate. Because Woodbine had been unoccupied for several years and had fallen into disrepair, Stavropoulos was able to purchase it from the Baptist association for $1.3 million.