This week, attorney David Lane expects to file a motion to dismiss charges against members of the Colorado Springs Socialists, a student protest group, over a March demonstration in Colorado Springs on the grounds of "outrageous conduct" by local law enforcement. The reason? Lane argues that undercover officers were improperly embedded among the nonviolent protesters, whose largest offense at the rally appears to have been jaywalking.
Continue to read Lane's explanation of the case, which was first reported by the Colorado Springs Independent.
"This is a bunch of Colorado College students who call themselves a socialist organization, which doesn't carry with it the connotations it used to, given that Bernie Sanders also carries with him the socialist moniker," Lane says. "They were having a protest about injustice, and when the march moved from point A to point B, the cops told them to get out of the streets. They didn't move out of the streets immediately, and they ended up assembling at a municipal building plaza — and when they were ordered to disperse, they said, 'No.'"
How did the cops react to this response? Lane knows, since their exchanges were captured on body camera footage his firm has obtained.
"One cop said, 'There are two UCs embedded with this protest' — meaning undercovers," he continues. "Another cop said, 'Which ones are they?,' because some of the protesters were wearing ninja masks. And the first cop didn't know which ones they were. He said, 'I hope we don't have to use pepper spray.'"
In addressing the protesters, Lane maintains, "The cops said, 'If you don't cooperate, we will give you a summons.' But one guy didn't cooperate. He said, 'Fuck you, pigs.' The cops ended up taking him down and cuffing him, and as they were doing that, they said, 'Do you have any weapons?' And he said, 'I have a 9 mm in my waistband with the safety off and one in the chamber.' So they find the gun, put him in the back of the police car and ask, 'Are you law enforcement?' And he said, 'Yeah, I'm with the El Paso Sheriff's Office.'"
According to Lane, the embedding of such a person among the protesters was illegal.
"Most people don't know about the Code of Federal Regulations," he allows, "but it's a set of rules made up by agencies of the federal government that have the force and effect of law. And years ago, the CFR added some mandatory requirements that law enforcement must abide by when they're infiltrating protest groups; their purpose is to prevent the government from suppressing First Amendment rights to assemble freely and engage in free speech. And basically, they say that if you're going to infiltrate a protest group, you have to have reasonable reason to suspect that they've engaged in violence in the past or are about to in the very near future."
Such a suspicion in regard to the Colorado Springs Socialists strikes Lane as patently absurd. "To anyone's knowledge, they've never engaged in any violence, ever. So we're going to file a motion to dismiss for embedding cops into the group."
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Why did the officer in question react with such belligerence? Lane speculates that he was trying to maintain his cover. But whatever his motivations, such actions "scare people out of joining this organization. It's designed to suppress people's willingness to join when you've got a guy acting like a raging asshole and he's got a gun."
Two members of the Colorado Springs Socialists face charges of failure to disperse, obstructing passage and resisting a public official. They're currently set for trial on November 3, but Lane hopes the cases will be tossed before then.
After all, he says, "The only asshole at the protest was a cop."