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4/20: Did organizer Miguel Lopez assault councilman's mom, sister over burritos?

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Between the two days of Denver's most recent 4/20 celebration, the Denver Police Department cited or arrested a total of 92 people. And while the event's organizer, Miguel Lopez, is not on that roster, he was detained on 4/21 and faces investigation for allegedly assaulting an at-risk adult. The bizarre story begins with a burrito and ends with a shoving match featuring both the longtime marijuana advocate and the mother of Denver City Councilman Paul Lopez.

On Saturday afternoon, officers took Miguel Lopez into custody for roughly four hours after they were alerted to an assault claim at Civic Center Park. According to the initial police report, "The investigation disclosed that the defendant, Miguel Lopez, was involved in a verbal argument with the victim. The defendant then shoved the victim back, causing her to stumble backwards. The victim stated that she is disabled from having broken legs and knees. The defendant was then taken into custody."

Miguel Lopez's account is considerably different. He says he approached the councilman's sister, who was selling burritos in Civic Center Park, because she was not on the list of official 4/20 vendors. As a result, he thought she was trying to piggyback on his event without having secured the proper paperwork. (He declines to say how much vendors paid to earn the "official" designation.)

At that point, Miguel Lopez is said to have shoved the councilman's sister -- an allegation he denies. Then the councilman's mother, a former Chicano activist in her late fifties, stepped in. Miguel Lopez says the older woman pushed him and he reciprocated in self-defense before leaving the area to report the incident to police officers, who arrested him instead.

Here's a video showing Lopez in custody"

Miguel Lopez Arrested on False Charges By DPD from Tanner Spendley on Vimeo.

Thus far, no charges have been filed against Miguel Lopez, and he insists he only acted to protect himself. "The officer neglected to complete the investigation," he claims.

Not that the fight and his four hours in custody detracted from his 4/20 experience. "Not at all," he says.

What's the story from councilman Paul Lopez's perspective? Page down to read his account. According to councilman Lopez, he heard about the situation from his sister, a currently unemployed mother of two. She had been prepared to leave the park at Miguel Lopez's request when the event escalated further, he says.

"As far as I know, both my mother and my sister were assaulted by Mr. Lopez while they were selling burritos in the sight line of police," the councilman says. "They argued a little bit, and it resulted in him threatening her and pushing her. My mother then approached him and argued about what was happening, and he then shoved my mother."

Paul Lopez notes that his mother is currently pursuing legal action. Roughly six months ago, she was hit by an uninsured driver during her regular walk to volunteer at the Gathering Place, and the incident left her with two broken legs. Her recovery status, which is still ongoing, places her in the legal category of "at-risk adult."

"As for Miguel, he should be glad that I wasn't there," Paul Lopez adds. "It better be the last time that he puts his hands on a woman. You don't behave like that when you represent a cause. That is unacceptable."

This was not Miguel Lopez's first encounter with controversy over the past year. In July, the advocate was alleged to have stolen a Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol petition -- with signatures on it -- out of a volunteer's hand. The action propelled fellow activist Mason Tvert to file a formal complaint with the Secretary of State's office that was later dropped.

And in February of last year, Colorado Representative Jerry Sonnenberg alleged that Miguel Lopez spat on a lobbyist at the State Capitol building. The marijuana advocate refuted the claims, and a video of the event appears to support his version of the tale.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana advocates collecting petitions to overturn Fort Collins ban."

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