Demonstrators Rally Against Supervised Use Injection Sites in Denver | Westword

Demonstrators Rally Against Supervised Use Injection Sites

Opponents of supervised use sites for drug users are holding protests and rallies before a statehouse bill is introduced. One group protested during the Martin Luther King Jr. Marade.
Demonstrators against supervised use sites made their presence known during the Marade.
Demonstrators against supervised use sites made their presence known during the Marade. Chris Walker
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A bill that would allow supervised use sites in Colorado hasn't yet been introduced at the Statehouse, but opponents are already starting to pressure their local lawmakers and holding rallies to protest such a measure. One such event took place by the end of the Martin Luther King Jr. Marade today, January 21, in Civic Center Park. The demonstration was organized by Get Er Done Right Colorado, whose mission, according to its backers' business cards, is “to get Unaffiliates, Republicans, Conservatives, even Democrats, involved in winning our great state back to its western values."

As the Marade made its way down East Colfax Avenue to Civic Center Park, a dozen demonstrators held signs with messages such as “Friends don't let friends shoot up” and “Rehab saves, heroin kills.” Westword was there and interviewed demonstration co-organizer Joy Overbeck about her group's opposition to supervised use sites.

Westword: What's motivating you to protest the idea of supervised use sites in Colorado?

Joy Overbeck: It's wrong, un-neighborly and cruel to keep people on heroin. The average heroin addict has a four-year life span [once they start], and during that time their bodies are destroyed, their brains are destroyed, their willpower and very humanity is destroyed. So the whole concept of government keeping people on this poison is insane; it's killing people.

Do you think the sites themselves are responsible for killing people?

Well, they only help people if they overdose at the actual site. Most people don't overdose there, which is why we see that Vancouver, which has had one of these sites for fifteen years, has one of the highest drug-overdose rates in North America. Cartels have taken over the streets around their injection sites. They're full of prostitutes, trash, people selling the shoes off their feet to get their next hit.

What is an alternative to supervised use sites?

Instead, we need to focus on rehab. One big push is to help programs like 180 Ministries — a twelve-step program. We are for people. We want to save lives. These injection centers are slow-motion suicide. They keep people on this poison.

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Chris Walker
A bill allowing for these sites will be introduced during the current legislative session. Do you have any plans to counter the bill at the Statehouse?

We'll testify. And we're applying pressure — like if you're listening to KNUS. We've been on Steffan Tubbs's show, as well as on Krista Kafer's show on 630.

The Denver Republican Party noted that you're holding this demonstration on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and took issue with that. Its chairman, Jake Viano, said in a statement, “I support the rally’s purpose, but not its timing. After hearing from several Republicans of color, and considering their views carefully, I agree the Martin Luther King holiday should be dedicated to honoring the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King. The party would be fully behind this rally if it were to be held on another day. We urge the organizers to reschedule.” Did that affect turnout? What do you make of Viano's statement?

Martin Luther King got attacked by people who he thought were his friends and allies who said he was too radical. But he said it's always the right time to do what's right. And that's what I've been posting as our response. How could anybody be against our saying that there should be no government-sponsored heroin in Denver? This whole nonsense about how this is not appropriate on Martin Luther King Day is totally uncalled for, because all he did was march for the right, the good, to help humanity, and that's what we're about: saving lives. He was about getting people out of bondage to the prejudice and bigotry of his day. Our fight right now is getting people out of bondage to drugs.
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