Denver Police's "BEAT the crowds" shirt riles up Re-create 68

The shirt created by the Denver Police union.

Channel 4's Brian Maass reports that the Denver Police Protective Association, the union that represents most Denver Police Department personnel, is selling T-shirts that commemorate the protests at the Democratic National Convention in a particularly vivid way. The front of the shirts feature a "68" with a slash through it -- presumably a reference to Re-create 68, an activist group that made loads of headlines before and during the DNC. As for the back, it sports an illustration of a baton-wielding cop behind the Denver skyline along with a nod to the "2008 DNC" and the slogan "WE GET UP EARLY, to BEAT the crowds."

This graphic can't help but recall flyers that juxtaposed a riot-gear-clad policeman and the slogan "WE BEAT YOU THEN! WE'LL BEAT YOU AGAIN," which appeared prior to the DNC. Those, too, referenced Re-create 68, and the group's reps suspected the Denver Police of being behind them -- at least until Westword reported that an artist who later revealed himself to be Pete Bergman had created them as a combination art project and media prank.

Predictably, the Re-create 68 forces don't find this coincidence to be amusing. Below, read the outfit's press release, which demands that the city launch an investigation and discipline the officers involved in the creation and distribution of the T-shirt. -- Michael Roberts

Recreate 68 Alliance P.O. Box 6444, Denver, CO 80206,

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 25, 2008

BEATING PROTESTERS NO LAUGHING MATTER Recreate 68 Calls for Accountability for Police Protective Association T-shirt

DENVER, September 28, 2008 - Denver ­CBS4 reported yesterday that the Denver Police Protective Association, the union representing most of Denver's police officers, has created and distributed a "tongue-in-cheek" t-shirt that suggests that "Denver's finest" think that beating people exercising their First Amendment rights is part of their job.

As described by Brian Maass, the back of the shirt­ given free to every Denver police officer and now being sold to other departments­ "features a menacing-looking police figure, wearing what looks like a Denver police badge and helmet and clutching a baton" with the slogan "WE GET UP EARLY, to BEAT the crowds," and "2008 DNC." The front shows the number 68 with a slash through it, an obvious reference to Recreate 68 (R-68), which organized, as promised, several peaceful, non-violent demonstrations during the DNC. It was initially reported to R-68 that officers were wearing the t-shirt under their riot gear during the convention, but the rumor was unable to be substaintiated at the time.

The people of Denver were assured by the city that it would respect First Amendment rights during the DNC, and that that police officers were being trained to do so. The actions of police during the DNC, which involved numerous violations of people's right to freedom of speech and assembly, put the lie to those promises. And now this appalling, tasteless t-shirt shows why. The members of Denver's police union clearly have no respect for the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

The Denver Police Department Operations Manual includes a Law Enforcement Code of Ethics, which begins, "As a Law Enforcement Officer, my fundamental duty is to serve mankind, to safeguard lives and property, to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and to respect the Constitutional rights of all men to liberty, equality and justice." The creation of this t-shirt makes a mockery of that statement.

We, the Re-create 68 Alliance, demand that Mayor John Hickenlooper, Manager of Safety Al LaCabe and Police Chief Gerald Whitman conduct an investigation into the creation and distribution of this t-shirt; that Nick Rogers, the officer identified as responsible for producing the shirt, and any other officers involved, be disciplined; and that police training regarding civil liberties be reevaluated, because it clearly has not achieved its intended effect. We also demand that Mayor John Hickenlooper and Chief Jerry Whitman issue a public statement condemning this shirt, and condemning the attitude behind it that treats police abuse of power and brutality against peaceful protesters as a joke.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts