Eric Brandt and Adrian Brown have been testing the boundaries with police in the north Denver suburbs for years with provocative messages, including but not limited to roasting a pig on July 4 in front of the Westminster City Hall, walking the streets draped in green and yellow shirts reading “Fuck Cops,” and drawing enormous crying pigs in chalk on sidewalks in public spaces.
Brandt and Brown say that the messages are meant to draw attention to the alleged misconduct, brutality and negligence committed by deputies with the Adams County Sheriff’s Office. They have paid the price for their protests in the form of dozens of criminal charges — some of which they've countered with civil-rights lawsuits, and the latest of which they filed against the sheriff’s office last week.
“What we really want out of this is a very present awareness that our community is in danger because Adams County has no desire whatsoever to hold themselves to a standard,” says Brandt, who is a disabled veteran. “I took an oath, and this is where the real battle appears to be, and so I refuse to be silent."
Both Brandt and Brown are suing Adams County itself, Sheriff Michael McIntosh and several deputies, including former deputy Jeffery Stovall, who was fired and acquitted on assault charges last year after being caught on video kicking a subdued suspect outside of a bar in May 2015. Brandt and Brown allege in the suit that their rights to free speech and due process and their constitutional protection against illegal searches and seizures were violated on July 5, 2015, when they were arrested by Stovall and charged with disorderly conduct for flipping off his passing squad car. Brandt was also flying his customary flag emblazoned with the words “Fuck Bad Cops.”
The charges were dismissed in February 2016. But Brown says the civil-rights lawsuit is meant to send a message.
“Pretty much as soon as I got a ticket that night, I knew I was gonna file a lawsuit, because the whole damn thing was so irresponsible on [Stovall's] part,” says Brown. “But really, this is just one in a string of abuses from Adams County [deputies].”
The Adams County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to requests from Westword for comment on the lawsuit or on the two police-brutality activists, who have a long and nasty history with Denver-area cops. Brandt is also suing the City of Westminster in federal court for alleged civil-rights violations stemming from a separate incident, and is represented in those cases by Denver-based civil-rights attorney David Lane.
“[Brandt] has been targeted for his free speech, and he has been grossly abused by Westminster,” says Lane. In the brief filed last week, Brandt contends that he has been arrested time and time again simply because he is disliked by the sheriff’s department.
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Brown, who describes himself as “residentially impaired, aka homeless,” has been living on the streets for much of his life and is more accustomed to charges for panhandling, which is illegal in Adams County.
Both are representing themselves in this latest court case, which Brown says can be challenging. They got word on Wednesday, July 12, that they will have to re-file their original briefs because of errors. In an e-mail to Westword, Brandt wrote that “the content minus a few gratuitous error corrections is not going to change,” and that he intends to re-file his paperwork today. The two do not yet have court dates.
Lane says that Brandt's work in particular has noble intentions, especially the civil-rights lawsuits. “I think his whole goal is to cause people who generally are not used to thinking, causing them to think,” Lane says. “And his general philosophy is that police officers should be spending more time in the law library and less time on the firing range."