This past November, we told you about Eric Brandt, who frequently rides his bicycle in Westminster while displaying a giant hand, complete with extended middle finger, that's emblazoned with the phrase "FUCK COPS." At the time, Brandt had secured the legal services of attorney David Lane, who filed a free-speech lawsuit against the mayor of Westminster, who'd had him arrested for comments made in a city council meeting.
Brandt was facing a myriad of charges in Westminster regarding other incidents, and since then, he was sentenced to ninety days in jail for writing on a sidewalk with chalk. Lane wasn't his attorney in that instance, but he's now taken over the defense of all Brandt's cases. "I think there are numerous civil rights violations i his interactions with Westminster," Lane says. In his opinion. "They have made war on Eric Brandt."
As we've reported, Brandt has delivered jeremiads about what he sees as police abuse on a number of venues, including Facebook, YouTube (a video he uploaded is below), the website Copblock.org and even Craigslist via a now-deleted November post intended to publicize an appearance near 92nd and Sheridan. The Craigslist item read:
I have now been arrested TWELVE (12) TIMES for my middle finger protest against corrupt and abusive police brutality.
I was arrested TWICE yesterday alone.
I WILL NOT BE SILENCED!
Please come by and do a shout / honk out for me today. I refuse to be let them kick me down!
Eric Brandt is an eight-year disabled Nuclear Submarine Veteran who fought for a system he believes in — a FREE SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT BY THE PEOPLE. Eric has chosen to stand up to police abuse in continuation of his oath to Defend The Constitution Against All Enemies — Foreign AND DOMESTIC. Freedom isn't free.
Obviously, Brandt isn't averse to strong language. But during the public-comments section of the August 11 Westminster City Council meeting, which was captured on audio, he speaks calmly and thoughtfully about his reasons for coming before officials — at first, anyhow. But soon into the address, Westminster Mayor Herb Atchison interrupts to say Brandt can't continue speaking due to a pending lawsuit against the city.
According to Lane, Brandt hadn't filed suit against Westminster at that point. Rather, he'd submitted a complaint that Lane says shouldn't have precluded council from hearing what he had to say.
When Brandt tries to continue, Atchison insists that he can't do so and will be forcibly removed if he tries. In response, Brandt begins speaking louder and becomes upset when someone lays hands on him. He can be heard complaining passionately as he's led away.
Here's audio of this exchange and its aftermath....
The aforementioned suit reveals that Brandt was placed in handcuffs and taken to jail in Westminster, then transferred to a detention center in Adams County on charges of obstructing a police officer and resisting arrest. However, all charges against him were dismissed on August 21.
During his career as a free-speech advocate, attorney Lane has defended plenty of people who got into trouble for using language considered obscene. But despite his "FUCK COPS" reputation, Brandt resisted the urge to get profane at the meeting. In Lane's view, "this was absolutely appropriate speech with no F-bombs. And as political speech, it's the highest protected speech that exists. Speech doesn't get any more protected than that."
By filing the still-pending lawsuit, which Lane sees as a "slam-dunk win," he hoped "that Westminster would back off and become more First Amendment-friendly. But that is apparently not the case."
Here's how Brandt describes his latest legal challenge in an e-mail to Westword:
WRITING ON SIDEWALK WITH CHALK LANDS 90 DAYS IN JAIL
Eric Brandt, 43, of Westminster, Colorado has been convicted and sentenced to 90 days in the Adam's County Detention Facility for writing anti-police sentiments on a public sidewalk with chalk. Municipal Court Judge John A. Stipech briskly issued the Sentence January 7th and then stormed out of the building without comment and Brandt was taken into custody immediately. Brandt served nearly a month and three court appearances before he could get Stipech to properly set his appeal conditions allowing him to bond out during the appeal. “It seems pretty clear to me that Westminster will do what ever it can to keep me in jail and off their streets.” said Brandt. Brandt has been voraciously protesting police misconduct in Westminster since February 17th of last year when he sketched an enormous pot-bellied pig on his back, crying puddles of tears, wearing a Westminster Police Badge and emblazoned with the text “MAKE A PIG WAIL & YOU'LL GO TO JAIL”. And of course – he did. Brandt claims that following two years of unanswered and escalating abuse he asked for an investigation. Commander Dean Villano replied to Brandt in writing with “I have no desire to 'fill in any blanks' on what occurred.” “Well I had every intention of filling in the blanks.” said Brandt; “So I filled in a big blank piece of sidewalk with sidewalk chalk — at City Hall; They apparently didn't get the message — so I just keep filling in sidewalks and they kept arresting me. So I made a giant middle finger with the words “FUCK COPS” across it — and they still to this day keep arresting me for free speech.” Brandt adds: “This is a bad ruling by a bad judge with a grudge. This sets a dangerous president placing every six-year-old in America at risk of beginning a very early criminal career. While my chalk will wash away — this injustice will stain to stay.” It is perfectly OK for the City to use sidewalk chalk on City sidewalks. In fact, Brandt has recorded the City as recently as November doing exactly the same thing he did – write on a public sidewalk with chalk. The fundamental difference between Brandt's chalk and the City's chalk is clearly the message written. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution expressly protects messages the Government does not want to hear. “What's good for the goose must be good for the gander.” said Brandt, adding: “Either the City Employees responsible for the chalk writings are sent to jail like me, or the City should expect a lot more chalk.” Brandt has been arrested numerous times for his middle finger sign, several times for chalk, and was drug out of the August 11th City Council Meeting for trying to discuss police brutality in Westminster. He is represented by Civil Rights Attorney David Lane on a number of criminal defense and civil rights matters. Brandt, a disabled, eight-year nuclear submarine veteran continues to honor his oath to defend The Constitution against all enemies, foreign — and domestic. He concludes: “They will comply with our Constitution, or they will kill me. I Will Not Be Silenced!”
To Lane, pressing a case against Brandt over sidewalk chalk is absurd on his face. "This puts every grade-school child who draws a hopscotch pattern on a sidewalk in Westminster at risk," he says. "Apparently, that's a big problem in Westminster."
When asked if Brandt's sidewalk message contained profanity, Lane adds, "I don't think Eric is capable of not using profanity — but it should make no difference at all. Profanity is protected speech."
As for the other cases against Brandt, even Lane doesn't know how many of them there are at this point. "He's got possibly a dozen pending. There's one for stepping off a curb. There's another one for trespassing, because they ordered him to stay out of a park — and they can't order him to do that, even if he's got his sign. And there's one for being on a sidewalk in front of a school, and they can't do that, either."
How will Lane fight against these and other charges? "I anticipate many more lawsuits coming down the road against Westminster," he says.
Look below to see a video of alleged police harassment posted by Brandt on YouTube, followed by the lawsuit.