The controversy over the July 12 protest outside the GEO Group-run immigrant detention facility in Aurora isn't going away...it's just changing focus.
In the days since the protest, the Aurora Police Department has been searching for the individuals who removed flags from the GEO facility, burned them, then replaced them with a Mexican flag and two anti-police flags. Some of those involved in the flag incident are wanted for a range of charges, including reckless kindling of fire, injury to property and criminal tampering.
As part of its search, the Aurora Police Department posted on social media a photo of a man with a white bandanna and sunglasses obscuring his face, holding an American flag outside the facility. In a post on his Facebook account, right-wing social-media personality Louie Huey said that the man in the photo was Denver-based activist and photographer Ambrose Cruz. Other social-media accounts started sharing Huey's post.
Cruz, however, insists that he wasn't at the protest. In fact, he wasn't even in Colorado. Using photos as evidence, he says, "I was actually in Montana. I wanted to go to that protest, but I was out of town for my daughter’s birthday." He adds: "Louie Huey is known to have done this to Chicana women activists."
Huey, whose Facebook page includes racist memes, did not respond to an interview request, and his post implicating Cruz is no longer online. (Huey's Facebook profile shows that he's from Conifer and currently lives in Broomfield.)
Once his name was linked to the photo, Cruz says, he began receiving dozens of hate messages on his Facebook page. A post that Cruz shared explaining that he had been mislabeled as the man in the photograph has received scores of comments from right-wing Facebook users.
"Shit is about to get real for the flag stealer, its all over everywhere us TRUMPERS are passing your pic and info like you are the last whore on earth," a Facebook user wrote on one of Cruz's posts.
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Cruz says that right-wing social-media personalities have tried to associate him with alleged crimes in the past. "This is about the sixth time it’s happened to me, so I don’t go underground anymore. They don’t scare me. I kind of use it as publicity. I’m like, yo, what’s up," Cruz says.
Although Cruz maintains that he was in Montana during the protest, in his post he said he has played "capture the flag" in the past. Another post on his page shows that he once took down a Confederate flag that he saw in Denver. "I’m a radical. I’m not going to deny that," Cruz says.
Cruz is hardly the only person drawing ire from the protest outside the detention facility, which is run by the private GEO Group through a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. At the July 15 Aurora City Council meeting, Councilman Dave Gruber blamed the three city council members who attended the protest for what happened with the flags. "Our council members were complicit in these acts, and we, the veterans, hold you accountable," said Gruber.
The three members of city council — Allison Hiltz, Nicole Johnston and Nicole Murillo — condemned the flag incident. And in the days following Gruber's comments, they've also said his words put them in danger. "We no longer feel safe with the hate that (Gruber) has intentionally incited," Johnston told the Aurora Sentinel.