January 29
by Mark Lewis

Where the Hell is Our Constitution?

As one of the organizers of the NATO protest last October, I was shocked to learn in the Independent (Punk Patrol-Jan 22-28, 2004) that undercover police, including the deputy chief's son, Patrick McElderry, had been employed to spy on us. I thought those days ended thirty years ago with Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover.

I guess not.

In 2002, when the police "spy-file" scandal broke, it brought a federal lawsuit against the Denver department by the ACLU, and a subpoena of the "spy files" from the CSPD on behalf of 3,200 groups, individuals, and journalists. It was learned that the Colorado Springs police had been spying on peace groups here for 18 years and sending information to the Denver police and the FBI. Our police denied monitoring people "involved in a peaceful activity", and Commander Kurt Pillard, of the intelligence unit said, "We don't follow anyone who we suspect is involved in peaceful activity."

Wrong then and wrong now.

At the time the Denver city council and Mayor Webb denounced the practice. Can we count on our council to finally denounce this continuing and escalating practice? Isn't it finally time to examine the issue that started when the council first considered hiring a new chief of police trained by Daryl Gates in Los Angeles? Isn't it finally time to evolve beyond these "L.A. tactics", McCarthyism, and civil rights abuses?

And what comes next after undercover infiltration of "anyone who we suspect is involved in peaceful activity"? I don't know, but if the tactics I witnessed during the Nixon/Hoover era are to be used again, next will be undercover police creating confrontations to be blamed on protesters. Maybe that already happened last February when ours was the only police force in the nation to use tear gas as we joined millions around the world protesting a war we knew then had insufficient justification. I guess next will be wire taps on our phones and email intercepts. Then the tax audits start. Will we be added to the terrorist "no fly" list and not allowed to go home for Christmas?

Where the hell is our Constitution?

At Kent State in 1970, undercover police chained the gates closed, barring the escape of the students before the National Guard opened fire. 9 shot. 4 killed! In 1972 the "Gainesville 8", members of Vietnam Veterans Against War, were arrested for planning a violent disruption of the Republican convention in Miami. The person advocating such deplorable tactics turned out to be an undercover cop. Hoover's COINTELPRO program put 3,000 phone taps and 800 bugs on the NAACP.

At our protest of Bush's visit to Fort Carson in November, the CSPD falsely told us that the Secret Service said we had to stay 150 feet from Academy Blvd. The Secret Service spokesman said, "I'll deny that"; but by that time we had moved to the county property next to the "B" Street exit and had a peaceful, lawful protest in support of our troops and against Bush's Iraq policy. This all came about because we went straight to the police that day, as usual, to ask them what their guidelines were in an effort to be as cooperative as possible.

These tactics are not only a waste of time and resources, but totally unnecessary. Our meetings are open to the public just as our protests are. Our websites and discussions are on the net and anyone can sign up to participate and receive our daily news digest. The Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission's newsletter "Active for Justice", is available all over town. We inform the police of any planned activities and thought we had a cordial relationship with the department. We also provide our own "peacekeeper" force at all demonstrations to actively maintain our strict code of nonviolence.

So, has exercising our first amendment rights to free speech, peaceful assembly, and redress of grievances been deemed a crime in Colorado Springs? Where's the probable cause? Where's the due process?

Where the hell is our constitution?

I call on the CSPD to obey the law like we do, and reject these wasteful and antiquated policies. I call on the city council to protect our civil liberties and investigate these tactics openly and thoroughly, now that they've been given a second opportunity. I call on all supporters of the constitution to stand with us in it's defense.

Your rights may be next!

About the author:
Mark Lewis is a Colorado Springs photographer/illustrator and musician. He has been a peace activist for 37 years and works locally with the Springs Action Alliance and the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission.

He also compiles a daily list of news stories, which is available here.

To submit an article, email Contact(at) CSaction(dot) ORG