Published in the Boulder Sunday Camera 7/31/94
GUEST OPINION by Evan Ravitz
The Boulder chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union strongly
objects to the ferocity and violence of the police toward Boulder's
youth and the visiting Rainbow Family, capping weeks of harassment
with trumped-up charges, discriminatory enforcement, and illegal
seizures of property as part of the so-called zero tolerance policy.
Giving away doughnuts is hardly a justification for handcuffing
a young man so his wrists bleed, or shoving a young women's jaw
into the bricks so she has trouble talking, as witnesses state.
Two Rainbow Family members and one homeless man addressed us eloquently about these apparent violations of the United States Constitution:
1. The First Amendment: free speech. Tickets were written for "affixing signs" by leaning them against light poles. Arrestee Samuel Mills showed the judge that the ordinance was about commercial signs, and the prosecutor had to back down. Tickets were also written for "erecting signs", entirely lawful under the "advocacy area" ordinance the ACLU forced the City to enact last year under threat of lawsuit.
2. The Fourth Amendment: no illegal search and seizure. I was an eye-witness Monday to one of the 'sweeps' the victims said were conducted every half-hour. The police told them to get all their belongings off the ground, then threw anything the owners weren't there to protect into a Parks Department truck, which took it away.
3. The Fourteenth Amendment: guaranteeing equal protection under the law. A group of young hackey-sack players was told to get off the mall bricks and onto the grass. They complied, but asked the police why the preppie types hacking on the bricks a few feet away were exempt. Their silence speaks volumes about the discriminatory intent of their actions.
Mr. Mills was shown on the front page of both Boulder newspapers Monday with a beautiful carved staff at the time of his arrest. He brought the broken remaining piece to our meeting along with the Police department receipt for it while he was in jail, with the words "stick is broken" appended. This is a hardwood staff that took deliberate action to vandalize. He is seeking $150 in small claims court.
The police also gave Samuel a ticket for obstructing traffic on 13th Street, when they in fact had closed it to traffic during the Sunday fracas.
Boulder resident Burl Cary and witnesses say a cop struck him in the foot with a nightstick and gave him a ticket for camping, at eight in the morning, because he had a backpack. The cop perjured himself by putting a much earlier time on the ticket.
Is our City Council allowing its appointed Downtown Management Commission to sic the police on visitors and residents alike, when the DMC's only concern seems to be shopping? These people the Camera calls "undesireables" and "punks" are in fact a Mall attraction. During the entire summer of '92 the Camera interviewed tourists asking what they liked about the Mall. Responses invariably included the weird dress styles, the '60s atmosphere, the variety of entertainment, and the mix of ages. The ACLU has just received several calls from longtime residents (who shop) expressing the same sentiments.
The Camera's "worried merchants" should leave the kids (etc.) alone and get the DMC and Council to reverse their zero tolerance policy. Are we going back to the days when long hair and non-business dress was probable cause for arrest? Every person has the right to enjoy the Mall without being singled out. Laws should be enforced legally.
The DMC should abandon its attempt to "Disneyfy" the Mall. At the April 30th Downtown Open House at the Boulder Theater the DMC proudly announced that we were following a process that came from the Disney organization. The smiley face is wearing thin. As a writer to the Camera stated recently, Boulder has become a theme park. Do we want the Mall theme to be hate and intolerance? Are we competing with Colorado Springs for Capital of the Hate State? We join the Rainbow Family in preferring peace and love. Boulder may be "special", but it's still in the United States, and must honor the Constitution. Show some hospitality!
We need to keep an eye on City Council. You can watch them the First and Third Tuesdays of each month, starting at 6 PM, on Boulder Cable channel 8.
Evan Ravitz is a Boulder ACLU board member