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Denver Activists Under Attack
by Free Speech Defense Committee
Email: denveractivists (nospam) yahoo.com
Phone: 303-809-2792 or 303-864-9303
25 May 2001
Once again, the police and prosecutors have intervened to protect property and profit over free speech and labor rights. institutionalized witch hunt, known as a grand jury, has put one Denver activist in jail while the same fate awaits others.
Once again, the police and prosecutors have intervened to protect property and profit over free speech and labor rights. Their recent target is the Denver human rights community. As part of the nation-wide "Holiday Season of Conscience" campaign, Denver Justice and Peace Committee (DJPC), a 21 year-old Latin American solidarity
organization, organized an anti-sweatshop protest at the Kohl's clothing store in Golden, Colorado on December 9, 2000. (Kohl's is the largest customer of a sweatshop in Nicaragua, whose owners fired 700 union workers and jailed 11 union leaders last year for organizing a work stoppage to demand an 8-cent/hr wage increase.) At the protest, four unknown people arrived in Santa Claus suits, entered the store and spray painted clothing. Since then, DJPC has been the subject of a criminal investigation and police harassment.
On December 15th, the Golden Police Department searched the office of DJPC. The police confiscated DJPC's databases and, in January and February, called or visited the homes of over 50 people on the lists. The police focused their interrogations on DJPC's staff, board, major donors, and members with a record of activism. Such actions disrupted DJPC's organizing and led to staff resignations.
The witch hunt continues. The District Attorney?s office of Jefferson County, Colorado convened a grand jury in April. The nominally grand jury hears evidence and decides whether to bring charges, but, in reality, it serves a "cheering section" for prosecutors. The usual rules of evidence that govern trials do not apply, while normal legal
protections for witnesses are suspended. The grand jury's proceedings are secret and its scope is unlimited. The grand jury process is extremely expensive (each juror is paid $50/day for up to a year), and therefore, are rarely convened even in cases of homicide. The Jeffco DA's decision to convene a grand jury in case of minor vandalism demonstrates a political intent to undermine our rights of free speech and create fear in the human rights community.
Recently, the grand jury subpoenaed a Denver activist and the former Director of DJPC. In political resistance to the grand jury, both invoked their 5th Amendment rights to not testify. The Denver activist has been in jail since May 17th for "failing to follow a court order that involved his testimony before a grand jury." The former Director awaits a contempt of court hearing and a similar fate. Both face up
to 6 months in jail for refusing to testify. By taking this highly unusual move to convene a grand jury in order to undermine the 5th Amendment, the DA's office is attempting to suppress dissent against sweatshop abusers and profiteers.
Help stop this effort to disrupt grassroots organizing in Colorado. We must come together and resist this attempt to divide us.
To obtain more information and lend support, please contact Luis Espinosa-Organista at 303-864-9303 or lespinos (at) ouray.cudenver.edu. Or, call 303-809-2792 or email denveractivists (at) yahoo.com.
Please send donations to the legal defense fund to the following:
Denver, CO 80211
Make checks payable to: Building Bridges.
Write the CEO of Kohl's and tell him to stop Kohl's excessive claims of property damage and use his leverage with the Jeffco DA to end the grand jury.
Kohl's Contact Info:
Larry Montgomery, CEO
N56 W17000 Ridgewood Dr.
Menomonee Falls, WI 53051
Phone: (262) 703-7000
Fax: (262) 703-6796
Email: larry_montgomery (at) kohls.com
Write the Jefferson County District Attorney's to tell him to end the political witch-hunt and undermining our Free Speech rights.
David J. Thomas
First Judicial District
500 Jefferson County Parkway
Golden, CO 80401