Federal judge orders Denver police to not use chemical agents, projectiles on peaceful protesters
A federal judge on Friday ordered Denver law enforcement to not use chemical agents and projectiles on peaceful protesters.
“The Denver Police Department [DPD] has failed in its duty to police its own,” Judge R. Brooke Jackson wrote in his ruling, according to The Colorado Sun.
Jackson’s orders came late Friday evening, following nine consecutive days of demonstrations over police brutality and the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while in the custody of Minneapolis police on May 25.
“The Court has reviewed video evidence of numerous incidents in which officers used pepper-spray on individual demonstrators who appeared to be standing peacefully … none of whom appeared to be engaging in violence or destructive behavior,” the judge wrote in the order.
The order will be temporary but effective immediately.
The DPD posted a statement on Twitter acknowledging the temporary restraining order, adding, “We will comply with the judge’s directions, many of which are already in line with our community-consulted Use of Force Policy.”
(1/2) #ALERT #Denver – A federal judge issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) clarifying #DPD use of non-lethal dispersant devices. In the meantime, we will comply with the judge’s directions, many of which are already in line with our community-consulted Use of Force Policy.
— Denver Police Dept. (@DenverPolice) June 6, 2020
The Colorado Sun reported eyewitness accounts of law enforcement using tear gas and pepper balls against protesters and people without provocation over several nights of demonstrations.
The DPD has launched an internal investigation into one instance that occurred on May 29 when a man stopped his car at an intersection after a projectile hit it. Police then fired multiple pepper balls at his vehicle after he announced that his pregnant girlfriend was in the car.
The first day of Denver’s demonstrations saw buildings and vehicles vandalized as well as fires set, although recent nights of protests have reportedly been less confrontational.
Jackson wrote that officers can use force only after proper notice is given to demonstrators to disperse and adequate time to move is offered.
“If a store’s windows must be broken to prevent a protestor’s facial bones from being broken or eye being permanently damaged, that is more than a fair trade,” Jackson wrote. “If a building must be graffiti-ed to prevent the suppression of free speech, that is a fair trade. The threat to physical safety and free speech outweighs the threat to property.”