A thousand people gathered at Shorter African American Episcopal Church to tell personal stories of incidents with law enforcement and provide data to back up four specific requests for action by state and local officials. The event was organized by Together Colorado, a non-partisan, multi-racial, multi-faith organization with the goal of transforming communities through the efforts of 150 congregations, schools and faith leaders.
This first request for action is a “point of contact bill” that requires police to give a lawful explanation for why people are pulled over. State Representative Joe Salazar told the group, to loud applause, that his proposed bill also includes dropping all charges if there wasn’t a lawful reason.
The second request for action relates to communication between local police and the federal government. Rep. Salazar says he started work on the Ralph Carr Freedom Defense bill before the election because he got a sense Donald Trump might win. “Based on his statements against our Muslim and immigrant communities and so many others, I developed a bill. It’s the first of its kind—it’s never been brought forward in any state.” The bill says if the federal government adopts policies targeting people because of their religion, national origin or race, or tries to develop a registry, or establish internment camps that the state of Colorado will refuse to participate in those policies. Based on the 10th Amendment, he says, states have control over their law enforcement. “We’re not only sending a message to Donald Trump, we’re also sending a message to other states to rise up right now.”
The third request was for the sheriff to reinstate the community engagement group to find alternatives to detention. Natalia Marshall tragically illustrated the need for alternatives to detention with the story of her uncle, Michael Marshall, who suffered from schizophrenia and was taken to jail. Off his medication he was anxious and tried to escape. Natalia says though he weighed only 112 pounds, he was tackled down and they covered his face while he was vomiting, which caused him to asphyxiate. Sheriff Firman stood before the audience and agreed to the request to reinstate the advisory group.
The last request was for Denver Police Chief White to work with a community advisory group in developing the use of force policy. White stood before the audience and declined to work with an advisory group. He believes he can get broader community feedback by putting his draft policy out for comment at public meetings. Our article on page 11 describes the first of his three community meetings.