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ACLU: Denver Agrees To Settle DNC Arrest Lawsuit

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(credit: AP)

(credit: AP)

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DENVER (AP) – The American Civil Liberties Union and the city of Denver of have reached a settlement in a lawsuit filed after the largest mass arrest during the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver where Barack Obama became the Democratic presidential nominee.

In a statement Tuesday, the ACLU said Denver offered to pay $200,000 and make improvements to Denver police training and procedures involving crowd control. The monetary portion of the settlement includes attorneys’ fees as well as compensation to eight named plaintiffs in the lawsuit, according to ACLU-Colorado spokeswoman Rosemary Harris Lytle.

A hearing is scheduled Oct. 12.

Nearly a third of the more than 150 people arrested over five days before and during the convention were taken into custody on Aug. 25, 2008, near the city’s municipal buildings on the southern end of downtown, about a mile from the Pepsi Center where the convention was held. According to the lawsuit, officers formed two riot lines that trapped hundreds of people between buildings, leaving them unable to escape.

“They must have individualized facts showing that each separate person they arrest was violating the law,” ACLU-Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein said. “Police violate the Constitution when they simply arrest everyone who happens to be in the area.”

Days afterward, Denver Police Chief Gerry Whitman said the arrests were sparked after police met a group armed with rocks and bags of urine. Up to 550 people were caught up in the incident but they were given the option to leave, Whitman said at the time. Those who refused to leave were arrested.

Ninety-two people were arrested that evening as a separate crowd of hundreds, some wearing bandanas over their faces, watched. Police declined comment Tuesday.

Those arrested during the DNC were taken to a temporary processing facility set up in an industrial warehouse with chain-link cells, earning it the nickname “Gitmo on the Platte” for its similar appearance of chain-link cells at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay.

The city braced for large crowds and for violence by a few anarchist groups promising to use a involve vandalism, rioting and street fighting to distract police. Neither the crowds nor the mass violence materialized.

Other cities that have hosted national political conventions have experienced higher number of arrests, as well as legal claims and payouts than did Denver, Assistant Denver City Attorney David Broadwell points out. That includes the 2008 Republican National Convention, where more than 800 people were arrested Sept. 1-4 in St. Paul and New York’s 2004 Republican National Convention, where police faced hundreds of legal claims after responding to unruly crowds by cordoning off entire blocks with orange netting and arresting everybody inside,

Denver took a non-confrontational approach.

“I believe the fact were able to host such a peaceful event is a huge tribute to the DNC organizers, to law enforcement, and to the Denver community as a whole,” Broadwell said.

Broadwell said the city purchased an insurance policy to pay legal fees and claims arising from the convention. He said if the settlement is approved by a judge, it marks the end of pending litigation arising from the DNC.

- By P. Solomon Banda, AP Writer

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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