Police officers used excessive force and alleged brutality in arresting two young women, aged 17 and 15 years old, at the Democratic National Convention in Denver for peacefully demonstrating yards away from where Senator Obama is staying. Also arrested was the Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition of Washington, DC.
Jayne White, 17, and Julia Giacopuzzi, 15, both from Lake Arrowhead, California, were arrested in front of the Westin Hotel where Senator Barack Obama is staying while at the Democratic National Convention.
The two young women were arrested, without warning, while peacefully writing pro-life messages on the sidewalk in front of the Westin Hotel with sidewalk chalk where Senator Obama is staying. Rev. Mahoney was arrested and threatened with a felony for leading the event. After being arrested, the group was later released.
The group had received permission to sidewalk chalk from Denver City Attorney David Fine and Denver Deputy Chief Police John Lamb and had been "sidewalk chalking" for six days prior to the arrests.
Jayne White, age 17, was rushed from behind, physically forced to the ground, had a police officer dig his knee into the back of her neck, pulled her arms and cuffed her behind her back. She states, "I was peacefully sidewalk chalking when I was forcefully pushed to ground by a police officer from behind. As I was being cuffed on the ground, the police officer pushed his knee into the back of my neck. I was pulled roughly off the ground and taken away. I was given no warning to stop and was completely shocked when I was arrested. My back was throbbing from his knee."
Julia Giacopuzzi, age 15, was rushed by a police officer, had her arms twisted behind her back, lifted up off the ground and then cuffed. She comments, "As I was sidewalk chalking, I was rushed by a police officer without warning and lifted up off the ground and was cuffed. I was then dragged by the police into the Westin Hotel."
Danielle Versluys, Director of Special Events for the Survivors and coordinator of the Survivors events surrounding the DNC, states, "after months of negotiations and civil conversations with the City Attorney's office and local police in advance of our events, I am horrified and outraged at the treatment of these two girls. Not only were they legally expressing their opinions on the public sidewalk, but they were doing so peacefully and without incident. The officers acted without provocation, and should be ashamed of themselves for terrorizing two young women.
"As a Colorado resident, I am also appalled that the City of Denver boasted of the city's preparation for the convention but clearly neglected to train their police force to respect the First Amendment and the rights of citizens to peacefully demonstrate.
Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, adds, "I am absolutely stunned, sickened and appalled by the excessive use of force by these police officers against these two young women at the Democratic National Convention. They were rushed without warning, physically forced to the ground, had a knee driven into their back, cuffed and dragged away. Their crime was simply writing pro-life messages on the sidewalk yards away from the hotel where Senator Barack Obama is staying. It must be stressed that they had permission from the Denver City Attorney and Police Department to do this and they were given no warning to stop. I was arrested for simply being accused of being "the leader" of the event.
For the past ten months, I have had numerous news conferences in Denver expressing concerns that free speech rights and the First Amendment might be crushed during the Democratic National Convention. I have said repeatedly that demonstrators are not terrorists and that the city of Denver should do all within their power to ensure civil liberties would be protected.
Sadly, the city of Denver ignored these warnings and the civil rights of two young women and myself were trampled. How is it possible that at the Democratic National Convention two young women could be brutalized by the police just yards away where Senator Obama is staying for writing a political message on the sidewalk? Upon my return to Washington, DC, I will be meeting with our legal team to discuss our legal options against the city of Denver and the Democratic National Convention."
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