We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the appalling violence and use of force perpetrated at the hands of law enforcement in Colorado. Beginning May 28th, Coloradans from across the state gathered in Denver to peacefully mourn the murder of George Floyd and to demand justice for the indiscriminate killings of Black persons, including Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, and countless others. Instead of the respect and discourse they deserve, officers responded to these demonstrations with aggression.
Our nation has a proud history of strategic protest and civil disobedience as an effective means of challenging oppression and bringing about needed change. We recognize this history, particularly as we begin the month of June with its anniversaries of social justice milestones, protests, and civil disobedience such as Juneteenth, the LGBTQ Pride movement, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Violence and brutality at the hands of law enforcement is an unacceptable violation of the public’s trust. It is the obligation of law enforcement — whose professional duty it is to “protect and serve” the community — to de-escalate tension, especially during a protest, and to hold one another accountable. And as we continue to press for reform, we must address the complicity of prosecutors and the courts in perpetuating injustice and oppression.
In stark contrast to their sworn duty, some law enforcement officers were actually perpetrators of brutality against those they have vowed to protect and serve. On several occasions, these officers met nonviolent congregations of Coloradans and clearly-identified members of the press with volleys of tear gas, pepper balls, and flash bangs.
This is more than just an egregious misuse of force. It is a serious public health concern , especially during an ongoing pandemic. Tear gas is a chemical weapon that has a long history of being utilized to silence communities of color, and it’s known to cause a variety of serious injuries including chemical burns, respiratory distress, miscarriage, and stillbirth in pregnant persons . In some cases, depending on pre-existing conditions, exposure to tear gas can even result in death. In addition to protesters, countless bystanders who live and work in the surrounding areas have been continuously exposed to this airborne weapon. There is no excuse for using tear gas on nonviolent protesters, let alone those blameless citizens who’ve found themselves in the crossfire.
This cannot stand.
Our organizations stand together in calling on our lawmakers to pass effective legislation right now to hold law enforcement accountable and to ensure the public is kept safe from police violence.
NAACP State Conference
ACLU of Colorado
Women’s Lobby of Colorado
The Marigold Project
New Era Colorado
The Bell Policy Center
Denver Young Democrats (DYD)
Colorado Civic Engagement Roundtable
The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado
Colorado Consumer Health Initiative
Center for Health Progress
Colorado Coalition for the Homeless
Padres & Jovenes Unidos
Colorado Association for School-Based Health Care
Colorado Immigrants Rights Coalition
Colorado Common Cause
Soul 2 Soul Sisters
Denver Justice Project
Colorado Working Families Party
Colorado Doula Project
United for a New Economy
Colorado Cross Disability Coalition
Progress for Colorado
Positive Women’s Network USA
Positive Women’s Network CO
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
Rocky Mountain Values
Colorado Plaintiff Employment Lawyers Association
Colorado Fiscal Institute
Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado
The Wilderness Society
Western Resource Advocates
Colorado Black Women for Political Action
1. “What Is Tear Gas, & What Does It Do To Your Body?” by Elizabeth Gulino; June 1, 2020; https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2020/06/9848420/what-is-tear-gas-effects
2. “Tear Gas Is an Abortifacient. Why Won’t the Anti-Abortion Movement Oppose It?” by Michelle Goldberg; August 19, 2014; https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/tear-gas-abortifacient-why-wont-anti-abortion-movement-oppose-it/