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Denver activist targeted and beaten by police

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On July 8, 2013, MoveOn will be holding a rally to support Denver activist, Caryn Sodaro who was targeted by police at the March Against Monsanto on May 25, 2013. The rally will take place in Denver at Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse, (Colfax Ave & Fox St) at 7:30 a.m. MoveOn explained in their press release that Sodaro is “being blatantly and even violently targeted by the Denver Police. Join us at her court appearance to expose this shameful attempt at intimidation as we defend the rights of all of us to protest injustice.”

Homeless advocate and activist Caryn Sodaro has been targeted and arrested 13 times for participating in protests. Sodaro has been targeted by Denver police because she was believed to be one of the “leaders” of the Occupy Denver movement. During the first Occupy Denver eviction on Oct. 14, 2011, Sodaro recalls seeing people being hit with batons while nonviolently locking arms around the free food table. Sodaro was part of the 24/7 group, which cleaned up Lincoln Park where occupiers were staying. She also acted as security for rallies, “At the Oct. 29, 2011, eviction, I saw old people being kicked over and children being maced,” Sodaro said, “because I was always at Lincoln Park, the police thought I was the leader of Occupy Denver, but Occupy doesn’t have a leader.”

Caryn explained one of her experiences of being arrested, “I was walking home at night after a march and got surrounded by 5 police cars. The police knew my name and told me to drop my sign, after I did this I was arrested for park curfew.” Sodaro explained that all of her horrible experiences occurred in the District 6 police station. Sodaro claims that while in a holding cell she was psychologically and physically abused. She explained being told to kill herself because she was worthless and often handcuffed to the wall in her cell.

Sodaro was arrested at an Occupy Denver anti-ALEC march on Mar. 4, 2012, for obstructing traffic. “The police surrounded me in a group of people,” Sodaro said, “after I was arrested they didn’t put me in the system for 16 hours. I had to go to the hospital later because they kept tightening the zip ties so hard that they thought they broke my wrists. Now I have nerve damage in my hands. When I returned to my cell, the police officers handcuffed me to the cell and pepper sprayed me, after that they put a spit bag over my head and started punching me and roughing me up.” Following this incident, an internal investigation was conducted.

Following her arrest for obstructing traffic, Sodaro was surrounded by 10 police officers on the steps of the Denver capitol and arrested on Mar. 15, 2012, for being suspected of robbery. Sodaro explained that while in the basement holding cell at court she had her head slammed into the wall, which gave her a concussion. “After I was attacked by the police I called the captain a terrorist and he attacked me. I had bruises on my chest and both arms and had to be taken to the ER for a suspected stroke because I had a seizure. Since my head was slammed into the wall I have had two other seizures,” Sodaro continued, “I lost seven months of my life in jail for being suspected of aggravated robbery and for being called a ringleader or gang leader because I was part of Occupy Denver.”

Sodaro’s case was acquitted on Feb. 8, 2013, with all charges dropped. She has filed multiple complaints about the Denver police department and explained that Denver Internal Affairs Bureau is investigating her claims. “I want it to be known that the Denver police can target you and ruin your life,” Sodaro said, “I want to alert people to the fact that psychological and physical violence happens behind cell doors.”

Sodaro was arrested again on May 3, 2013, outside of the Palm Restaurant (1672 Lawrence St, Denver, Colo.) for disturbing the peace. Protesters gather at the Palm every Friday evening to protest that the Palm was a supporter of the urban camping ban law, which was enacted in 2012.

The Denver police are not unfamiliar with brutality accusations and charges. Marvin Booker, 56, who was a homeless preacher was beaten and later died while in custody on July, 9, 2010. Tom McGhee of the Denver Post wrote, “Deputies shocked him with a Taser, struck him in the legs with nunchucks, put him in a carotid ‘sleeper hold and lay on top of him in an effort to control him before he stopped breathing.” The FBI is now investigating Marvin Booker’s death.

Another example of violent police officers in Denver is officer Randy Murr who was involved in the brutal beatings of Alex Landau and Anthony DeHerrera. In March, 2013, activists protested in front of the Webb building due to officer Murr being reinstated. Protesters then marched to the City and County building where they met with Mayor Hancock and the chief of police. Following complaints of Murr for excessive force, he was reinstated. Hancock reaffirmed the decision to reinstate Murr, following his meeting with Mayor Hancock, Anthony DeHerrera stated, “They have rearranged some stuff at the police department and to me that’s not changing the culture, that's just rearranging the culture-- we want long term affects and long term changes.”

“The decisions by hearing officers at the Civil Service Commission to put violent and lying police officers back on our streets further harms the trust that community has in law enforcement. People in our community increasingly feel that police officers can do whatever they want and they will eventually get reinstated with back pay,” said Colorado Progressive Coalition Racial Justice and Civil Rights Director Mu Son Chi.

Denver police paid more than one million in brutality settlements in 2011 and 2012. The Denver Police have become notorious for committing excessive force, which was also seen during the Occupy Denver protests, where nonviolent protesters were shot in the face with tear gas canisters and some ran over by police motorcycles.

Caryn hopes the continued support and the investigation by international affairs will stop her harassment.

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