Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of Marvin Booker's death, a homeless street preacher whose death has rejuvenated civil rights conversations, rallies against police brutality and may even lead to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Approximately 200 people gathered at the Denver Detention Center where Booker was killed, not including the police dressed in full riot gear, ACLU of Colorado Communications Director Rosemary Harris Lytle told HuffPost.
Supporters displayed banners that read, "One year later and our rage still burns" and, "Murder is murder!! Accountability now."
Harris Lytle said during Saturday's march:
"We must stand by Marvin and realize that if we don't stand by him and fight for him, it will be someone else tomorrow."
Last July, Booker, 56, was being processed at the new Denver jail on a charge of drug possession of paraphernalia. When Booker began to retrieve his shoes, deputies ordered him to stop but he ignored them and was wrestled to the ground by five deputies who placed him in a "sleeper" hold and then used a taser. He never woke up and his death was ruled a homicide, but no deputy was punished.
At least seven other cases of police brutality have been reported in the past three years and brutality settlements this year alone have cost the city over $1 million.
The ACLU responded with a campaign launch called "Race to Justice" with the following mission statement:
The recent incidents of excessive force and racial profiling committed by Denver's Police and Sheriff Departments simply cannot be allowed to continue. Denver needs a radical overhaul of our public safety agencies; one that rebuilds community trust and creates an atmosphere where abuse is never tolerated. The ACLU, along with many other community groups and local leaders, is demanding immediate action.
According to Harris Lytle, the U.S. Department of Justice has said that it is in the "threshold stage" of conducting an investigation of the Denver Police Department and Sheriff's Office, and that it could take weeks or even months for them to announce their decision.
In their official request for an investigation, the ACLU of Colorado cites 54 publicized instances of police misconduct since 2004 with settlements costing the city of Denver at least $7 million since that time period.
An excerpt from Legal Director of the ACLU of Colorado to the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division:
Many see the death of Rev. Booker, and Denver's decision that no policies were violated, as the culmination of a long series of incidents in which Denver authorities have tolerated, acquiesced in, or ignored serious allegations of law enforcement misconduct. The community no longer trusts Denver law enforcement authorities to investigate themselves. For that reason, we call on the Department of Justice to investigate the long-enduring pattern and practice of police misconduct in Denver.
"What needs to be established is a pattern and practice of police brutality with law enforcement in denver," Harris Lytle told HuffPost.
Nine Denver police have been fired since March, when Manger of Safety Charles Garcia took office.
In Booker's case though, Garcia said that the deputies had broken no law in a statement:
After a thorough review of the investigation and after considering the recommendations of the city's independent monitor, this office concludes that the deputies did not violate the department's use-of-force policy or any other department rules related to use of force.
However the Denver Post reports that the "sleeper" hold Booker was placed in has been banned after his death, along with several other policy change initiatives that include a temporary suspension of officers after an in-custody death.
The late Booker's father, Rev. Benjamin Booker--not Rosemary Harris Lytle of the ACLU of Colorado--said during Saturday's rally, "We must stand by Marvin and realize that if we don't stand by him and fight for him, it will be someone else tomorrow."