Sunday, January 20, 2008


The closing arguments in the first round of Columbus Day Hate Speech trials will begin at 8:30 am in District Court courtroom 186L (this is a shift from the original courtroom of 117M). Closing arguments for the defenders, Julie Todd, Koreena Montoya, and Glenn Morris, will be led by our outstanding attorneys David Lane and Mark Brandes. Our other amazing legal team members, Thom Cincotta, Qusair Mohammedbai, and Lonn Heymann, will assist in the closing arguments and jury instructions.
After closing arguments by both sides, the case will go the jury, and a verdict is expected to be reached sometime on Tuesday. All TCD members and supporters are invited and encourages to attend the proceedings. The outcome of the case may have a determinative effect on the remaining 70+ cases, remaining from the C-Day arrests.
Among some of the amazing developments in the case last week, which took up all of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, was the testimony of Rev. Todd and Ms. Montoya, accompanied by videos of misogynist police brutality in both cases. The jury was visibly shaken by the torture administered by the Denver police through what it euphemistically calls "pain compliance" techniques. Glenn Morris was on the witness stand for over two hours, recounting the racist history and legacy of Columbus, and going toe-to-toe with Denver city prosecutor Melissa Drazen-Smith during cross-examination. Morris' testimony concluded with defense attorney David Lane demonstrating for the jury the sound and the power of the AIM/Four Winds drum singing the AIM song, as it was done in the streets on October 6th, this time in open court. An amazing and very powerful day of testimony. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Towanda invites people to read about the trial at:


(I wanted to be there for the whole trial but—as for some others, I suspect—inescapable obligations prevented that. Others weren’t able to attend at all. I’m only going to describe what I felt were some of the key points in the consolidated trial of Glenn Morris, Rev. JulieTodd, and Kareena Montoya before Judge Claudia Jordan in Denver County Court from Wednesday through Friday this week during the time I was able to be there. I’m sure others will be posting, as well).

Ø Early on, the city tried to rein in the ambiguity present in justice (and in reality) and press for the most rigid kind of “law and order.” Conduct, not content, was the rallying cry of assistant city attorney Melissa Drazen-Smith and it mattered not one whit whether the content was Nazi hate-speech or moving oratory by MLK. “Don’t listen to their opinion. Don’t listen to their words,” she said. After all, there was always the option to picket, petition, lobby, write letters, call your Congressperson, etc.—none of the lunch-counter liberation of the civil rights era or the tactics of a Gandhi or Lech Walesa or the impassioned plea of Native activists for the truth about the Columbian holocaust and legacy to be heard.

Lead defense attorney David Lane swept this from the board by asking whether, in the letter of the law, it made sense for police to follow a motorist traveling one mile over the speed limit—technically a violation--in order to issue a ticket. And, as the Nuremberg trials showed, Nazis were “just following orders.” He pointed out that MLK “technically” broke the law, but that the criminal justice system is, after all, to do justice. “No case anywhere is more important than this case,” he said, because the relationship between the government and its citizens is the most important thing anywhere. Jurors should not be “computerized robots doing a computerized robot job.”

Ø The city repeatedly raised the specter of “violent” protest, ignoring the fact that in many years of confronting the Columbus Day parade there have been no violent incidents or convictions for physical violence by demonstrators—but this year, if not in other years, police used batons and pain compliance (even after compliance had been achieved), not to mention the implicit violence of hate speech. (Why does one have the feeling that Drazen-Smith’s admonition to petition, lobby, or write letters to Congress wouldn’t produce justice against this kind of state violence?)

Ø There were down-the-rabbit-hole moments galore. The city showed a half-hour video that evidently was to depict the disorder and potential “violence” at the Columbus parade, and to demonstrate that the police issued a command to clear the street three times. In fact, the video portrayed a peaceful but spirited cacophony of banner-waving and drumming, chanting, and singing that essentially drowned out any police bullhorn commands and that depicted a street full of cops, bystanders, and demonstrators mostly just milling about. Nothing about it seemed a “significant” impediment to much of anything, frankly.

Showing of the video also underscored another anomaly—the city was able to talk about past parades and to introduce material not restricted to Morris, Todd, and Montoya, but the defense was told not to do so. Though of direct relevance, the defense was not to mention the fact that U.S. Cavalry-attired horsemen led last year’s parade in an open insult to Native people that speaks directly to a celebration of intimidation as parade (and protest) purpose. Russell Means, initially a defendant, ended up as a witness. Potential witnesses (essentially everyone, including reporters) were told they could not be in the courtroom. And so it went.

Ø Some in the courtroom were moved to tears when Glenn described a (documented) contest engaged in by Columbus’ men, who threw infants into the air and attempted to cut them in half with their swords, and when Julie and Kareena described their treatment during arrest. Kareena, who recoiled from police, was charged with resisting. Police Technician McKibben called Julie a “dumb bitch” when he told her to stand up, Julie said—a contention McKibben, of course, denied under oath. Although she was heard saying, “You’re hurting me,” he maintained that all she did was sing “We Shall Overcome,” which he agreed was not an “angry” song. He acknowledged asking her, “Are you going to get up and walk?” rather than issuing a command. He said the parade protest afforded him an opportunity to use his “technique,” which he described in this case as a wrist-lock, a form of pain compliance he continued to exert after she was walking to the jail bus. Lane noted that film showed some arrestees being escorted with light, upper arm guidance or practically no contact, and some were carried. McKibben agreed that he was a “pain compliance guy” rather than a “pick up and carry guy,” as Lane phrased it.

Ø Glenn prevailed in spirited testimony that demolished the city’s attempt to depict him as a collaborator in attempts to “stop” the parade, a term he said was erroneous, since protesters sought rather to confront or transform the parade. He reiterated that AIM/TCD had tried repeatedly over the years to urge the mayor, the governor, the legislature and others toward abolishing the parade, which contains “elements considered to be anti-Indian and ethnically intimidating.” He queried why, if the parade celebrates Italian heritage, it includes Hell’s Angels and faux conquistadors. The parade is not a cultural celebration, but is intended to show whites’ “racial superiority and racial inferiority of Indian people,” via tyranny of the majority. He said, “For us in AIM , the parade is the equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan—the same reason burning a cross is ethnic intimidation.” He spoke several times with Police Chief Gerry Whitman—with whom he said he had had a cordial working relationship for several years—and told him, “I’m not the boss here—I don’t control everything.” At 15th and Stout Streets the parade was nowhere to be seen and “we did not stop the parade,” he said. He was arrested at 15th and Welton after he entered the street carrying sweetgrass, “a sacred element to represent purity,” with which to effect reconciliation with the paraders—a goal that had been sought for many years. He was not told not to go into the street. He parried question after question from Drazen-Smith, pointing out in many instances that he’d already responded to the same points she raised repeatedly. The parade was never stopped, it was started and finished, and the protest—a statement about the parade’s hatefulness—was a minor inconvenience, he said. The parade was a “celebration of the death and destruction of my people,” he said, and the protest was in compliance with basic human rights.

Ø Disrespect was kind of a hallmark of these proceedings, and it showed in several ways. The judge allowed the drum to be brought into the courtroom to replicate the noise of drumming on the street where police bullhorn commands went unheard. But although most people rose in respect for the honor song, the judge and other city employees remained seated. Too, Drazen-Smith refused to allow Irma Little, an elder in a wheelchair, to talk about her experience in being jailed despite age and incapacity, in an incomprehensible display of insensitivity. Irma, from Rosebud, was able to say she entered the street for the younger generations: “Now that I know the truth, I want them to know the truth.” She also said the only violence she saw was not from protesters, but from police officers making arrests, when those being arrested “yelled in pain.”

Ø Russell, who spoke from the perspective of an elder who is also a long-time activist for Indian people, said that years ago his daughter, then a first-grader, asked, “Daddy, where were the Indians before Columbus discovered America?” He said that from then on he tried for many years and in many ways “to tell our story.” He described today’s reality for Native people in the Dakotas, where life expectancy is 44 years and where his youngest son, age 22, is “already middle-aged.” American Indians have no constitutional rights and no protection against the police, the government, non-Indians, or corporations, he said; Natives cannot own our own land because it is held in trust by the government. “The Doctrine of Discovery that Columbus brought to this country was murderous to my people,” he said. Polio and TB have returned to the reservation, where there is abuse of all types. “When do we get to tell our story?” he said. “In the 21st Century we don’t exist.”


Friday, January 18, 2008



Tuesday, January 15, 2008





Trial is set to begin Wednesday, January 16, 2008, 8 a.m., Courtroom 117M, City and County Building, Denver and is expected to last three days. Media are welcome to attend.

Glenn Morris, Julie Todd and Koreena Montoya will be in court on Wednesday, January 16, to put Columbus, the City of Denver, and the U.S. legacy of anti-Indian racism on trial. Evidence will support that the city acted inappropriately by ignoring the rights of protestors, applying excessive pain compliance holds on protestors, particularly the women, and permitting an unlawful parade that celebrates the genocide of indigenous peoples.

In a peculiar twist, the city’s case against Russell Means, dismissed by Judge Claudia Jordan on January 4, 2008, was reinstated at the request of city attorneys, but all evidence was suppressed against Mr. Means. City attorneys are appealing the Means suppression decision by the judge so that they may proceed with their “vindictive prosecution” and include Mr. Means in the January 16 trial of Morris, Todd and Montoya.

Subpoenas have been issued to Mayor John Hickenlooper, Denver Chief of Police Gerry Whitman, and Columbus Day parade ringleader George Vendegnia to testify at the trial.


Sunday, January 6, 2008

TOPSY-TURVY (Court update Jan. 4)

The Columbus Day parade protest case against activist Russell Means was on-again, off-again Friday in Denver City and County Court.

Judge Claudia Jordan initially dismissed the case against him because the city failed to show "due diligence" in subpoenaing the arresting officer to appear, and the officer was absent.

The judge later reinstated the case because apparently she could not dismiss the case at a hearing called merely to determine whether certain evidence gathered at the time of arrest should be suppressed.

In addition to reinstating the case, however, she suppressed all evidence against Means, effectively foreclosing any conviction.

Charges were also dropped against arrestees Shannon Francis and Glenn Spagnuolo because the city couldn't determine which police officers arrested them.

The city issued a general accusation of the defense that "they are trying to make this into a media spectacle."

The city's method of issuing subpoenas and the police department's method of complying with them was called into question, and two officers who had received subpoenas still could not appear until mid-afternoon Friday because they said there were sick children at home.

At that time, the officers did identify Glenn Morris, Julie Todd, and Kareena Montoya, so they (and, technically, Russell) will be on trial at 8:30 a.m. January 16 in Courtroom 117M, City and County Building, 1437 Bannock.

Lead defense attorney David Lane was sustained repeatedly over objections by the city during his examination of SWAT officer Tom McKibben, who arrested Julie Todd.

McKibben was questioned about his interaction with Todd, whom he denied calling an obscene name. She didn't talk to him, he said, but was singing "We Shall Overcome."

A wrist-lock--a form of pain compliance--was used to "pull her" apart from others, he said, and she was told that, because of the compliance hold, she could break her hand if she insisted on being carried rather than walking.

McKibben said he didn't know whether Todd heard a bullhorn command he said was repeated three times ordering people to leave the street. He also said he asked her three times, "Are you going to get up and leave?" which, Lane noted, was a question, not an order.

The judge cut off Lane's line of inquiry about evidence showing that the officer did or did not know whether the Columbus Day parade was a "lawful parade," and she denied the motion to suppress the police evidence.


Friday, January 4, 2008


Put the old culinary skills to good use for a good cause:

Potluck fund-raiser
for the Legal Defense Fund
2 p.m. Sunday January 13
Four Winds

Bring friends!