The judge presiding over the case of four Socialists cited after protesting in the streets has rejected their motion to dismiss based on “outrageous police conduct.”
The defendants participated in a “March Against Imperialism” in late March during which they, and some 15 to 20 others, walked, chanting with banners in hand, on downtown streets for several blocks before gathering at the steps of City Hall. There, police cited them for obstructing traffic and failure to disperse. As the Independent first reported, body camera footage disclosed during discovery revealed the presence of two undercover officers in the protesters’ midst.
At a Dec. 6 evidentiary hearing, the two undercovers and their supervisor, Colorado Springs Police Lt. Mark Comte, told the court their monitoring of the Socialists began in January. Media reports about heated clashes in other cities outside speeches by the right-wing provocateur, Milo Yiannopoulos, inclined Comte to send the undercovers to a planning meeting organized by the Colorado Springs Anti-Fascists. None of the defendants in this case were present, but Comte says that an unheeded proposal to unplug the sound system at Yiannopoulos’ January speech at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs led him to monitor left-wing groups in general. The UCCS protest was peaceful.
The Socialists maintain they're separate and distinct from the anti-fascists, though they do sometimes attend the same public events.
David Lane, the civil rights attorney representing the Socialists, argued, among other things, that the cops didn’t have reasonable suspicion that his clients have a history or tendency to commit violence or other criminal conduct, as is required when infiltrating an activist group. Wearing black to a protest, he continued, is protected speech, not a sign of criminal intent.
Now that Judge Kristen Hoffecker has rejected this argument, the case heads to trial. No date has been scheduled yet.