News » Local News

Undercover officers take the stand to explain infiltration of local Socialists


The Colorado Springs Socialists take to the streets in black bloc. - COURTESY SPRINGS SOCIALISTS
  • Courtesy Springs Socialists
  • The Colorado Springs Socialists take to the streets in black bloc.
When “Mark” and “Amy” took the witness stand, they seemed uncomfortable with all the attention. The two are undercover Colorado Springs Police officers serving with the Metro, Vice, Narcotics and Intelligence Division (Metro VNI) whose intelligence-gathering work relies on anonymity.

Already, their cover was partially blown as a result of an operation on March 26. That day, the officers went undercover to embed in a “March Against Imperialism” organized by the Colorado Springs Socialists, which culminated in the citation of four marchers for obstructing a roadway and failure to disperse. When the City Attorney’s office turned over the evidence in discovery, the defendants viewed body camera footage that revealed the undercovers in their midst. The Socialists were alarmed to know that law enforcement had infiltrated their peaceful assembly, particularly given CSPD’s history of spying on (generally leftist and environmentalist) activist groups.

Powerhouse civil rights firm Killmer, Lane & Newman LLP out of Denver took the Socialists’ case and filed a motion to dismiss based on “outrageous police misconduct,” arguing police violated federal regulations when they infiltrated a group with no history of or clear intent to commit violence.

According to testimony by the two undercovers and Metro VNI Lt. Mark Comte at the Dec. 6 evidentiary hearing, the intelligence-gathering operation began early this year, when they became interested in local leftists based on “national trends” — particularly the proliferation of black bloc, a tactic most closely associated with anti-fascism in which protesters wear black and mask up to hide individual identities from law enforcement, disapproving employers and/or right-wing enemies.

Wary of that tactic, Comte sent “Mark” and “Amy” to an open meeting, organized by the Colorado Springs Anti-Fascists, in the back room of the downtown Wild Goose Meeting House in January. The meeting was organized to plan how to “shut down” right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos during his scheduled appearance at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

There, “Mark” says he heard some attendees propose rushing the stage and disabling the sound system. During cross-examination, he told David Lane, lead defense attorney, that pulling power cords could be considered violent in his opinion. That particular proposal was never incorporated into the group’s plan and the protest was nonviolent. Yet, the undercover operation continued.

As for why an interest in antifa would lead to surveillance of socialists, the prosecution argued there’s ambiguity and overlap between the memberships. The defense maintained there are distinct differences, namely that antifa tends to align with anarchism, meaning they want to abolish the state, while the Socialists self-identify mostly as Marxist-Leninists, meaning they want workers to command and expand the state. “We don’t even like each other,” one defendant said slyly from the stand, to chuckles from the gallery.

Defense attorney David Lindsey asked “Mark” to explain the characterization of his client as a “member of antifa.” (Note, antifa doesn’t, in fact, have members as it’s a tendency, not an organization.)

“[I saw] him show up to a protest wearing black bloc clothing,” “Mark” answered.

Judge Kristen L. Hoffecker is expected to rule on the defense’s motion to dismiss in the coming weeks.

Comments (5)

Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

Add a comment

Clicky Quantcast