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Police actions in 2003 lead to Friday forum 

Questions still swirl concerning actions of Colorado Springs police at this year's St. Patrick's Day parade, and the city has admitted it mistreated anti-war activists at another time, four years ago.

In a settlement dated Oct. 13, 2006, the city acknowledges some arrests were "improper" after a 2003 protest that spilled out of Palmer Park.

"... It appears many of you were erroneously arrested while attempting to follow police orders to leave the area," states the settlement, approved by Magistrate Judge Michael J. Watanabe of U.S. District Court in Denver.

The settlement offers an apology to people including the "Dairy Queen Dozen," so named because of their arrests at the fast-food franchise near Peterson Air Force Base.

The settlement requires a public forum, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday at the Colorado Springs Senior Center, 1514 N. Hancock Ave., to highlight concerns over the "exercise of free speech" in hopes that such "misunderstandings do not transpire in the future." The forum's timing is likely to mean people will be talking about the events of St. Patrick's Day, as well.

Police dragged an elderly activist over asphalt, used a Taser gun in an aborted crowd-control effort and employed controversial physical-compliance holds. Seven marchers were arrested.

Activists, including some arrestees, were scheduled to meet privately with Mayor Lionel Rivera, Chief Richard Myers and others Wednesday afternoon. The outcome of that meeting was unavailable by deadline.

To attorney and activist Bill Durland, a St. Patrick's Day arrestee who will be part of Friday's forum, the issues justify creating some kind of citizen public safety review board.

"This issue is very important, especially now," he says.

Durland says police appear to lack "detail-specific approaches" to responding to free-speech demonstrators.

The "Dairy Queen Dozen" were among 35 people arrested on Feb. 15, 2003. That day, police also controversially used tear gas. The arrests at the Dairy Queen were outside city jurisdiction, and charges later were dropped.

In 2004, eight of the 12 activists responded with a civil-rights lawsuit against the city, according to court records. The suit was dropped last year, in favor of the settlement requiring the citizen/police forum.

The public forum will include Deputy Chief Steve Liebowitz.

Video of the forum, which will be used as a training tool for new police officers, also will air later on the city's Comcast Channel 18, according to an April 20 letter by Assistant City Attorney Thomas Marrese.

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