Dayag Anashiym and Chanan (Scott) Noble wandered up a ramp near the south entrance of Denver's Red Rocks Amphitheatre. It was Aug. 19, the sun was warm, the view mesmerizing. Music from "Reggae on the Rocks" thumped in the open air.
Anashiym and Noble were there with friends and Noble's 11-year-old daughter to spread the word about their spirituality. They're part of the Twelve Tribes, the Christianity-centered community best known locally for running Manitou's Mat Factor caf. Followers dress modestly, live communally and are given traditional names.
Anashiym, Noble and the rest of their crew frequent large-scale events where they think crowds might be interested in their message. They hand out fliers. Normally, no one pays them much mind.
This day, they say, things were different. First, they were approached by two security guards who asked them to leave. The two said they'd gladly leave the ramp, but not the Denver-owned public park.
The guards responded by calling two police officers.
"[The officer] walked up saying, "What's the problem? Why don't you just do what the woman said?'" Anashiym says.
The police asked them to leave the park as well, but the men declined, citing their First Amendment rights.
"The whole time they're talking to us, there are [other] guys out in the parking lot, just plastering cars with fliers," Noble says.
So, Anashiym and Noble say they were surprised when the cops said they'd have to go to a "free speech zone," on the edge of the park, if they wanted their Bill of Rights protections.
The Manitou residents weren't interested. Things went downhill. Noble says one of the cops threatened to have his daughter picked up by the Department of Social Services.
"He said, "I can take her away, and you'll never see her again,'" Noble says.
Instead, the child was left with friends when cops hauled Noble and Anashiym to an on-site holding cell. The men emerged a couple hours later, after several interrogations, they say. They were ticketed for trespassing and released.
This, despite Red Rocks' Web site reading as follows: "Red Rocks Park is open to the public from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day of the year. However, the Amphitheatre may be closed to the public at any time on a day when a concert is scheduled."
Anashiym and Noble now have an ACLU-connected lawyer and an April 1 court date in Denver.
Vince DiCroce, director of the prosecution and code enforcement section of the Denver City Attorney's Office, says he can't comment on the pending case, except to say that the maximum allowable penalty is one year in jail and a $999 fine.
Anashiym and Noble say they're fighting as a matter of principle.
"The bottom line is, we want to hand out papers where we have the right to hand out papers," Noble says. "We're not trying to bring down the man."
The feeling may not be mutual. Recently, Anashiym says, he and other members of his community were harassed (though not ticketed) by Denver police while handing out fliers outside the Adam's Mark Hotel where they were paying guests.
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