One-finger prayer

I was a protester on the side of Academy Ave.

You were driving by in your gas hog SUV.

I flashed you a peace sign.

You flashed me the bird.

My face was peaceful, hoping ...

Yours was purple with rage -- how dare I object to the slaughter of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi children?

As you passed I saw your bumper sticker: "WWJD?"

Do you pray to your god with the same fingers you flipped me off with?

--Thomas McCullock

Colorado Springs

Cowards and heroes

An open letter to Colorado Springs Police Chief Luis Velez:

I am writing to you today, because I saw a girl -- no older than about 12 -- lying on the ground alongside Maizeland while her mother flushed her eyes with water. Her sister, who was perhaps 8 or so, stood by, crying. And there was me, 23 years old, knowing exactly how that little girl felt. I wanted to cry, too.

I do not contest the right of the police to use force when facing a reasonable threat. If the protest had turned violent, the use of tear gas and other nonlethal weapons would have been warranted. Instead, what I witnessed was a group of people standing on a sidewalk. A handful of people who did not listen when ordered to get off the street had been arrested. The others stood by, out of the way of traffic, holding their signs and chanting.

And then a funny thing happened. Officers in riot gear used tear gas to disperse the crowd. They fired the gas extremely close to the parking lot where the vast majority of protesters' cars were located. It doesn't take a physicist like me to figure out that this is not a very good strategy if you want people to vacate the area.

And what was the crime that brought on this action? People standing on a street corner, half an hour after they were supposed to have left, causing no trouble, out of the way of traffic. Sure, they were breaking the law -- breaking the law much in the same way as someone driving one mile per hour over the speed limit. No harm no foul, right?

The entire CSPD should be ashamed. They were cowards today, using weapons against a peaceful gathering of people, the very ones they are supposed to serve and protect. That little 12-year-old girl was braver than any of them.

-- Nicholas C. Plumb

Via the Internet

Citizens at risk

With the recent attention on the use of excessive force by the CSPD, it's no wonder that last Saturday's peaceful protest of war in Iraq ended with the police firing tear gas into the crowd.

Among the crowd were many children, babies and elderly, and I personally witnessed a 12-year-old girl lying on the ground crying while her parents frantically flushed her eyes out with water. I'm not a doctor, but I imagine that if any of the small babies in the crowd had inhaled any gas, the results could have been deadly. The police say they were "dispersing the crowd," however tear gas was fired into the parking area, making it impossible for most of the demonstrators to leave.

This is an outrage. How many innocent people will be hurt or killed by our ill-trained, trigger-happy police department before we finally do something? The crowd at the protest was not violent or doing anything that would warrant such action. There were much larger protests throughout the country and police were able to disperse those crowds without the use of tear gas and mace.

I encourage anyone who was at the rally to file a formal complaint against the CSPD and write a letter to Chief Luis Velez. His officers' reckless, unchecked behavior is violating our civil rights and putting peaceful citizens at risk.

-- Chris Huffine

Colorado Springs

No imminent threat

Thanks to the Colorado Springs Police, my 2-year-old daughter and I had the experience of being tear-gassed last Saturday.

The peace rally at Palmer Park was a tremendous success. Near the end of the march portion of the event, a small but vocal group was trying to get others to come out into the street (which had been closed off); something police were trying to stop. The police worked on pushing people onto the sidewalk for a while. My friend and daughter and I moved down a short ways from this. We were talking to people as they headed for their cars. I heard the police in the distance ask people to move away -- I assumed they were still talking to the folks in the street.

We were never told that we needed to move. Then I heard some popping sounds and people started yelling about tear gas. The police set them off a mere 15 feet from my daughter in her stroller. I grabbed my daughter and started to run.

We were lucky. We were only exposed to a small amount of the tear gas, but conversations with my daughter for the rest of the day revolved around the subject. The tear gas burned her nose and lungs. When we washed her hands, the residue made them hurt as well. She was scared because we had run away from something and she didn't understand why.

All of this was completely unnecessary. There was no imminent threat that the police were trying to avoid. The people going in the street should have been warned and then arrested.

The Colorado Springs police put a negative edge on this day. It seems as if they were scared of the crowd and as though they thought going to this extreme was desirable. It wasn't. It was completely unnecessary, wasteful and harmful. I hope they get some training in how to handle situations like this, because there are alternatives to firing tear gas among innocent people.

-- Stirling Cousins

Superior, Colo.

Blocked artery

It was interesting to see how the tear-gassing of a few demonstrators by the Colorado Springs Police in some ways mirrored the action that was being protested.

The police, having superior weaponry, was able to subdue a "weak" minority almost because they could win and did so with a weak excuse that these people were "blocking a main artery." I'm not sure what their response would have been if hundreds of thousands had turned up as in many major cities whose downtowns were totally blocked all day.

For me, the phrase "blocking a main artery" immediately brought up images of the rather more frequent Air Force Football games. At these events, which occur multiple times through the season, the police (mostly other forces it might be added) routinely block this same artery so that people can go watch people bang into each other with some violence for the "fun" of it. In so doing the nonparticipants are delayed, in some cases by hours, because of the traffic delays on Academy and I-25. In addition it is not unusual to have many instances of significant property damage occur, in the form of auto accidents, at each of these events.

Clearly, the Colorado Springs Police has no superiority in this situation and doesn't use tear gas to fix the road blockage.

-- Chris Pollard


Provoking chaos

Civil disobedience is often viewed by activists as noble and even necessary to advance a cause. In some cases, I believe this is true. However, the acts of civil disobedience that occurred on Academy Boulevard after the peace rally on Saturday did not help to advance the cause of peace in the least.

During the 1960s when some African-Americans chose to ignore color barriers and moved to the front of the bus, they were rebelling against discrimination and were justified and courageous in their act of civil disobedience. Conversely, the individuals who attempted to block traffic waving peace signs were not justified in their act of civil disobedience. Rather than promoting peace, they provoked chaos, violence and increased stress by creating a traffic jam. When was the last time you heard the term "road-peace," as a reaction to a traffic jam?

While marchers stood or walked on the sidewalk along Academy Boulevard with their anti-war signs, traffic flowed freely and people driving past saw them. Whether they agreed with the messages of peace or not, they got the message. It took courage to stand along Academy in this primarily right-wing, military town. When a minority of marchers blocked the road, a peace-oriented rally turned from peaceful to violent.

Maybe the police overreacted, but those who blocked the road provoked their reaction. The police are not our enemies. We have laws in our society to maintain peace and order. Breaking the law by preventing the flow of traffic was unjustified as an act of civil disobedience. It did nothing to advance the cause of peace.

-- Julie Hickey

Woodland Park

Try talking first

Colorado Springs residents might want to know about this place where citizens peacefully assemble without preemptive police attacks. Weekly, Fort Collins residents stand along our major thoroughfare and protest our country's move to circumvent international law. Drivers wave and boo, but police never show up in riot gear and incite a riot.

While it's true that 30 protesters did block your major thoroughfare, I was part of the law-abiding 2,970 protesters that waved peacefully to drivers from the sidewalks. Although police were eager to stop traffic and confront the overzealous few, police did not make a positive effort to communicate with the crowd.

You may want to donate some money to your police because it seems they cannot afford a sufficient PA system. I never heard a word from police as I quietly observed protesters at Palmer Park stand on the sidewalks while police fired tear gas into the group. Even after they dispersed, police fired a second round into the lot where people were trying to leave in their cars.

So, come to Fort Collins, where you can exercise your constitutional rights. Even if you accidentally stumble into the street, I'm confident our police will try talking to you before doing anything else.

-- Tyler Kinkade

Fort Collins

Colorado's rage

Two press accounts stand out for me after last weekend's anti-war activity. One involves Colorado Springs' use of force against the protesters (including many children) in a park in their community. The other is a pro-war rally in Denver, covered by CNN, that featured several local people holding signs encouraging the administration to "Kill the Bastards now!"

All around the world there were peaceful protests to a war that the vast majority of human beings feel is unjust and unnecessary. In Colorado there is little peace and seemingly a whole lot of rage. My view of Colorado as moderate and civilized place is changing, as are my plans to visit.

-- Jesse Putnam



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