Rocky Mountain Animal Defense, a Boulder, Co.-based animal rights group, was none too pleased to learn in May that Denver police had maintained a file on the group going back to 2001.
The existence of the file was revealed as the result of a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Denver Polie Department. After the ACLU announced its lawsuit in March and made public several pages it had obtained from secret police files, Denver Mayor Wellington E. Webb announced that the Denver Police Department had maintained files on as many as 3,200 individuals and more than 200 organizations.
Rocky Mountain Animal Defense director David Crawford told the Rocky Mountain News, “They have absolutely no reason to believe we are involved in criminal activity.” The Rocky Mountain News noted, however, that “members [of the group] have been arrested for acts of civil disobedience.”
The file on the group included everything from a notice of a 2001 garage sale to benefit the group, to notes from meetings that the Denver Police Department infiltrated. One such report included the license plate numbers of cars parked outside the meeting.
University of Colorado police Lt. Tim McGraw, whose department passed on items about the animal rights group to the Denver Police Department, said that even though the group itself may not have been engaged in illegal activities, police often follow such groups because individuals who do not act within the law may be attracted to their meetings.
McGraw told the Rocky Mountain News, “There are some people who attach themselves to these groups who have less than lawful intent.”
In fact, the Rocky Mountain News reported that several of the surveillance reports claimed that, “RMAD members and associates are suspects in the arson in Vail, Co., [claimed by the Earth Liberation Front] and of several other similar arson fires on facilities that had sponsored prairie dog shoots.”
Crawford maintains that although the group opposed the Vail project, it had nothing to do with the arson and adds that, “Because we were protesting, they considered us suspects.”
‘Spy’ report irks group. Berney Morson, Rocky Mountain News, May 20, 2003.
ACLU of Colorado Files Class Action Lawsuit Challenging Denver Police Spyfiles on Peaceful Protest Activities. Press Release, American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, March 28, 2002.