Thursday, August 14, 2008

Getting Ready for a Radical Roundup in Denver

[Image: CBS4 News video]

A few days ago a little secret was revealed in Denver about a makeshift detention facility that officials there have been quietly building in preparation for the upcoming Democratic National Convention. Since Denver’s jails are overflowing, the city has used a portion of its $50m federal budget for “security-related purposes” pertaining to the convention to build out dozens of metal cages “made out of chain link fence material and topped by rolls of barbed wire,” each measuring “about 5 yards by 5 yards.”
After a tip, CBS4 News broke the story with this video reporter Rick Sallinger took wandering around the facility, a city-owned warehouse on the northeast side of Denver, that is, according to one source, intended to have a holding capacity of 1,200 detainees.

[Image: CBS4 News video]

Denver officials said they planned to reveal the facility to the public only after the convention had started. How nice of them, and how convenient, too; that way they would make sure to avoid any public inquiry over the project having to answer such annoying questions like, how long detainees would be forced to stay there; or, what kind of access to legal counsel they would have while detained; what kinds of health and public safety conditions and requirements should the facility meet, just to name a few.

[Image: CBS4 News video]

With reluctance to answer these gritty questions, the ACLU has jumped all over this filing numerous lawsuits in order to request details of Denver’s police procedures for handling the protestors at the DNC, and to have revealed some sort of itemization of how they have gone about spending their federal budget and on what, exactly, with specific concerns around the types of non-lethal weapons that might be purchased and used against protestors.

Amy Goodman spoke with the legal director of the Colorado ACLU, Mark Silverstein, who mentioned an additional lawsuit they filed to try and “maximize the ability of the public and protesters to exercise their First Amendment Rights during the time of the convention.” He said the ACLU’s concern, was to learn how “such things as parade routes or demonstration routes” were gong to be created, “and how close the public and protesters might be able to get to the convention site in order to communicate view points or messages to the delegates that are coming to the convention.”
But, instead of using this opportunity to showcase some sort of progressive urban strategy that might help to responsibly encourage and manage the freedom of expression and right to public protest (something you’d expect to be celebrated at a Democratic National Convention), the city is obviously more eager to devise crude holding pens behind the scenes, to practice the disciplinary art of mass arrest and public incarceration. I wasn't able to dig this up, but I wonder what private contracts might be involved here. Halliburton? They already have a contract for such a purpose.

[Image: New York's Pier 57 Detention Center, , photo by Jacob Richards and Connie Murillo.]

Certainly, you recall the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City. This article reminds us that more than 1,000 people were detained at Pier 57, a long, concrete pier off the Hudson River that was converted into a detention center for arrestees – it was a reported record for mass arrests at any convention.
Aside from the legal questionability of these facilities, and the obvious allusions that have already been made between the protest zone and the detention facility further evolving into the same sorts of spaces and geographies engendered by the War on Terror, I’m always curious to learn what happens to these “temporary security architectures” after the fact. For instance, who makes sure the facilities have been taken apart? Who makes sure they don’t linger behind as semi-attached plugin-architectures of detention to the main carceral infrastructure of the city? Just as concerned as I am about the creation and utilization of these makeshift jails, I’m equally so about how events like the G8 Summit and the DNC are used to restock the city with detention space, and retool the urban fabric with new military and fortress devices that then become permanent extensions of the city’s security apparatus.

See also: Denver courts, jail gearing up for convention contingencies

[Previously: Architects of Nebulous Detention; G8 Walls; "Fenceland" (The Greatest Show On Earth!); Subverting "Military IKEA"; Return to Panic; fortress urbanism: Super Bowl City (Detroit).]


Blogger The Red Son said...

One thing that concerns me is the precedent set by these mass detentions during political events. If you can detain people for exercising their right to free assembly, what else will they start rounding people up for? The fact that Halliburton is building "detention" centers is worries me too.

7:08 PM  

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