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Federal trial over Denver's response to 2020 protests to end this week

Denver protests
Posted at 4:54 PM, Mar 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-24 21:12:36-04

DENVER — The three-week federal trial over the City of Denver's response to protests during the Summer of 2020 is set to end this week.

This is the first civil trial in the nation that stems from George Floyd protests to go before a jury.

Over the past several weeks, the jury heard testimonies from police officers, Denver’s police chief, and the city’s former independent monitor.

“They've talked consistently about the failures of what the police did in response to the George Floyd protests and frankly, the police brutality that was visited upon protesters for going out there to protest,” Killmer, Lane, & Newman attorney Andy McNulty said.

McNulty has been following the trial closely and said it is important for many reasons.

“This is the first time that a jury of our peers is going to judge whether the police response during the George Floyd protests here in Denver, which was representative of the police response across the country, was appropriate and constitutional,” McNulty said. “The second important thing that this jury is going to do is they're going to determine whether there needs to be some accountability for Denver Police officers."

McNulty, who represents several protesters who said they were victims of police brutality during the 2020 George Floyd protests, said lack of proper police training was highlighted during several testimonies.

“One of the most key moments in the entire trial was the testimony of Nick Mitchell, the independent monitor and talking about his interviews with police officers who told him that they were not prepared at all for these protests to erupt,” McNulty said.

McNulty said this case is about about police training and the First Amendment.

“I think that every American should be very concerned about the government squelching peaceful protest, no matter what side of the aisle you're on, no matter if you're a liberal or a conservative, a moderate," McNulty said.

MSU Criminal Justice Associate Professor Stacey Hervey said the First Amendment question can be complicated.

“Obviously, people have the right to protest in this country. It's one of the greatest things about this country. But I think when you're really looking at protesting, when does protesting step over the line into destroying the rights of others?” Hervey asked.

Hervey said it can be tough for officers to strike a balance between due process and crime control.

“As we get more information and society changes, we have to update police officer training as well, to align with the society's goals. The pendulum can sometimes swing back and forth as to what society wants from their officers,” Hervey said.

Community Activist Lindsay Minter was hit in the face with a projectile while attending a George Floyd protest in the summer of 2020.

“I lost a tooth,” Minter said. “It was traumatizing, and I hadn't done anything wrong. I had been on the sidewalk the whole time, I hadn't violated any street laws.”

Minter is also watching the results of the trial.

“I’d like to see change,” Minter said. “The cause is still very relevant. What happened to these organizers and those people that were brave enough to speak up when other people were too afraid and stayed home, they're still suffering consequences and pain and trauma for doing what was right."

Minter said the jury’s decision will have nationwide implications on how and when Americans can exercise their First Amendment rights.