UPDATE: RAW STORY has obtained a letter from ACLU Colorado, sent to the Denver Police Department regarding the protest detention facility. Read it here.
During the 2004 Republican Nation Convention in New York City, over 1,700 protesters were taken into police custody in one of the most sweeping mass-arrests in US history. Many were held in Manhattan's Pier 57, inside a warehouse which was contaminated with lead and asbestos. Some were held for days, and without proper access to food, water, outside communication or legal counsel.
In Denver, police are preparing what a local political organizer calls a 'concentration camp,' laying in wait for mass arrests anticipated during the upcoming Democratic National Convention.
On Wednesday, a Denver CBS affiliate sent a news crew to crash the police department's improvised detention facility, found in a warehouse owned by the city on the north-east side of town.
"This is a building filled with metal holding cells," described reporter Rick Sallinger, introducing the segment. "We showed up at the facility unannounced today, the doors were wide open, and we managed to shoot for several minutes until a Denver sheriff's captain asked us to leave."
Footage of the warehouse revels tall, chain-link fence capped by barbed wire, and segmented pens each bearing an identifying letter at about shoulder height.
The news crew was not invited, nor welcome. Cpt. Frank Gale of the Denver Sheriff's Department called the facility "a secured area," and worried that information related to the site would be used "by people who are potentially trying to be disruptive."
"Each of these fenced in areas is about five yards by five yards," said Sallinger. "There's a lock on the door. How long those arrested will be kept here is not known. A sign on the wall reads, 'Warning! Electric stun devices used in this facility.'"
"If 300 people are taken to Denver’s temporary detention facility within a short time frame, processing those persons at the rate of 30 to 50 per hour would take at least 6 to 10 hours," notes a letter from ACLU Colorado, sent to the Denver Police Department. "During the Republican National Convention in New York City in 2004, nearly 1,100 people were arrested in a four-hour period. If a similar situation occurred in Denver, it would take at least 22 to 36 hours to process those persons."
Area activists are not amused at the news. CBS carried its footage of the newfound jail to Adam Jung, with Tent State University, and Zoe Williams, a Code Pink organizer.
"Very reminiscent of a political prisoner camp, or a concentration camp," said Williams.
"I mean, that's how you treat cattle," added Jung. "... It's a meat processing plant."
The detention site was supposed to be a secret, said Sallinger.
"At the temporary facility, Denver will of course also be required to provide for detainees’ basic human needs, such as adequate food and drinking water; access to toilets and facilities for washing; and access to medical care if necessary," the ACLU insisted. "Detainees must also be allowed the opportunity for bodily movement, including release from handcuffs or flexicuffs.
"Denver must establish a system to ensure that detainees are assured of access to medically necessary prescription medications they may be taking. Some arrestees will need prescription medications that are in the possession of family members who were not arrested. Denver will have to arrange a system to receive the medications from family members and then deliver them to the appropriate prisoner. Failure to deliver appropriate and necessary medications could result in serious deterioration and damage to a detainee’s health."
A call by RAW STORY to the Denver Sheriff's Department seeking information on this facility was not immediately returned.
"This facility will not be used for long-term detention," stated a Denver police department letter to area residents. "Arrestees who are processed at this facility will be there for no more than the few hours it requires for processing. Water, bathrooms, medical staff and phones will be available to them. The facility will be fully staffed to ensure its safe and secure operation."
ACLU Colorado is currently pressing the police department for further information.
The following video was aired by Denver's CBS 4 News on August 13, 2008.
An earlier version of this story placed Pier 57, where protesters were held during the 2004 RNC, on Staten Island.