The real story behind the Alicia Forrest/Carlo Garcia arrests.
(Crossposted at Little Green Footballs)
On Tuesday, August 27, during the Democratic National Convention in Denver, I witnessed an incident that seemed at the time to be rather minor, but which over the subsequent days turned into a major scandal — primarily due to a video posted online by the Rocky Mountain News.
This carefully edited video shows Officer Stewart of the Denver Police knocking Alicia Forrest of Code Pink to the ground during a protest, and then, after an edit, Forrest getting arrested by other officers. This video has created a firestorm among left-wing blogs, and also engendered many follow-up stories in the Denver Post, the Rocky Mountain News, Westword, and other mainstream Denver media outlets.
However, I personally witnessed the entire incident, from the beginning to the end, and can say without reservation that the Rocky Mountain News video is intentionally deceptive, and crafted to make the protester (Alicia Forrest) appear to be a victim of needless police brutality. I have photographic and video proof, shown below, that Alicia Forrest “asked for it” in the sense that she disobeyed police commands to stay back and also taunted the police; and that she was not seriously injured by Officer Stewart; and that the Rocky Mountain News in particular committed an act of media malfeasance by purposely posting on their site a deceptive video that left out all the context surrounding the incident. Furthermore, many blogs jumped on the story and trumpeted it as evidence of police misbehavior, when in fact there was no misbehavior at all.
The report below has 25 photos and four short videos, but bear with me and read all the way through to the end in order to see the full story. The full incident lasted many minutes and is a little complicated, but can easily be followed photo-by-photo in the report below.
Let’s start things off with the one-minute-long Rocky Mountain News video (YouTube link) that is the focus of the scandal (originally posted as part of this article). Watch it now. What are your impressions? Doesn’t it seem like that innocent little girl was first beaten and then arrested by the police for no reason? Shocking, isn’t it?
But that’s not the entirety of what happened. Keep reading to see the full story that the Rocky Mountain News (and other media outlets) didn’t want you to see.
The story began when a group of extreme anti-gay Christian preachers showed up in Civic Center Park to reproach the mostly left-wing crowd gathering for an unrelated parade and protest march.
They immediately drew a large circle of detractors and media.
Dozens of people were yelling at and getting into arguments with the Christians. These two men mockingly simulated gay sexual acts to taunt the preachers.
But it wasn’t all fun and games and mockery. As the minutes passed, the atmosphere began getting more and more confrontational, as revealed in this video (YouTube link) showing a radical group chanting “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Christian fascists go away!”
Eventually, the police felt they needed to intervene in order to prevent a possible outbreak of violence. Mounted police moved in and told everyone to step back and stop pressing in around the preachers.
The police then tried to set up a defensive perimeter.
I originally moved a bit away, as instructed, and so missed exactly what happened next, but according to the Denver Post, “Carlo Garcia, a leader of protest group Recreate 68, had asked police to escort the [anti-gay Christian] pastor out of the park. Instead, police said Garcia posed a threat and arrested him.” I saw that the Recreate 68 guy (later identified as Carlo Garcia) had been confrontational and threatened to remove the Christians himself, because he didn’t like what they were saying; the police replied that everyone was entitled to free speech, no matter what their point of view; when Garcia wouldn’t back down, they arrested him. The Las Vegas Sun published this photo of Garcia menacingly grabbing or wielding a pole.
Here’s a photo taken of him being arrested, moments afterward.
OK, everything up until now has been simply a precursor, setting the stage for the controversy that was to follow. As Garcia was being led away, a very large group of protesters, members of the media and just plain hangers-on followed the arresting officers, swarming around and demanding that they “let him go.” Many photographers (myself included) scrambled to record the action, and it was here that I first encountered the Code Pink member whom I later learned was called Alicia Forrest. You can see her in the foreground of this picture, wearing pink clothes and a pink crown. Notice how, of all the photographers, she was standing closest to the mounted officers.
In fact, in every picture I took, Forrest was always the one person closest to the action and most aggressively challenging the police. Despite the fact that the police very loudly and forcefully ordered everyone to “GET BACK!”, Forrest would not get back.
Here you can see Carlo Garcia being escorted by the police, and Alicia Forrest once again testing the limits of acceptable behavior by crowding in as close as she could get. Furthermore, despite having a camera, she was obviously not a journalist, because she was wearing a “protest outfit” (Code Pink-style clothes) and was among the people yelling at the officers “Let him go!” and “Police brutality!”
This video (YouTube link) shows the second part of the convoy/chase, in which police transported Garcia from the middle of Civic Center Park over to Bannock Street. Pay close attention to how the police officers repeatedly command everyone to “GET BACK!” and “Back AWAY from these people — NOW!” and even despite all that, Alicia Forrest is still visible fleetingly at two different points in the video being very close to the arresting officers. Now, as you can see, she wasn’t the only person venturing too close, as several other photographers would on occasion either purposely or accidentally find themselves at the front of the crowd. Even I got shoved forward several times, and thought myself in danger of being shoved back by the police. And to be perfectly frank, if a police officer had pushed me backwards during one of those moments where, through crowd dynamics or inattention, I found myself at the front of the pursuing crowd, then I would not have been surprised, nor would I have accused the police of brutality. Because the police felt they were in a very precarious situation, and the crowd was not obeying their commands.
But Alicia Forrest (seen here at the lower left) was nearly always the most aggressive one of us. In this picture, even after being directly commanded many times to step back, she’s right in the face of an officer (Stewart, in fact, the one who moments later would knock her backwards), taking a picture of Carlo Garcia and yelling at the police to let him go free.
The chase came to a brief halt as the police had to wait for the arrival of a vehicle to transport Garcia to be booked. In Old West style, the mounted police circled their horses around him and the arresting officers, in an attempt to keep the hostile crowd at bay.
This video (YouTube link) shows the police horses walking in a circle.
Garcia was screaming to the crowd that he was innocent. The police presence had by this time increased significantly.
Now we’re almost getting to the crucial part.