Charges dropped against 5 protesters of Gardner
A Denver judge on Tuesday dropped all charges against five protesters who were cited for occupying U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s Denver office in July in protest of the Senate health care bill.
The city attorney asked Denver County Court Judge Adam Espinosa to dismiss the case. Gardner had asked that the charges be dropped.
“This is probably the first and last time I’ll say to the judge, listen to Cory Gardner,” said Alan Kennedy-Shaffer, the pro-bono lawyer for the five defendants. “This vindicates the cause of my clients — the fight for health care for all.”
A group of protesters gathered July 6 outside Gardner’s office, urging the senator to vote no on the Senate healthcare bill. Following a sit-in in his office lobby, Gardner’s staff invited five protesters into his office for a call with the senator. Once the call had finished, the protesters, members of the Democratic Socialists of America, refused to leave. Carolee Strom, Merrill Carter, Chris Diehn, Jessica Westerbur and Jeremy Wilburn were arrested and cited for trespassing.
At the time Gardner’s office was in a private building that closes at 5 p.m.
Carolee Strom, a retired nurse, expressed relief at the outcome but also stood by the decision to occupy Gardner’s office.
“I called, I emailed, I texted, I protested and his ears were closed. It had come to a point for me where civil disobedience was the only road I could take,” Strom said.
Gardner did not appear in court, but protesters gathered outside the building held a cardboard cutout of the senator. About 30 people — Colorado officials Sen. Irene Aguilar, Sen. Andy Kerr and Rep. Joe Salazar among them — gathered in front of the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse Tuesday before the hearing to demand that prosecutors drop the charges. Protesters carried signs reading “Health Care For All” and “Stop Repeal.”
Gardner’s office has been a hot spot for protest in recent months. Ten disability-rights advocates, many disabled themselves, were arrested after a 57hour sit-in at Gardner’s Denver office in late June. The protest was part a nationwide action by ADAPT, a national group that organizes for disability rights.
Eight of the people arrested for the ADAPT sitin received a fine and community service in court on Aug. 31, said Dawn Russell, one of the protesters. Russell said Tuesday that charges against her and her sister, Hope Moseley, had been dropped. Both women also were cited in January, for trespassing while trying to access Gardner’s office.