transform columbus day alliance: defendants' sample prep questions


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TCD Defenders' Sample Prep Questions

The following questions were taken from actual questions that were asked during motions and/or trial testimony. While the questions you might be asked if you testify may differ from the ones below, you could use these as a guide to prepare your statement and your notes. Remember that your answers will be individual and you should always tell the truth as you know it. Generally, you should not speak to anything that you do not have direct knowledge of, therefore do not feel that you must have an answer to each question. It is perfectly permissible to say "I don't know" or "I don't remember" if this is the truth. There are expert witness that can testify to matters of federal indian law and policy, constitutional law, and genocide, so don't feel that you must know everything. You can be cross examined on anything you testify about so consult with your attorney prior to and during the trial if you have questions. Having written statements that you can share with your attorney can expedite the process.

Nothing in this website constitutes legal advice and you should always consult an attorney with any legal questions. 

Direct examination ~ Cross examination ~ Summaries of motions

Direct examination – 
(Examples of your defense lawyer’s questions to you)

1. State your name and how employed.
a. How long so employed?
b. What is your educational background?
c. What is your tribal affiliation, if any?
d. Do you have any affiliations with the American Indian Movement?
e. What was your role, if any, in organizing the 2004 Columbus Day protest?

2. What is your understanding of the purpose of the Columbus Day parade?

3. What does Columbus represent to you?

4. How does your understanding of genocide relate to the Columbus Day parade?

5. How did you first become involved in the Columbus Day issue?

6. Describe your involvement, if any, w/ Columbus Day protests in the past?
a. Did you ever use violence in Columbus Day protests in the past.

7. What was your purpose in protesting the 2004 Columbus Day parade?
a. Why do you feel it is important to protest the Columbus Day parade?
b. How does the Columbus Day parade impact you, your children and/or your community?
c. How do you view the Columbus Day parade as incite to hate speech or ethnic intimidation?
d. Do you believe the Columbus Day parade is an act of ethnic intimidation? How so?
e. How were your actions a response to ethnic intimidation?
f. How do you see the celebration of Columbus Day as part of a pattern of ethnic intimidation against American Indian people?

8. How did you come to enter the parade route?
a. Did you remove barriers set up by police?
b. Did you block traffic?

9. When you entered the street, were you aware of any law or order that you were violating?
a. Are you aware of any law that makes it a crime to protest a parade on a public

10. Did you hear the orders to disperse given by the police?
a. Who made the announcement?
b. Describe your location in the crowd (front, back or middle; different places at different times?)
c. From your position in the street where were the police located? The crowd? The barricades?
d. Were you blocking traffic? From which direction was the announcement made?
e. How was the announcement made?
f. What exact words did you hear?

11. How easy was it for you to hear the police announcements?
a. Do you recall hearing drums or singing?
b. Were you able to talk to those near you in a normal conversational tone?

12. Did you use violence at any time during the protest? Did you intend to become violent?

13. How did you know you were under arrest?
a. Was it your intention to be arrested that day?
b. Did you sit or remain in the parade route after you were personally directed to leave the parade route?
c. Did you in any way resist arrest?
d. Did the arresting officer(s) tell you why you were being arrested? What did they say? When and where you told?
e. What was your understanding of why you were being arrested?
f. Did you believe you were committing a crime that day? Did you intend to commit a crime?
g. Describe the police officers interaction with you upon your arrest?

14. Describe your interaction, if any, with those in the Columbus Day Parade.
a. Did you physically confront or threaten to cause harm to anyone in the parade?
b. How was your First Amendment rights to peacefully assemble and exercise free speech interfered with that day and by who?
c. Were you able to confront the 2004 Columbus Day Parade and exchange your opposing views?
d. After the police ordered you to disperse and move you out of the street were you still able to protest? Why or why not?
e. Were you carrying a sign? What did it say? What happened to your sign after you were arrested?
f. While the police detained you, could you see or hear the parade as it passed by? What did you observe? How did it make you feel?

15. Even though the City of Denver abolished Columbus Day as an official city holiday some years ago, how do you see the city actively supporting this event?

16. When you were ordered to disperse and to stop expressing your views, do you believe you were given a lawful order?


Cross Examination 
(Examples of City Attorney’s questions to try to discredit your testimony given during direct examination):

1. Did you hear the order to disperse?

2. Where were you located in the crowd when the orders were given?

3. Why do you claim you didn’t hear the order?

4. Are you saying that out of the multiple announcements given over a megaphone by the police that you didn’t even hear one announcement?

5. Wouldn’t you agree that even if you did hear the order, you wouldn’t have obeyed it anyway?

6. Isn’t it true that you were determined to get arrested that day? 

7. Do you agree that you should obey a lawful order?

8. Do you think that it is ok to pick and choose which laws you will follow, and which laws you will disregard based upon your political or personal views?

9. Are you aware that Columbus Day was abolished by the city of Denver as an official holiday? Wouldn’t it be more effective to take your cause to the state government instead of to the city?

10. Is it your position that the City of Denver should not issue another permit to the Columbus Day Parade organizers? So you would interfere with another groups First Amendment rights just because their views are not politically correct?

11. Do you agree that those in the Columbus Day parade also have First Amendment rights that should be respected?

12. Isn’t this protest really about interfering with the First Amendment rights of another group?

13. Do you even have one example where the Columbus Day parade participants threatened you personally?

14. Do you have even one example of the Columbus Day parade participants causing you physical harm?

15. Do you really think that candy thrown by women and children on floats in a public parade is the same as cross burning by the KKK on the lawn of a Black person?

16. Are you aware that there are more productive ways to change policies that you do not like besides breaking the law?

17. Have you taken steps to change the state law through the legislature? Why not?

18. You spoke of the so-called impact the Columbus Day holiday has on Indian children? Do you think breaking the law is setting a good example for them?


Summaries of the motions 
(click on the title in each summary to open the full motion in Adobe Acrobat)

Hate Speech Motion: Not all speech is protected by the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution. The Columbus Day Parade is "celebrating" the genocide of indigenous peoples and therefore it constitutes hate speech and ethnic intimidation. Such speech and activities are not permissible under US, Colorado, and international law. The defenders had a duty to take peaceful action to oppose hate speech, the same way they would be justified to take action if the Paraders were marching through the streets, burning crosses in front of black citizens in an attempt to incite violence and harm to the community. US Supreme Court cases, as well as Colorado and international law make it clear that the defenders had not only the right, but the duty to Act.

International Law Motion: The celebration of Columbus Day in general and the "Convoy of Conquest" in particular constitute incitement to and/or advocacy of genocide. The U.S. government, as well as the City and County of Denver, are obligated by international laws, treaties and conventions to prevent genocide as well as any activity that promotes racial hatred or discrimination. The defenders were acting within the rights, indeed the requirements, of international law, to stop the incitement to and advocacy of genocide. The defenders did not disobey any lawful order by the police since the order itself was unlawful as it would have allowed the continuing violation of the most fundamental of human rights. The defenders were not loitering which is generally interpreted to mean remaining in an area without purpose. All charges therefore must be dismissed.

Constitutional Law Motion: Both the "loitering" and "failure to obey a lawful order" ordinances are unconstitutionally overbroad and vague, both in how they are written and in how they were applied in the arrests of the defenders. In this instance they have interfered with the constitutionally protected of the exercise of free speech by the defenders. The defenders were not loitering. As the courts have said "loitering is aimless. Social protest is purposeful." The arrests of the defenders under the loitering ordinance violated their free speech rights under the US and Colorado constitutions because the actions of the defenders did not meet the legal requirements of loitering and the city had no other justification for the arrests. Denver's "failure to obey" ordinance says that it is illegal to disobey a police officer if that disobedience interferes with the officer doing his job. Since the defenders, at the time of their arrest, were engaging in purposeful political speech in a traditional public forum, and not loitering, the order to leave the streets was a violation of the defenders free speech rights and therefore unlawful. All charges therefore must be dismissed.


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