Militant Journalism

Boulder police detain Black man for doing yard work, community fights back

On March 10, over 650 people marched through Boulder, Co. to protest racist policing one week after city cops surrounded, detained and drew weapons on a Black man doing yard work at his own residence.

On March 1, Zayd Atkinson was picking up trash in his yard using a garbage clamp and bucket. A police officer approached him, claiming he was responding to a report of a suspicious person on private property. This officer kept his hand on his gun while questioning him and repeatedly told the “suspect” to drop his “weapon”—the clamp he was using for garbage cleanup. The cop called for backup saying Atkinson was unresponsive. Eight police officers responded within minutes and surrounded the man. At least one drew his shotgun.

A neighbor recorded the scene in a video that has gone viral.

Four days after Atkinson miraculously survived this extremely dangerous encounter with racist Boulder police officers in his yard, it was announced that the killers of young Stephon Clark, a Black man gunned down by Sacramento police officers in his yard holding nothing but a cellphone, will face no charges.

The announced non-indictment of Clark’s killers in Sacramento, and the detention of Atkinson for “doing yard work while Black,” sparked outrage and protest in both communities against racist police terror.

All ages joined the protest march in Boulder chanting, “ACAB, all cops are bad to me,” and “These racist cops have got to go!” The mood was powerful and angry as people came together to denounce police terror in “liberal” Boulder.

The police department has promised to conduct an internal investigation, although they have astonishingly only placed one out of eight officers on the scene on “administrative leave” for investigation.

The Boulder police and City Council are claiming that this is an isolated incident in an otherwise progressive city with an enlightened police force. However, the record points in the other direction.

A 2016 independent report found that Black people in Boulder are more than twice as likely to be cited for traffic and misdemeanor offenses compared with the city’s overall population. Black people were also found to be between five and eight times more likely to be arrested for felony offenses. This is all the more astounding given that Black people are less than 2 percent of Boulder’s overwhelmingly white population.

Boulder’s police and jailers have also been involved in multiple unaccountable civilian deaths.

In 2015, a college student under the influence of psychedelic drugs was shot to death by Boulder cops although he posed no danger to any officer. (The Daily Camera)

In 2016, a woman died in Boulder County Jail after deputies ignored her repeated calls for medical help. (Westword)

In 2018 a young man died from asphyxiation after being locked in the back of a cramped van as sheriff’s deputies transported him to a substance abuse center. (Daily Camera)

The Boulder City Council says that the road toward accountability is through the Professional Standards Review Panel–Boulder’s version of a police review board. But, like review boards all over the country, it has no teeth and is only empowered to make recommendations to the police chief regarding officer misconduct and criminality. On top of that, half of the 12-person panel are actually police officers. The other half are community members that are required to interview with and submit to training by the Boulder Police Department.

Clearly, the review panel is nothing but a sham. Several advocacy groups have launched a campaign to establish a new review panel.

Far from being a “liberal” exception, Boulder police are cut from the same cloth and perform the same functions as racist police departments all over the country.

However, the March 10 protest showed that the community is ready and willing to fight back!


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