As we expected, 420 photos may backfire

When I posted this story about University of Colorado police posting photos of students smoking pot and offering a reward for identification, the general consensus of the regulars here was that the tactic would cause them problems. It appears we were right.

Civil rights attorneys Perry R. Sanders, Jr. and Robert J. Frank announced plans on May 10 to file a federal lawsuit against CU on behalf of several students who say their rights were violated by the CUPD at the 4/20 pro-marijuana gathering on Farrand Field.
“We were not advocating a federal civil lawsuit, we were advocating peace,” Sander said in a press release. “The university has forced our hand in this matter.” […]
In the announcement, Sanders said the Web site is one example of how the university has gone too far. “These are people that the worst thing they did was trespass, and there is a $50 reward by their picture,” he said. “This isn’t okay. This is killing ants with a sledge hammer.”
The university has “come after people like these three ladies right here who were not doing anything illegal that day,” he said. “They didn’t see any no-trespassing signs that I’m aware of. They certainly weren’t using any illegal drugs out there that day, they were like many hundreds, if not thousands, of people who were out there expressing themselves freely on a free university campus.”
“The photographs of the women, which are now posted on the Internet for the entire world to see, are a violation of these students rights,” Sanders said. “They’ve gotten calls from ( people ) as far away as Europe that they’ve seen ( the ) picture on the Web regarding being associated with using illegal drugs,” he said. “These people were not using illegal drugs at all. They were merely part of a peaceful protest.” […]
The attorneys contacted university representatives to ask that the CUPD’s investigation be stopped and the conflict resolved peaceably. “We offered the university an olive branch,” Sanders said in a prepared statement. “We, on behalf of clearly innocent students, asked them to take down the Web site and purge information related to it. We advised that the university would continue to harm these individuals if they acted on any of this information. The university not only rejected the olive branch, but picked up their bully club during finals and began telling students to come into the police station for questioning.”

While university officials and others claim that they did nothing wrong — after all, the participants were violating the no-trespassing signs, and the police have the right to go after those who break the law — there is a larger issue involved here.
The field was a traditional place for an annual 420 protest. Police and university officials knew this. As a public university, they purposely closed the field to prevent or hamper a peaceful political protest. They then posted pictures of the protesters online and offered rewards. Since they didn’t actually follow procedures for drug arrest (evidence, etc.), any actual pot smoking that may have occurred is irrelevant. All that they had is pictures showing that the participants were part of a political protest at a site traditionally used for protest, but that had been arbitrarily closed in order to hamper protest. Hardly justification for putting a price on their heads.
I don’t know if the lawsuit has a chance, but regardless, the publicity isn’t good for the university, and they seem to know it.

University of Colorado officials aren’t sure that a tactic used April 20 to discourage an annual pot-smoking celebration on Farrand Field worked well enough for an encore next year. […]
University officials closed the field for the day to discourage the event, but the signs were ignored. Last year, the sprinklers were turned on at the field to douse the participants.
Hartman said he doesn’t know what the university will do about the gathering next year but said administrators feel that many people would like the university to discourage illegal behaviors on campus.
“We’re going to do as you guys to tell us what to do,” Hartman said. “We’ve run out of ideas.”

[Thanks to Allan for the links…]
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