Milo Schwab has never grabbed a bullhorn and led a protest. He participated in the women’s marches and a few similar events, but wasn’t known to many of the civil rights activists in the city just a few months ago. After June 5th of this year, that changed. That’s the day a Denver judge severely restricted the Denver Police Department’s (DPD) ability to use tear gas, “less lethal” ammunition, and similar crowd dispersal methods that had been common at Denver protests. The ruling was a result of a legal challenge Schwab and co-counsel Ross Ziev filed with four protestors who had been injured.
Schwab, while supportive of the BLM protests, wasn’t an active participant himself. “Chanting isn’t my authentic voice. Where I feel like I can do the most good right now is doing this. I learned the value of stepping up and using the one voice I have.” An attorney, Schwab said he kept watching chemical agents being used against protestors and bystanders, including a number of reporters, and waited for others in the legal community to challenge DPD. When no one else did, he decided to file a legal challenge himself.
“Four courageous protestors stepped up and a judge stepped up and issued a beautifully written order and showed why the choice of judges matter,” said Schwab.
After weeks of negotiation with the city and police after the rulings, an agreement was ironed out. Among other new regulations, DPD could no longer aim at protestors’ groins, backs, or faces when armed with “less lethal” rounds, and an officer of Sergeant level or higher must give approval before tear gas and similar chemical weapons can be used.
Now, over two months after the ruling, Schwab says there’s been marked improvement. “Police were targeting medics. That stopped.” He’s aware of at least three uses of force since the agreement — all of which used pepper spray, but none of the protesters he’s worked with have reported the type of serious injuries that were common before: fractured skulls, eye injuries, etc.
While Schwab is proud of what they’ve accomplished, he says legal observers are remaining vigilant and there’s still a lot more to do. He said they’ve filed a motion to show cause after the recent incidents. “Effectively what we said is they agreed to this, they violated it, and they need to explain themselves,” Schwab explained.
He hopes their most recent efforts will help shape the conversation Denver and other cities across the country are having about the appropriate uses of force. For now, he’s glad the violence is subsiding, stopping the 2 a.m. calls from protestors who were injured.