Protesters and police outside the home of a manager of a privately operated ICE detention center in Aurora

Protesters and police outside the home of a manager of a privately operated ICE detention center in Aurora on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2019.

Kelly Sloan

Kelly Sloan

Last week, some hundred or so self-identified communists, “occupy”, “antifa” types, and sundry other miscreants, several dressed in black with faces covered, gathered in preparation for an evening of anarchic noise pollution, distributing overtly threatening signs (testifying to an underlying resentment of English grammar), doling out red t-shirts emblazoned with little hammer-and-sickles on the back, and readying drums, bullhorns, pots, pans, and other annoyances. Repulsive as most such spectacles are, this one was particularly appalling, in that it was not happening at Civic Center park, or the Capitol grounds any given noon hour. This was happening in a quiet, middle-class suburban neighborhood as the local residents were settling in for the evening after a day of contributing to society — completing the contrast with the gathering mob — and targeted the private home of a respected, law-abiding family.

The excuse proffered for this public temper tantrum, put on conjointly by the Denver Communists and Abolish ICE, was the manufactured outrage over (generally) immigration laws and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency that enforces them; and (specifically) the local ICE detention facility in Aurora operated by the GEO Group, and the gentleman who runs the place, Mr. John Choate. The action was stoked by irresponsible and, to put it mildly, inaccurate rhetoric over ICE and the facilities they use to house both violators and those whose claims of asylum are being investigated.

There wasn’t much in the way of a serious message to distill from their signs and sophomoric chants, which served mainly as a tribute to illiteracy. The theme was that Mr. Choate runs a “concentration camp”, a solecism the magnitude of which was lost on a mob evidently unfamiliar with — or indifferent to — Elie Wiesel or Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

The vituperation leveled at this man, his employees, and facility was astounding, even by today's debased rhetorical standards. Accusations of all form of abuses were flung with impunity, with nothing to back them up save a report from — who else — the ACLU, whose credibility generally ranks alongside that of supermarket tabloids. It was clear none in attendance had ever stepped foot inside the facility; among the most persistent indictments spewed by the protesters, for instance, was the contention that the Aurora facility imprisoned children, separated from their parents, and how wrong it was for Choate to sleep peacefully with his kids at home while unaccompanied kids were in cages in his prison. Well, come to find out, there are no minors housed at the Aurora facility, and never have been, accompanied or not.

Nor, despite the claims to the contrary, has Mr. Choate ever been accused of malfeasance or wrongdoing. What is extraordinary, and rather disturbing, about this is the street-level translation of a political issue to a very personal attack on an individual who is just doing his job, and by all accounts doing it well. An ironic sidebar to the story is that the catalyst for these protests is blind furor over President Trump, nothing more; yet Mr. Choate has been heading up the Aurora ICE facility for seven years — meaning he took the position not during Trump’s presidency, but Obama’s.

This obnoxious street theater had nothing to do with serious immigration policy issues; indeed, the protesters were quite candid about their disdain for the existence of borders, and nations, and immigrations laws altogether. To their credit, no Democratic leader, candidate, or official was present (Rep. Ocasio-Cortez was not yet in town). Even U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, whose own rhetoric concerning ICE and the GEO facility has been less than helpful, distanced himself from the protest, saying that he “disagreed with the approach” of picketing private individuals at their homes.

But although their message may not be serious, the threat of lawlessness, which groups like this represent and advocate, is. It would be as foolish to ignore the threat as to give in to its demands.

The one bright spot from the night was the tenacity and professionalism of the men and women who were the target of some of the crowd's most vile imprecations — the police. The Aurora Police Department, which was deployed in strength throughout the evening did a marvelously commendable job of keeping the crowd contained, preventing violence, protecting private property, moving the mob off the streets when the time came to put an end to the nonsense, and keeping the community safe through the ruckus. And, it needs to be pointed out, ensuring the safety of even those whose abuse they absorbed with admirable, disciplined stoicism.

Kelly Sloan is a political and public affairs consultant and a recovering journalist based in Denver. 

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