Hundreds of Abolish ICE Denver protesters flooded the quiet Aurora subdivision Thursday night where the local immigrant detention center warden lives.
They marched up to the home of the warden, Johnny Choate, chanting “Nazi fucks, get off our streets” and “power to the people.” Choate was not in his house Thursday night, according to a colleague.
The protesters were met tonight by a massive police response, including numerous motorcycle cops and a team in full riot gear.
“I don’t see a riot here, why are you in riot gear?” the marchers chanted as police drove them down the block.
Aurora Police said in a tweet about an hour after the protest that three men were arrested on suspicion of obstruction, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest and that they will be prosecuted.
Neighbors lined the streets of the Tollgate Crossing subdivision to watch, and in some cases to shout back at the marchers. The neighborhood HOA prepared for this and encouraged residents to put “no trespassing” signs outside their homes.
Abolish ICE Denver, the event organizers, were also present during the July protest outside the Aurora immigrant detention center that Choate oversees. That protest made national news after some participants seized the American and Colorado flags outside the facility, replacing them with an Abolish ICE and Mexican flag.
Choate is an employee of the GEO Group, the nation’s largest private prison company and the owner and operator of the Aurora detention center.
He is also a member of the Aurora Chamber’s board of directors. The Aurora Sentinel recently reported that Choate had stopped attending meetings because he didn’t feel safe doing so.
Abolish ICE organizer Matthew Wozniak said in a statement earlier today that the group is sending a clear message: “‘Just following orders’ is no excuse. It didn’t work for the Nazis at the Nuremberg Trials and it doesn’t work now!”
In a statement issued after the protest Thursday, a GEO Group spokesman said: “Tonight we breathe a sigh of relief that our employee’s family and his neighbors are safe and their properties remain intact. Unfortunately, the spectacle has set a new low in our politics and public discourse … These misdirected attacks and intimidation of our employees must stop and we encourage our local leaders to stand against these hateful tactics and push for a return to civil discourse.”
Earlier in the week, the Colorado GOP also issued a statement condemning the planned protest:
“The planned protest outside Warden Choate’s home by extreme anti-ICE protesters goes beyond the pale. Groups like Abolish ICE have demonstrated they have little regard for the rule of law, and the threatening nature of this protest should be taken very seriously,” Colorado GOP Chairman Ken Buck said.
The ICE detention center in Aurora has a capacity for 1,500 people, and has of late been operating close to that limit. It’s come under fire for alleged medical neglect and for prolonged solitary confinement. This week, the ACLU of Colorado issued a blistering report alleging multiple cases of abuse and neglect within the facility.
While protesters long have been staging rallies against ICE and the GEO facility this is the first to target the private residence of an employee.
As police steered protesters down the street, they gathered at a parking lot near the subdivision’s clubhouse and pool. Jeanette Vizguerra, a leader in the immigrant rights community who lives under threat of deportation, offered words of encouragement and the group dispersed.