Hundreds of anti-ICE protesters demonstrate outside home of Aurora detention center chief

Police in riot gear blocking access to home as protests turn raucous

Aurora police face off hundreds of anti-ICE protesters demonstrating outside the home of the Aurora Detention Center's warden on Sept. 19, 2019. (Photo by Alex Burness)
Aurora police face off hundreds of anti-ICE protesters demonstrating outside the home of the Aurora Detention Center's warden on Sept. 19, 2019. (Photo by Alex Burness)

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.

Protesters outside the home of the Aurora Detention Center warden in Aurora, Colo. on Sept. 19, 2019. (Photo by Alex Burness)

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.”

Protesters outside the home of the Aurora ICE Detention Center warden on Sept. 19, 2019. (Photo by Alex Burness)
Protesters outside the home of the Aurora ICE Detention Center warden on Sept. 19, 2019. (Photo by Alex Burness)

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.

 

Alex covers state and local politics with a focus on criminal justice and immigration. He is a D.C. native who's lived in Illinois, Chile and now Denver.

18 COMMENTS

  1. They did not disperse without incident, as people were arrested. They terrified children, they terrorized a neighborhood. They broke the law. They spit at people, they threw things at peoples dogs, they trampled over lawns. They screamed at neighbors calling them racist and nazis. This wasn’t handled properly at all. More people should’ve been arrested.

    • Thank you for your comment. We appreciate the larger point. “… without incident” was language in an earlier version before we had police info (the writing of this was live).

      • Iam against what ICE is doing. I do not condone their tactics at all. I believe in protesting We ARE a country of immigrants. This hate towards them now is disgusting and heartbreaking.. I understand the loathing towards the GEO group and Choates.
        Children got scared, (why where they outside?) people where spit on, (what where they doing) thing got thrown, REALLY?
        just think how the immigrants feel when their child’s gets ripped from their arms, forced to sleep on concrete for days at a time, not able to take a shower or eat proper food, if any, OH and get sick and die……
        Somehow the bigger more important picture gets lost to some..

    • Yes, more people should have been arrested, and probably put in an ICE detention center, and deported. Let’s just keep the status quo and keep this quiet, and no one will get hurt.

  2. Please forgive me but I can’t understand why the protests,are these protestors asking the authorities to look away and turn the blind eye,it’s very simple:WHAT RIGHT IS RIGHT and WHAT WRONG is WRONG and if you are advacating protest on the arrest of the breaking law illegal 😡 alliens then you are on the wrong side of being an American ,the day we fail to obey the laws of anyone is the day it’s no longer anything ,it’s like a house without door where anyone can enter ?? Then you don’t have a home!! A country without borders is not a country anymore

  3. We can not turn around and let these dog loving society, get away with trying to hide what really is going on in ice detention centers. AKA concentration centers. Is inhuman having kids incarcerated. Absolutely no excuse. Is an act of a nazi era, supported by our own US government. Period

  4. We are all humans. Why we do this to each other. We will never learn. Put anyone in a cage call them an animal. Put someone in office they automatically deserve our respect? Makes no sense. We should dis-ban private prison it is the same a human trafficking. Placing someone in detention for money is slavery sugar coat it all you want but its slavery.

  5. Kids cannot be with their parents as the system is not built for that, nor the laws do not provide for that either. Adults are placed in different holding facilities, and they should not have broken US Laws thinking they could get away with it, or get out of it. But the parents do not think about such things or consequences. The warden ios doing his job as prescribed by law, guidelines, regulations and rules, if he breaks them he is in trouble. take the emotions out of this and use logic….we have borders, laws and soveriegnty to guards and protect. The refugees and illegals can get asylum in mexico, or another country.

  6. Of course this feels uncomfortable. Our initial response may even be, “Oh this is so wrong to do, to terrorize a neighborhood.” But then you uncover what the protest is about. Children who fled violence we cannot even begin to imagine, travel thousands of miles through dangerous areas in intense heat, are then taken from their families and put in detention camps in who knows where. Then it becomes clear, this is exactly the right response. If you are outraged at the protesters, you are outraged over the wrong thing.

  7. If borders had been up in 1492, when Columbus claimed to discover america, would your family still be “natives” to this country? Imagine thinking you have a right to this land simply because your ancestors were part of taking it over. Even if not part of taking it over, they settled on this land also one immigrants. But illegal immigrants now are the problem?? Make it make sense.

  8. Is his dog okay? I think its sad the dog was left behind and not kept safe during this protest. Dogs are family they go with you everywhere or as least I feel the should. I think its really shitty people protesting for better treatment and then in turn abuse animals b/c they don’t like their owner. It’s not the dogs fault. I hope the dog is safe and didn’t suffer any long term effects. I am ashamed to be part of the human race sometimes.

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