Eviction of Denver DIY Stronghold Rhinoceropolis Ordered by Deputy Police Chief

Denver, CO – Following the eviction by the Denver Police and Fire Departments of the longtime Do-It-Yourself (DIY) art and music space Rhinoceropolis earlier this month, the RiNO neighborhood association issued a statement condemning the eviction.

In addition to objecting to the targeting of a widely loved cultural institution, the statement says:

We have learned that the eviction was a directive of the Deputy Chief of Police, likely a knee-jerk response to the tragedy at Ghost Ship that occurred earlier this week.” – RiNO Art District President Jamie Licko

After filing a request to the Denver Police Department (DPD) under the Colorado Open Records Act, Unicorn Riot obtained an email sent by DPD Deputy Chief David Quinones which appears to have set in motion the events which ended with the residents of Rhinoceropolis being forced out of their home into freezing temperatures on the night of Thursday, December 8.

Prior to December 8, Rhinoceropolis had passed eleven yearly fire inspections, including one as recently as summer 2016.

Denver Police Deputy Chief David Quinones

The short email, sent by Deputy Chief Quinones at 5:41 am on December 8, was sent to DPD Sgt. Andrew Howard and reads,

Can you have this place inspected. Maybe have DFD along.” – David Quinones email to DPD Sgt. Howard

The email ends with a link to a Denver Westword article from April 2015 entitled “As Denver Transforms, Rhinoceropolis Remains the Heart of the Underground“.  It is not clear why the link to the article was included in the email directing the inspection.

Fascists and white supremacists organizing on online message boards such as 4chan have been targeting DIY venues which they see as “hives” of radical activism by reporting them to local authorities in an attempt to “crush the radical left“.

Email from Chief Q

Both men in this email exchange have been involved in legal controversies regarding abuse of police powers. Deputy Chief Quinones took the stand in federal court in 2011 as a defendant in a federal civil rights suit brought against the Denver Police Department by participants in Occupy Denver protests.  Sgt. Andrew Howard is currently named as a defendant in an ongoing federal civil rights lawsuit for his alleged involvement in the “unprovoked beating” of a man falsely identified as a bank robbery suspect.

Deputy Chief Quinones did not respond to our request for comment.


Title image credit: Lindsey Bartlett, Westword

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