Contingencies for War (Part III) – Denver Constructs it’s own Gitmo Just in time for the Democratic National Convention

Don’t know if you caught Rick Sallinger’s Channel 4 investigative report about the “city-owned” (actually, Mister Sallinger, I wonder if you did your homework on this one. I believe the space is leased by the city), warehouse already converted to house (jail) protesters during the Democratic National Convention. Fenced-in cages, razor wire on top, stun guns to be used.

Sallinger, for whatever reason did not disclose the location of the warehouse. I will: It’s 3840 York Street, (Google map). (P.S. Look to the RIGHT of the arrow on the map. I haven’t been there in years, and the entrance may now be on Steele Street.) It’s where the Election Commission used to house their voting machines and where the Purchasing Division housed surplus office furnishings after the move to the Webb Building. And, this complex’s shady history includes the relationship between Bert Weston and the city fathers who, um, well… Let’s just say Ms. Weston befriended quite a number of city fathers which certainly didn’t hurt her financial health.

If this “secret” location proves to be other than 3840 York Street, I’ll eat my, um… I’ll eat red meat for a week. How’s that!

P.S. 3840 York Street and 3833 Steele Street identify the same complex. The main entrance used to be on the York Street side. That may have changed, since I haven’t been out that way in years. The main entrance may now be on Steele Street.

P.P.S. Some background on this complex. I’m working from memory here, so any errors of commission or omission are due to, um, McCain moments.

The complex where the city has constructed the “Gitmo” holding area for DNC protesters was originally the U.S. Air Force Finance and Accounting Center. The city “acquired” the complex probably in the ’70s, paying something like $1 a year to the Feds in lease payments. The city moved into the complex a number of agencies: the Data Services Division (now ISD); the Wastewater Management Division, the Permit Center and probably other agencies that I don’t recall. Also, Denver Cares (the drunk tank) was once housed at the complex. Once it was determined that the complex was unsafe–something leaking from the huge transformers on the site; asbestos, etc.–the city moved its agencies to other digs. For a time, the city’s surplus warehouse resided in the complex after all other agencies had moved out. I recall that the other half of the complex (you’ll notice in the Google map, the complex consists of two long units, with an access road in between), was occupied by Denver Public Schools where they ran programs for “troubled” youth. Later on, the city financially assisted a rather “difficult” developer to take over the complex and convert it to commercial use. Indeed, the city’s Office of Economic Development bent over backwards to assist this “difficult” developer which, by the way, is another story all to itself. The most recent knowledge I have of the complex is that the city leased space from the “difficult” developer for, one, a warehouse to house the immense amount of surplus furniture generated by the move to the Webb Building; and, two, a space to house the Election Commissions voting machines. (Suffice it to say, the Election Commission’s move to this facility came with a significant amount of screaming and consternation. Their voting machines had been happily housed elsewhere.) So, the “difficult” developer, once again, needed bailing out by the city. And, what better way to bail her out than to provide her with hefty lease payments from the city to house surplus furniture and voting machines. And now… Well, Gitmo lives in the space that most likely used to house the Election Commission’s voting machines.

August 15th – Update: As memory churns on this subject, additional facts emerge. Since the Election Commission voting machines had to be in a “controlled” atmosphere, read: air conditioning, and since the roof of this “Gitmo” facility was structurally incapable of supporting an adequate AC unit, portable AC devices had to be used inside the facility to “control” the climate. Didn’t see any AC devices in Sallinger’s report, although the city may be scrambling to obtain the same.

Additionally, I recall that when the city leased space to store surplus furniture and the voting machines, there was a large solid block of concrete (no structure) adjacent to the space the city leased. Why the incongruous large concrete space? Well, story was, there had been a fire and the facility’s fire suppression system was inadequate to the task of putting the fire out. Whether or not the facility’s fire suppression system has been ungraded is unknown.

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16 Responses to Contingencies for War (Part III) – Denver Constructs it’s own Gitmo Just in time for the Democratic National Convention

  1. That would be the building immediately next to the old Denver Cares detox center if I remember correctly.

    In any case we don’t have very long to wait now to see just what actually happens…

  2. georgeindenver says:

    Back in the day, Patrick, the complex housed what was then called the Data Services Division, Wastewater and other city agencies. And, yes, Denver Cares was once there. The other side of the complex–where the Gitmo cages have been constructed–used to house Denver Public School programs. But, more recently, as I noted in the post, the Election Commission had space where they stored their voting machines which, most likely, is the space that has been fashioned ala Gitmo to “hold” prisoners of war…if you know what I mean.

  3. This is where the county used to store the voting machines. They removed all the machines and started putting up fences with the “help” of the Youth Offenders Work Program.
    Two days ago they loaded in all the riot gear.
    This facility has minimal toilets (no more than 2 toilets & 2 urinals), NO Air conditioning or swamp coolers. Still contains asbestos insulation. Internal temperatures can get extremely hot without some sort of cooling or cross breeze.
    This is an enterprise zone surrounded by various businesses. It is not suitable for housing humans for any amount of time.,-104.954925&hl=en&geocode=&mra=mi&mrsp=0&sz=16&sll=39.769739,-104.95471&sspn=0.011116,0.015256&ie=UTF8&t=h&z=16

    3833 N. Steele St.
    a.k.a. North Denver Industrial Park or Inner City Industrial park.

    Close… Looks like you are eating meat.

  4. georgeindenver says:

    Nope, no red meat yet for George. NOC, Steele borders the other side of this complex. What you’ve actually done, is confirm my post. So, have a hamburger on me…just don’t let me see you eating it.

  5. pacified says:

    Great work George!

  6. Okay, so it’s right where I was thinking. I really do hope that all this is being done for naught though. I may be retired from EMS, but a lot of my friends are still working those ambulances and they will be right in the cross fire so to speak.

    Be careful eating that burger though. Weapons grade Sodium Cyanide seems to have appeared up on Capitol Hill.

  7. Suz at Large says:

    This touches a nerve here but not in the way you might expect.

    I am so sickened by what we know of the *real* Gitmo that I am pissed that a bunch of protestor wannabes – whose public expressions/statements/parades/events are being accommodated by the City to the extent that not even the best legal talent the ACLU could field, after a trial in federal court, could show a single constitutional violation in those arrangements – would dare to use that word for a structure that is intended to be used only to process and hold people for a few *hours.*

    And a little disappointed that thoughtful intelligent people would mindlessly parrot that term.

    Concerns about the fire suppression system: bring ’em, that’s fine. Cynicism about how well the cops and sheriffs will carry out the plans: it’s a free country, be as cynical as you want.

    But the real Gitmo is a horrible blot on our nation’s soul, a corrosive that may yet eat away your constitutional rights and mine – if it hasn’t already.

    I fell in love with the US Constitution when our class read it in full, out loud, all amendments too, in 8th grade. I have kept a copy of it on my desk for all my 31 years of law practice. Gitmo is such an obscenity and a threat to the constitution that I literally can only read and think about it for short periods, at risk of getting depressed and upset.

    Call it ugly, call it dirty, call it too harsh an environment for the poor oppressed demonstrators to have to endure for a few hours. But please think again about calling the City’s little holding facility Gitmo.

    Peace, bro.

  8. Pingback: Gitmo, my ass « Suz at Large

  9. georgeindenver says:

    Suz, dear friend, what reasonable person, may I ask, who reads this “Gitmo in Denver” piece will seriously liken it’s fencing, barbed wire and stun guns to anything we now know about the disgrace of Gitmo in Guantanamo…the physical facility? However, what reasonable person cannot help but view this measly holding tank on Steele Street for what you refer to as “arrestees” as representing the shameful acts of a shameful government whose reading of the Constitution, whose belief in the promise of the Constitution is as substantive only as toilet paper is substantive to cleaning one’s ass? That is what the word “Gitmo” has come to represent.

    Hyperbole abounds in these dangerous times. And, like it or not, “Gitmo” has become part of our lexicon. Suspect the word will evoke from many, for many, many years to come, the visage of a government gone bad; the placing of the Constitution upon the right-most end of that dusty shelf where the worthless things are stored. Referring to the “processing” center for DNC “arrestees,” at 3833 Steele, “Gitmo,” many are only reflecting on a much larger issue, at the core of which is your and my “loved” Constitution.

    “No! I am not Prince Hamelt, nor was meant to be;
    Am an attendant lord, one that will do
    To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
    Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
    Deferential, glad to be of use,
    Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
    Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
    At times, indeed, almost ridiculous–
    Almost, at times, the Fool.”

    T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

    Ah, “…at times, the fool.” Of course. That’s me. But, dear friend, it’s only a blog post.

    Terminiello v. Chicago. Justice Douglas for the majority.

    “The vitality of civil and political institutions in our society depends on free discussion… It is only through free debate and free exchange of ideas that government remains responsive to the will of the people and peaceful change is effected. The right to speak freely and to promote diversity of ideas and programs is therefore one of the chief distinctions that sets us apart from totalitarian regimes.

    “Accordingly a function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an idea. That is why freedom of speech, though not absolute…is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment, unless show likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest… There is no room under our Constitution for a more restrictive view. For the alternative would lead to standardization of ideas either by legislatures, courts, or dominant political or community groups.”

    Ah, “clear and present danger.” Where, I ask, have we, THE PEOPLE, been shown there is a “clear and present danger” extant with those who choose to SPEAK THEIR MINDS, EXERCISE their FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS during the Donkey Dance? We haven’t. Closed vests from city mammas and pappas. Secrets, yes, abound. Fear abounds.

    Indeed, is it fear that has constructed the chain link, razor wire, stun gun facility at 3833 Steele? Is it fear–so savored by Bush and Rove and Cheney–that here, right here in this old Cow Town, fear trumps all silly-assed assumptions that the promise of the Constitution is absolute?

    Yes, dear friend, I’ve committed the sin of hyperbole; repeating the characterizations of the media.

    I can’t apologize for that. I am, after all, just a blogger…who understands the natural, inevitable slip-slide of words in our lexicon.

    “…and I am waiting
    for the American Eagle
    to really spread its wings
    and straighten up and fly right…”

    Lawrence Ferlingehtti, “I Am Waiting”

    A footnote: Woodrow Wilson, in 1917, noted that “…once [you] lead this people into war they’ll forget there ever was such a thing as tolerance. To fight you must be brutal and ruthless, and the spirit of ruthless brutality will enter into the very fiber of our national life, infecting Congress, the courts, the policeman on the beat, the man in the street.”

    Ah, prophetic? Maybe.

    Also instructive to note that the doctrine of “…clear and present danger…” emerged from the Espionage Act of 1917, and the amendment to that law, the Sedition Act of 1918. Yes, another time in our history when fear trumped the promise of the Constitution.

  10. georgeindenver says:

    Pacified, thank you for your comment.

    Suz, thank you for your comment.

    Patrick, I, too, worry about those who will be tending to the necessary business of preserving health and safety during this event. And, yes, their responsibility, their charge is to do what needs to be done under difficult circumstances. My hope is that Freedom will ring throughout the DNC, protesters will exercise their rights, no “clear and present danger” will arise (who, by the way, will decide what constitutes a “clear and present danger?”) and that the EMTs, the cops and other folk tending to this massive soiree will be safe, will go home to their families each night or morning…safe and sound.

    And, yes, the sodium cyanide saga. At the Burnsley, no less. Now, that’s a “clear and present danger…” besides red meat which I am happy to report I will not be eating instead of my hat for getting the location of “Gitmo” wrong.

  11. This image seems reminiscent…

    People just love a parade… especially one with lots and lots of billyclubs and tasers.

  12. tom simmons says:

    Originally (during WWII) this complex was an Army medical depot, for which our firm porepared a National Register nomination in 1998. It was later the home of the AF Accounting and Finance Center. Its latest use sullies its history.

    DENVER MEDICAL DEPOT (Inner-city Business Park)
    3800 York St.
    National Register 06/03/1998, 5DV.5142

    The 1942 Denver Medical Depot began operations as a U.S. Army storage and distribution center for medical equipment and supplies necessary for the war effort. Architecturally, the depot is an example of World War II era military installation construction, the design for which came from the office of Denver architect Temple Buell. The facility is now a small business development center.

  13. georgeindenver says:

    Tom, thank you for the history. My own intimacy with the complex began in 1980, when I first began a full-time position with the City and County of Denver. I had known then that it was formerly the AF Accounting and Finance Center. I did not know its earlier history. And, now that I think about it–and with the history you provided–the physical structure does, indeed, mirror what I encountered at Fort Polk, Louisiana during Basic Combat Training in the early ’70s. It is typically military in design, purely utilitarian. That Temple Buell, or his minions, had a hand in its design is very interesting and surely reason to pursue a National Register designation.

    I suspect the construction of the “Gitmo” holding cells at this location was, for city fathers, a matter of convenient exigency. The City probably still had time remaining on the Election Commission’s lease of the space and, Wallah!, up went the cattle cages.

    Once again, thank you for the history.


  14. Well? This thing got pulled off without anything major happening. For that, I am so grateful, that I have consumed some very red Elk steak!

    I have to wonder just what they will do with all that material now though?

  15. georgeindenver says:

    Patrick: Yes, indeed, it do go well. I was so grateful that I actually ate a little pasta at one the new little restaurants in the happening Tennyson Street corridor between 38th and 44th. No meatball, though. (Can’t even imagine eating elk!)

    Certainly the tactical gear purchased will be preserved, stockpiled for later contingencies. Somehow, though, I’m not sure we’re gonna have any “contingencies” popping up any time soon. Don’t know what the shelf life of CS gas is, but suspect the cops feel some comfort that it’s there if needed. As for the other stuff–the fencing at the Steele Street facility, for example–who knows. Maybe the next tenant of the space would use it; maybe it could be sold as surplus; maybe it could be used to corral red meat on the hoof…

  16. I’m sure that they will find something to use all that stuff for. The shelf life of that type gas is about ten years from production BTW.

    I used to go to that section of Tennyson a lot. There was Bob’s Tackle, his wife Betty taught me to tie fly’s more than thirty years ago. George’s that was next door was like stepping into some exotic place on a fishing safari.

    I am just glad that there was not a single serious injury. Pretty remarkable really.

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