A Few Words About That Proposed State Capitol Fence

As the Denver Post’s Alex Burness reported yesterday, an up-to-now confidential proposal to erect a permanent wrought-iron fence around the Colorado state capitol building, intended to help protect against future damage from civil disturbances like those experienced last summer during protests over police killings of Black people, is causing a great deal of consternation from those who didn’t know it was being considered–which for security reasons was most of us:

Lawmakers say the fence — one of several planned security enhancements — would primarily be a response to vandalism of and around the building during Black Lives Matter protests last year in the form of broken windows and anti-police graffiti. But they appear torn over the message it sends to erect a fence around a building often referred to as “the people’s house.”

“I don’t believe a fence says exactly what this building represents and stands for,” Senate President Leroy Garcia said of the planned fence in Denver. The Pueblo Democrat’s pickup truck was parked outside the Capitol and destroyed by protesters in late May.

Senate President Leroy Garcia doesn’t like the idea of a fence around the building, and as someone whose property was damaged during last year’s protests at the capitol we give him a lot of deference on this question. With that said, the proposal appears to be pretty far down the field in terms of approval, and has support from lawmakers in both parties:

GOP Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg from Sterling said a fence would “help slow looters and rioters down from destroying the Capitol. I think it would be helpful.” No looting was reported at the Capitol during the protests, but officials said it cost more than $1 million to remove all the spray paint and clean up the grounds.

Speaking to CBS4, Democratic Rep. Susan Lontine, who chairs the Capitol Building Advisory Committee, says the fence erected closely around the Capitol building itself represents a compromise from the original proposal:

Colorado State Patrol handles security for the building. Earlier this year, they joined forces with the Department of Personnel and Administration to propose security enhancements after a summer of protests caused damage to the Capitol.

“Their original proposal included putting a fence around Lincoln Park and the Capitol building itself,” Lontine told CBS4’s Andrea Flores. “As this went through the process, the fence around Lincoln park was not approved, and the fence around the Capitol building was…”

“I understand the hurt and the anger and that this building is a symbol of government and oppression for many people, and the building got their ire,” said Lontine. “But damaging public property isn’t necessary to achieving that goal, so I think we’re trying to find the balance.”

Because discussions about security at the state capitol are necessarily carried out confidentially, yesterday’s disclosure of the plan to erect this fence by the Denver Post is the first word most people had–and the reaction has been almost uniformly negative from stakeholders, including former aides and legislators like former House Speaker Terrance Carroll:

As longtime Gold Dome denizens know, security at the Colorado Capitol has been an evolving question going back at least to 2007–when metal detectors and controlled access were first put in place after a man calling himself “Emperor of Colorado” and carrying a gun was killed by State Patrol inside the building near the governor’s offices on the first floor. Although the proposed fencing would not block the public entrances or stairways around the building, it would certainly render the exterior of the “People’s House” more imposing–and with security improvements like bullet-proof windows also in the works, this major aesthetic change asks a lot for a potentially small security improvement.

From Denver to Washington, D.C., the debate over security in the wake of civil unrest for all kinds of reasons in the last year has become fraught with larger considerations about what kind of a society we want in America–and how we should most constructively address social grievances both legitimate and, like Donald Trump’s refusal to accept defeat, not so much. That’s why, even though we agree with the critics who say this fence should not be erected, we’re not crying foul over it being considered.

Instead, like Colorado did by passing landmark police accountability legislation in response to the protests last year over police violence, let’s address these issues at the source.

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8 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. bullshit! says:

    If Lauren Boebert films a commercial marching around the state capitol will Sonnenberg change his mind?

  2. Diogenesdemar says:

    Fort Sonnenberg!

    • MichaelBowman says:

      Hell Dio, let's make an actual wall, fill it up with water and the Sonnenberg Institute on Cow Farts can do its research on seaweed right there in front of all of us!  Soon, every day will be 'Meat In!' Day  The downside is he'll have to play footsie with some libural, left-coast elitist researcher who holds the key to this magic. 

      Feeding cows seaweed could cut their methane emissions by 82%, scientists say

      Researchers who put a small amount of seaweed into the feed of cattle over the course of five months found that the new diet caused the bovines to belch out 82% less methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.

      The finding builds on previous research that showed that seaweed could reduce cows’ methane output over a shorter timespan. “We now have sound evidence that seaweed in cattle diet is effective at reducing greenhouse gases and that the efficacy does not diminish over time,” said Ermias Kebreab, director of the World Food Center and an agricultural scientist at University of California, Davis.

       

  3. Meiner49er says:

    So THIS must be Trump's new gig post-White House? Capitol Fencing?

  4. JohnInDenver says:

    I may be missing something … but if the main threat is people with spray paint coming out of a crowd, what sort of fence will stop such activity?  Or, more likely, won't a fence simply displace the activity, pushing it to other government buildings or civic institutions in the area? 

    Meanwhile, the protests were about police misconduct and deaths of minorities in their custody.  How much money is being spent to prevent more multi-million dollar civil awards to families of the dead? 

  5. gertie97 says:

    Bad, bad idea.

  6. Diogenesdemar says:

    Why do I imagine that the Republicans who “support” building Wylie Sonnenberg’s Trojan fence today, will be the very first ones to attack Polis and the Democratic majority for obstructing free speech (and puppies, and bacon and sunlight) come round election time (should this stupidity actually get off the ground)? . . .


     

    . . , I mean, hmmmm, what could go wrong?
     

  7. 2Jung2Die says:

    I guess I get to be the devil's advocate today. The 2020 vandalism and destruction at the Colorado Capitol was quite awful, without judgment on who did it or why it was done. Broken windows, a toppled statue, property damage – it wasn't just spray paint but to be honest, the spray paint was pretty damaging to the Capitol environment I think most people expect to see.

    Fast forward to the Michigan capitol unrest and plots to kidnap the Governor, the precursors to the big one in DC on Jan. 6. Pretty undeniable evidence that organized mobs can threaten or overtake reasonably large security forces, and with enough weapons the consequences can be dire. I'm aware the 1/6 DC security situation was problematic, but I have no doubt that there are enough people in Colorado who might want to pull something similar to cause real challenges for available security and Denver police. 

    I agree the optics of a fence would be awful (not talking aesthetics), if only because it would give the impression of separation between government and the governed. But at the same time, the "people's house" is not just full of lawmakers & the other type of lawmakers (lobbyists), it's also where kids go for field trips, and where peaceful citizens go to speak their minds on legislation. Some perimeter security measures could buy time and make the difference between a smaller incident and a massive incident. Life or death even.

    I wish it wouldn't come to this, but it seems things have gotten to the point that to not discuss more serious security strategies would be irresponsible. Devil's advocate out.

     

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