Filed under: Action, Central, Featured, Police, Repression, The State
A look into how undercover police in Colorado Springs attempted to go after left-wing organizers on weapons and conspiracy charges. For background, read this piece from the Colorado Springs Independent.
Thanks to reporting from Colorado Springs Independent, it is now public knowledge that Colorado Springs Police infiltrated the Chinook Center and a number of groups that organize there such as Colorado Springs Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and Colorado Springs Tenant Union, using a pink haired cop named April Rogers who went by “Chelsie Kurti” and pretended to be a sex worker.
CSPD’s infiltration of Chinook Center initially looked exactly like their infiltration of Colorado Springs Socialists back in 2017: Go undercover into an easy-to-join leftist group, surveil, and arrest as many people as possible as soon as they take a march off the sidewalk. However, we recently had a couple of local activists who had previously been involved with Chinook Center reach out to us with their experiences involving CSPD officer April Rogers. These experiences show a police department desperate to entrap leftist organizers. If there’s no crime, Colorado Springs Police Department will create one.
If you are involved in any level of left-wing, anti-capitalist, or anti-state political organizing – tighten up your security. We highly encourage anyone involved in radical organizing to create an alias for yourself and use a separate phone number and email for organizing purposes. Apps like Burner and MySudo provide burner phone numbers and emails. You can also follow this guide to create an anonymous Signal number.
As this situation with the Chinook Center also shows, standing with survivors of abuse can also protect you from police infiltration.
The CSPD undercover wasn’t going around smashing windows or planting piles of bricks in order to justify violent police repression, she was quietly surveilling everyone she could, asking for personal information, adding folks on social media, and as we’ve recently learned, working to get local leftists to buy firearms for her illegally. Officer April Rogers repeatedly asked about levels of gun knowledge, about building firearms, and suggested making straw purchases. She also spoke about some kind of front range gun running operation, and suggested starting a leftist “militia.”
We’ve attached statements from two leftist organizers who had the misfortune of being targeted by Officer April Rogers posing as Chelsi Kurti. These statements provide an important look into the tactics of the police, and show that they’ll create crimes where there are none. The idea that your group is above ground and therefore you were never in any danger is incredibly naive.
I was thinking back to my interactions with “Chelsie”— aka April Rogers, an undercover police officer. And I thought of some thing. She had pretended for a while to be a sex worker in order to rationalize why she couldn’t tell us much about what she did, that she had reason to be afraid of the police and didn’t want us to ask her too many questions. She used this tactic to make herself seem like someone whose privacy needed careful protection, who we would see, by default, as someone who had too much reason to say they were afraid of the police to doubt their credibility.
Somewhere in our conversations, she ended up asking me for advice about guns. I told her I didn’t really know very much about them, that I’d only bought one recently and was still learning how to use it safely. The topic kept coming up. She’d say things like, “I thought you knew a lot about guns!” Things like that. Eventually tried to convince me to buy a gun for her. I said no, but I thought it made sense for her to have a gun. I sent her pictures of guns at the gun store so she could see them, but recommended she get more advice before buying one. The intention was to manipulate me into committing a federal crime by using my sense of empathy and concern for her well-being, my solidarity for this person who had insisted they were a high-class escort who sometimes feared for her safety.
A nearly year-long Colorado Springs Police Department undercover investigation of local political groups was revealed during the prosecution of local activists. https://t.co/FQc1Lv62yF
— Colorado Springs Indy (@csindependent) February 16, 2022
This police action had everything to do with the fact that I had started showing an interest in organizing, and that I had been outspoken about my belief in anarcho-communism. I had not done anything to hurt anyone—I was just seen as potential trouble. It was worth trying to target me, to try to trick me into giving them a reason to make an arrest, to try and force me to cooperate as an informant. This is a tactic the police will use. Even if you don’t consider yourself an activist, if you end up profiled as the member of an organization, beware of anyone you’ve just met who starts asking if you can do illegal things for them. And don’t use, “Well, I’ve done illegal things around this person before and they didn’t throw out a badge and arrest me.” They might hold it as leverage in the event they need something to justify further repressive actions. Especially in Colorado Springs, police approach anything politically left of Bernie Sanders as though it were potentially criminal, in need of surveillance, monitoring, and repression.
No matter what the group’s stated intentions are—they’ll send federal agents to sit in on leftist book clubs, and they targeted me only about a month after I started trying to help with organizing. A good idea to prepare everyone who is starting in activism for this—never take for granted that the police “have no reason to monitor you.” If they want to find one, they will, and if you vocally oppose capitalism, if you seem like an anarchist or a communist, they will find a way to justify it.
Don’t add strangers to group chats.
Don’t be an asshole to people, but don’t open up too much to people you haven’t known for very long, especially if you’ve just started organizing.
Be wary of new “friends” who show up to an action “just wanting to help,” who have sympathetic back stories you feel like would be rude to ask more about.
Beware of people you don’t know who start suddenly encouraging you to do crimes.
Build actual relationships with them and make sure you can trust them before you start talking to them about, I don’t know, guns, or the amount of unpaid parking tickets you have, or your overdue library books.
Before continuing here, I wanted to preface this by saying I will be staying anonymous and attempting to change names whenever possible throughout this statement. I very much considered fully doxxing myself here, but after talking with some comrades about that, figured it wouldn’t be a great idea for a variety of reasons, all of which I’ll get to momentarily.
As a brief introduction, I was an active participant in the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. I was also involved with several of the mutual aid/leftist adjacent groups in the spring, most of which were mentioned in the aforementioned article. These groups includes the Chinook Center, the General Assembly (GA), the Colorado Springs Mutual Aid Union, and most relevantly, the Protest Security Group. I was not a founding member of any of these groups, but I was there during their inception and growth. It is for that reason I believe I was targeted for a sting operation by April Rogers and the CSPD.
Before getting to that though, I’d like to clear the air on a very serious mistake in the Indy article. I tried to reach out to the author of the article to correct this mistake, but they refused due to no longer working at the Indy. The only other option would have been to directly reach out to the Indy for a clarifying statement, which more then likely would have required me to dox myself. The mistake in the article is as follows:
When there was the Chinook Center/Mutual Aid Union split, [Rogers] was the one who was feeding us information about stuff that was happening in the Mutual Aid Union: ‘It’s so fucked up what they’re doing,’” says Jon. “So was there any actual concern there or just an attempt to split groups? I heard that she was on the security team for the Colorado Springs Mutual Aid and Solidarity Union back when it was the Colorado Springs General Assembly or whatever. She actually wrote a public statement about why she didn’t agree with the process of splitting and all this. She was very actively involved in the conflict.
This statement is wrong for a variety of reasons. Without getting too in the weeds here, I’ll be ignoring the misinfo about “Chinook Center/Mutual Aid Union” split, and instead focusing on the aforementioned “security team” and the supposed relation to the Mutual Aid Union.
The “Security Team” mentioned here was really called the “Protest Security Team,” and had absolutely nothing to do with the GA or the CSMAU by design. I would know, because I was one of four members of this team, and still regularly meet with 2 of the other members of said team.
This group was founded by the same individual as the CSMAU, but purposefully a separate entity. The CSMAU’s goal from day one was to actively start a distribution for houseless neighbors. The Protest Security Team was designed to, you guessed it, protect protesters in Colorado Springs after several attacks, acts of intimidation, and a few very close encounters. We would have an “armed team” and a “non-lethal team.” The non-lethal team would attempt to distract/de-escalate non life threatening situations, while the “armed team” would serve to make the group less of a soft target. The reason I speak so candidly about this is that both teams were dead fairly early on, as most of the protest momentum cleared up post-election. Officer April Rogers was a member of the non-lethal team, but that group very quickly fizzled out, so it would be more accurate to say she was “familiar” with the group. She was not in the armed teams group chat, since that was four people in a Signal chat. This is also where I met April personally, as we did do a couple training events. The one April was familiar with involved me getting pepper sprayed and stun gunned with a group of people, so we would know how to deal with chemical and physical irritants. April recorded the entire session from the sidelines, before “excusing herself” after we were finished. To date, that video has never surfaced, and I assume sits in an evidence drawer somewhere.
This was all very try-hard, and obviously went nowhere. This is why I’m confused about the inclusion in the Indy article. Name dropping a member of the Union, mentioning she has a felony, then proceeding to make claims of an armed wing of a Food not Bombs styled group is incredibly dangerous misinformation.
I’m hoping by writing this the Indy will correct the record, or at least I can help make clear that the CSMAU has no armed division and never will, as shooting guns doesn’t feed the houseless neighbors Colorado Springs has forgotten.
Segmenting this off since it is not relevant to the first portion of this statement, but not totally irrelevant either. The reason I decided to remain anonymous here is that about 7-8 months ago, Officer April Rogers reached out to me for the first time in a while. She requested we meet face to face and talk about something. I hadn’t seen her in a while, so was curious what this was even about. She refused to give me any information, which isn’t super uncommon in leftist circles. I agreed to meet her at her apartment and talk.
What follows was what i believe to be a serious attempt to manufacture a firearms trafficking conspiracy to implicate leftist groups in Colorado Springs.
When I showed up to the apartment building, I was originally very impressed with the interior. The building is a converted motel, but was surprisingly roomie and well built. This was contradicted by an empty kitchen (sans some pizza and beer), a beat up old couch, a random assortment of chairs, a gross bathroom, and most noticeably two of the most police looking people I’ve ever met in my life. April introduced them as her half brother and her friend from “back home.” The brother had a shaved head style haircut, was fairly bulky, and looked to be about double April’s age. Her friend was a middle-aged, skinny black man who she barely spoke to the whole time. April was there too, but to say the situation felt off is an understatement. Being a decently personable guy, I made conversation and talked with the two men. I talked with April about some of the memories from protesting and organizing and just had a fairly normal conversation with a very abnormal group of people.
CSPD's infiltration looks exactly like their infiltration of Colorado Springs Socialists in 2017:
Go undercover into an easy-to-join leftist group, surveil, and arrest as many people as possible as soon as they take a march off the sidewalk.https://t.co/Of8FMakqZa
— Colorado Springs Anti-Fascists (@COSAntiFascists) February 18, 2022
Eventually, the conversation flipped to firearms. We talked about a lot of random firearm related topics, and eventually the conversation flipped to illegal firearms. April told me the two men were some sort of criminal element, and were curious about moving their business to firearms. I discussed how trafficking ghost guns was a thing, how auto-sears work, how most firearm crimes were committed by stolen firearms, etc. Spicy topics for sure, but all very easily available information you can find online.
April asked me for three things in my (semi-hazy) recollection.
The first was if I had any interest in selling guns illegally with her friends. This wasn’t directly asked, but was heavily implied. I declined for obvious reasons.
The second was if I could get her a firearm, specifically a P365XL, and take her shooting with the former members of the protest security group. I offered to find her someone to legally purchase a firearm from, and that I could run her though a basic pistol class. She wasn’t very interested in either, and that was that.
The final request was if I had any interest in creating another type of leftist armed group, specifically a ‘militia.’ April mentioned she knew a lot of people who were interested in that type of group. I expressed my support for community defense, and offered to teach anyone to shoot for free (something I offer everyone), but that I had no interest in creating that type of group.
After that conversation, I smoked a cigar with the two guys and went on my way. It was only when the Indy article came out that I realized what had happened.
Officer April Rodgers and the CSPD put on an elaborate sting operation to bust several groups of leftists for a crime they manufactured. April was attempting to get me to participate in a straw purchase and god knows what else. Based off some other people I’ve talked to, I was not the only one who the CSPD targeted. It appears the goal was the create a firearms trafficking group from Colorado Springs to Denver in order to bust every leftist with firearm ties in both cities. Either that, or it was an attempt to pressure me into becoming an informant.
I believe it is very important to document and publicly share these types of COINTELPRO tactics whenever they pop up. I work a boring desk job and shoot guns with friends once every two weeks, yet I was specifically sought out and targeted. Be careful y’all, and remember if the vibes are off, leave.
Last but not least, fuck CSPD. Over a third of the city of Colorado Springs’ budget goes to them so they can carry out failed political vendettas against anyone who dares not be a conservative christian.
Correcting The Record
The original Colorado Springs Independent article that broke the story of CSPD’s infiltration contains a number of factual and ethical errors, including the false claim that Officer April Rogers had also infiltrated Colorado Springs Mutual Aid & Solidarity Union. The reality is, Officer April Rogers publicly criticized COSMASU in a now-deleted Facebook rant defending Chinook Center leadership for harboring and protecting abuser Shaun Walls who targeted Black women and femmes and espoused rape apologism.
The Colorado Springs Independent article also falsely names rapist and snitch Lloyd Porche who was ousted from leftist organizing the fall/winter of 2020 as a member of Colorado Springs Mutual Aid and Solidarity Union. We decided to actually speak to one of the founding members about this because the Colorado Springs Independent journalist failed to reach out to anyone from COSMASU. According to this founding member, Lloyd Porche was never in any stretch of the imagination even close to being a member. Another fabricated claim in the Colorado Springs Independent article is that COSMASU has a security team. Not only is this false, but is an incredibly dangerous claim to throw around knowing how seriously CSPD (and LE in general) responds to armed left-wingers. What COSMASU does is provides survival supplies to houseless people and anyone else in need.