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I Embedded With CHURC Colorado For A Day. Here's What Happened.
10/06/2039 7:10 PM ET
I Embedded With CHURC Colorado For A Day. Here's What Happened.
Ericha Cosselle

CC0 1.0 Untitled by 12019 | Writer image: CC0 1.0 Untitled by kubicek_robert | Images were cropped. Images used for illustration purposes only.
I toured Denver today, observing what CHURC does and how it does it.
WARNING: THIS PIECE FEATURES DESCRIPTIONS OF COUNTA INDIVIDUALS BEING HARASSED, SHAMED OR OTHERWISE ILL-TREATED.

Let's face it, CHURC has one of the most difficult jobs in the United States.

Our nation is in the middle of significant social change, as old views about race, religion, identity, sexuality and government are evolved to become more just and egalitarian. Of course, some people aren't on board with the idea of transiting their thoughts, words and actions to a less harmful and damaging outcome, which is where CHURC comes in.

State CHURCs (Civil and Human Rights Councils), under the parentage of the National Civil Rights Agency, exist to fundamentally ensure that all people, but particularly traditionally oppressed demographics, can enjoy justice and the full benefit of legal recourse where that justice is denied.

It's a tough job because it means saying "no" to some people - no, you can't do or say that - and obviously some people are predisposed to resist the government restraining them. But, I wanted to be more informed about what CHURC's job looks like on a day-to-day basis, so I contacted CHURC Colorado (I'm from Boulder, about a half hour from Denver) and asked if I could tag along with their officers in order to get a better feel for the job. They were kind enough to agree, and the following is a running diary from last Thursday.


7:45 a.m.

I meet the officers of Unit 78 at CHURC's West 72nd Ave Westminster Office. CHURC Colorado also has Denver offices in Lakewood, Aurora, and Downtown. There are 15 other offices located around Colorado in the larger population centers, but for obvious reasons most of CHURC Colorado's manpower is centralized in Denver.

A total of 658 ground staff are deployed in the metro area, supported by 1,225 office staff and leadership. The rest of Colorado is served by a further 985 administration officials assisting 509 officers in the field. Ground staff are split into units which like police comprise two officers mainly for safety reasons.

Today I'm tagging along with "Seven-Eight-Westminster".

I am accompanying Officers Ashelee Douglas and Tyre Jalal (pronounced ty-REE). Officer Jalal is African-American and has an enormous smile which he deploys with disarming regularity. Officer Douglas is white ("although I have Native American and Latina blood", she informs me) and is reserved, almost somber, with a very clipped demeanor I wouldn't want to cross.

CHURC officers have a relaxed uniform policy which is meant to contrast them with police: jeans, and a khaki shirt with CHURC Colorado's logo on the upper arm, are accessorized with a baseball hat - again khaki with the CHURC Colorado logo - and sunglasses. Both officers wear boots and utility belts featuring handcuffs and 9mm sidearms.

Each officer is protected with a khaki-colored bulletproof vest.

A company phone strapped to the chest is standard and is always switched on and capturing footage when ground officers step out of their vehicle or are in the presence of a suspect. With a quick tap anywhere on the screen it is also used to contact Dispatch at Headquarters.

Officer Jalal welcomes me with coffee which at this time of day I appreciate greatly. He lets me know that today is going to be a full day.

As we climb into Seven-Eight's SUV, Jalal runs through some of the day's highlights. Each day is filled with all sorts of meetings, which surprises me because I was under the impression that CHURC units ran similarly to police, sort of patrolling the streets, waiting for Dispatch or catching intolerance ad-hoc.

Not so, says Officer Douglas. Each day is packed with meetings which have either been handed down from management to the unit via Dispatch, or are follow-ups from previous meetings.

We're beginning our day at Northview Christian School which is a scant 5 minute commute - we have an 8:00 a.m. meeting. Douglas reminds me to stay out of the way when they're working. I verbally acknowledge her.



7:50 a.m.

We're en route when both officers' phones begin beeping frantically. Douglas picks up the call from Dispatch.

Seven-Eight is informed about a serious incident relating to a microreparation at a Starbucks on Federal Boulevard. The problem is we're almost at Northview and Federal is behind us. Douglas asks whether another unit can get it, and is denied, so Jalal swings the wheel hard right at the next intersection and we head east on West 80th.

Douglas calls Northview and tells them we'll be late.

"F***", she says afterward, as Jalal maintains his cheery demeanor.



7:59 a.m.

An accident on Federal slows us and we reach Starbucks in twice the amount of time it should take. Both officers step out of the SUV, and as I clamber out Jalal tells me to remain ten paces back as they approach. These incidents don't always go smoothly.

Jalal and Douglas exit the SUV, tapping their phones twice, and enter the Starbucks with their right hand resting on their sidearms. I quicken my pace and enter soon after.

Inside a man is yelling - actually yelling - at a staff member. Starbucks is an organization which charges microreparations to individuals not wearing any CoUNTA identification (unless they obviously possess a CoUNTA identity, such as African-American customers). The customer is agitated because his $8.95 coffee is going to cost 5% - or 44c - more. Even the handwritten "all microreps go to COUNTA homeless organizations" sign won't curb his tantrum.



CC0 1.0 Untitled by ArtisticOperations | Image was cropped. Images used for illustration purposes only.
A standard CHURC SUV - the one I rode in today as a guest of unit Seven-Eight-Westminster.


The customer - who is white - won't be calmed down. Officer Jalal is professional and keeps his voice low. Douglas cautiously flanks the man, anticipating trouble. My heart beats faster and the customers' phones glow in their hands.

In the end, the man gets too much in Officer Jalal's face, and Jalal puts him down, hard. CHURC officers are not deputized with a broad range of powers but one of them enables officers to detain anyone presenting a threat to the officers or their ability to carry out their duties.

Except for his pride, the man is not seriously injured. So, Jalal cuffs him and escorts him to the rear seat of the SUV with me.

The problem now is the officers have to drop the man back at Headquarters, making us even more late for our meeting. The man sits next to me, head down. His nose is bleeding onto his white shirt.



8:13 a.m.

We finally leave Headquarters again, having transferred the man to a holding cell. He'll spend most of the day there, Douglas informs me, before being collected by the police and charged with felony endangerment of a CHURC official.

The first six months after Kaley's Law had passed (October 2024) had been extremely uncertain in terms of the nation coming to grips with the new hate speech regulations. There had been many high-profile incidents of CHURC officers being abused and/or physically threatened, including a handful of cases resulting in officer deaths.

The 2025 legislation which authorized CHURC's activities contained strong protections for officers at the insistence of NCRA Administrator Queen Shon'ae, and also provided for the holding facilities in each CHURC office.

"Not as much as it used to be," adds Jalal, when I ask if aggression toward officers is still a thing. Seems the public has gotten the message.



8:17 a.m.

Jalal steps on the gas and we arrive at Northview quickly. We are greeted by a nervous young woman in a floral dress who gives us visitor tags and offers us coffee (we decline). She escorts us to the Principal's office.

There we meet a jittery, rotund man who welcomes us and offers us coffee again (we decline). He introduces us to a middle-aged woman who remains seated, dejectedly looking at the floor.

I learn from the meeting that this is a follow up from a meeting last week to discuss a possible Kaley's Law infraction.

A week prior to that a teacher had been conducting a discussion on race in America with her junior class. Apparently the teacher offered opinions less than enthusiastic regarding the Sovereign Black movement, and several students left the class to contact CHURC.

At the last meeting, CHURC met with the Principal and the department head (the other woman in our meeting) and basically gave them a week to formulate a plan to remedy what sounded like an actionable breach. We're here to see if the school has complied.

The Principal was clearly anxious to please and informed the officers that:

  • the teacher in question has been fired
  • the department head has been sanctioned and placed on a year's probation
  • a substitute teacher has been hired and fully informed of what transpired
  • the students in question have been provided counseling and given supplementary credit for any classes missed
  • Joni DiNayo's curriculum Shine - A Critical Look At America's Racial History has been adopted (the curriculum is K-12 and requires four hours of study a week)
  • all teachers have enrolled in CHURC Colorado's Best Teaching Practices online course in order to ensure they can provide the healthiest, safest learning environment possible

The Principal's nervousness is understandable; this would probably constitute a corporate breach of Kaley's Law. Corporate breaches are dealt with far more harshly than personal infractions and can be expensive.

Both officers are content with the steps Northview has taken, so Douglas completes an action plan on a tablet consistent with the Principal's commitments, and gives it to him to sign. He is e-mailed a copy and a copy is kept for CHURC's records. Douglas sternly reminds the Principal and department head that the officers will schedule a meeting in two weeks to check that the school is following the plan.

The Principal gratefully shakes both officers' hands and personally escorts us to our SUV, chattering about the school's proud history of inclusion and its loving atmosphere.



8:56 a.m.

We leave the school with a very relieved looking man in our rear view. Officer Jalal chuckles at his anxiety as Douglas scrolls her tablet. Our next meeting is in a half hour and Douglas wants to do some paperwork so we head east - there's a café on the way we can stop at.

We cruise east along West 84th for a few minutes while Jalal tells me stories about his time in the army. He joined just after the US scaled down its involvement in the war in Nigeria and he left four years ago. He still gets the itch every now and then.

I ask him what he misses most.

He doesn't get a chance to respond, as Dispatch calls again, and directs us to head to Walnut Creek, a mall northwest of us, near Broomfield. Some kind of a Discrimination-Based Disturbance (officers call them DBDs) has taken place.

After Douglas calls our next meeting to advise of our lateness, I ask if rescheduling meetings is a normal part of the job.

"All the time," she replies, as Jalal swings us south along North Pecos in search of the freeway. He looks at Douglas.

"Isn't there a Starbucks there?" he asks.



9:10 a.m.

We pull into a parking spot in Walnut Creek near the entrance to Target, as I wonder what kind of DBD happens before 9:00 a.m.

Since Dispatch hasn't warned us we have no reason to think there's any immediate danger, so Jalal and Douglas allow me to walk with them this time. As soon as we enter the store a supervisor is waiting for us, not that we need direction - there is screaming coming from the rear of the store. The supervisor escorts us.

We proceed through the apparel department and arrive at the entrance to the change rooms where an African-American woman of significant size is speaking in a very loud voice and gesturing wildly to the store manager.

Jalal and Douglas eventually calm her enough to hear what the problem is. Her issue is with the physical dimensions of the change rooms: she feels unsafe, and she feels harmed and humiliated due to discrimination against her size.

The officers gently explain that size discrimination is not an area of CHURC responsibility. If she feels she has been discriminated against in some way because of another identity or status (such as race or gender) then CHURC can get involved. But it's clear the woman's concerns relate to size only.

She explodes again, unwilling to let the matter drop, and accusing the frightened looking store manager of unconscious bias. He quickly shrinks, waving his hands defensively in protest.

Jalal leaves Douglas to continue to tend the woman and signals for me to accompany him. Speaking with the manager ("Jeff"), Jalal suggests that even though there has been no Kaley's Law or other civil rights violation - yet, he says with emphasis - that it would be a smart move to provide the customer with compensation for the trauma she has been caused. He further indicates that Target might want to consider upping the size of its change rooms.

Jeff agrees with the second point but is unsure what to do about compensation. He looks at the women, then Jalal. A $100 store credit? Jalal's finger points to the ceiling. $175? Jalal continues to point up. $250? Jalal finally nods and breaks into his customary smile, ushering Jeff toward the women, who has broken into tears.

Jeff offers her the store credit and the woman accepts. She says she's not feeling well and Jeff offers to call an ambulance for her. Target will pay any medical expenses.

We wait eight or nine minutes for the paramedics to arrive, and the woman is taken to hospital. On the way out Douglas reminds Jeff to ensure she receives her store credit, reminding him that she is now a CHURC client and they will be following up (Douglas has her details). Jeff nods like a bobblehead.



9:40 a.m.

We leave Target and grab a quick coffee from the Starbucks drive-thru, before heading south again. Our second meeting of the day is a mosque at the eastern end of 84th. It's looking like we'll be about 25 minutes late, but Officer Jalal gets heavy with the accelerator and we arrive a little sooner.

We are welcomed by the Imam and some of the elders. Officer Douglas' apologies for our tardiness are received with grace and a friendly smile as we remove our shoes as a sign of respect, and place them on a shoe rack before the foyer.

The beauty of the gently arching ceilings captivates me as we pass the prayer hall; I can see the Minbar and the richly adorned prayer rugs laid out on the floor and I wonder what majesty the building must hold when hundreds of worshipers all come together.

After being escorted to a small meeting room we are invited to sit around a conference table.

The officers are here to explain the implications of a possible new addition to Kaley's Law which could have a powerful effect for Muslims across the country.

Officer Jalal advises the four men seated opposite that NCRA Administrator Shon'ae is strongly considering advising the President to replace the current Executive Order constituting Kaley's Law with a new EO adding Muslims and refugees to the protected groups list.

(Fun fact: the current Kaley's Law is not the original one. Kaley's Law was amended twice by President Stader in 2029 and 2031, and each time the new Executive Order became the basis for Kaley's Law. President Wennstrom's May 2038 Executive Order replaced President Stader's 2031 Order. Kaley's Law is now officially Executive Order 15028. It began life at the end of 2024 as Executive Order 14173.)

If Kaley's Law is changed, it will mean any triple-H speech (Hateful, Harassing, Harmful) directed against Muslims can be treated as a Kaley's Law breach, offering Muslims the kind of protection they have not known in this country. It would send a powerful message of welcoming and inclusion toward one of the most historically resented minorities in the United States.

Our hosts nod and smile and look at each other in surprise, and I find myself a little heartbroken that some Americans have to wonder what that kind of freedom from oppression feels like.

Jalal elaborates, offering CHURC assistance should they encounter any hate or intolerance. They can call, write, tweet or flip CHURC and a unit will arrive as quickly as possible. The gentlemen are amazed. Douglas flicks them a pdf of CHURC's policies and procedures. One of the elders begins skimming it on his tablet, as Officer Jalal asks if they have encountered any intolerant or bigoted acts.

The Imam hesitates, and Jalal gently encourages him.

It turns out that attendees of the mosque have over the past few weeks been approached by members of a nearby church. They have been attempting to convert Muslims as they leave their cars to enter the mosque.

The church's tactics are a minor frustration, explains the Imam, but they insist on trying to hand out leaflets and Bibles to his congregation.

One of the elders gives the officers a leaflet handed to them by a worshiper. Jalal notes the name of the church and says they'll look into the matter and apprise the Imam as soon as possible.

We leave, offering thanks to the Imam and the elders for their time. As we enter the SUV I ask if there is any action CHURC can take against the church, pre-Kaley's Law being changed.

"We can help them understand their obligations a little better," says Jalal without smiling.



10:10 a.m.

As we pull away from the mosque, Jalal explains that CHURC units all over the country are having the same conversation with Muslims in their area. In Fort Lauderdale, Butte, Providence, and Bakersfield, Muslim Americans are feeling just a little safer tonight.

The Executive Order has yet to be signed, but it's being treated as a fait accompli.

Our next stop is the University of Colorado's Auraria campus, located downtown. CHURC Colorado has a downtown Denver office, but units all over Denver are encouraged to visit once in a while. As the most prominent college in the city, UC's student body does cutting edge work in the area of justice. And, CHURC's responsibilities being what they are, there is a Venn diagram of interests, so CHURC keeps in close contact.

We're catching up on our schedule: we were due to leave at 10:00 a.m., but the mosque was a short meeting so we're only ten minutes behind now. We're meeting UC-Denver's Student Judiciary Council at 10:20 a.m., and Officer Douglas is now behind the wheel with a steely determination on her face. I anticipate we'll arrive only a few minutes late.

Jalal calls the SJC and lets them know we're running behind.

He then twists in his seat to look at me in back, and says he has confidence in his unsmiling colleague's driving - we may yet make it on time.

I suggest we'd have to break the law to get there on time.

Jalal smiles a big toothy smile and advises me they don't worry too much about speeding - the police are usually too scared to pull them over.



10:22 a.m.

Officer Jalal's confidence is well-founded, as we pull into the 7th St parking lot only two minutes late for our meeting.

Both officers double tap their phone and we're on our way.

Another five minutes later we're walking through the doors of Melawayo House, home to UC-Denver's Liberty Student Alliance (LSA).

The building is less than five years old and its imposing glass facade gleams in the late morning sun. On the inside, busts of famous activists dot the lobby under a high ceiling. Shards of a crystal-like material cast beautiful reflections of light across the marble floor, but also look menacing as they hang over us.

I marvel at a representation of Audre Lorde as we head to the elevators.

On the fourth floor we are met by security: an African-American man and woman. They are intimidating. They glance at and past the officers' CHURC uniforms, exchanging nods with my hosts.

"I need you to identify this person, please," says the man. His piercing gaze comes to rest on me. Douglas explains who I am and my purpose.

"Identification, please," asks the woman curtly. I show her my driver's license. She tells me she needs to copy my license and that I'll get it back when we leave. I don't object.

The other security member asks if I have any CoUNTA identities. I tell him I identify as bisexual. I don't usually wear a pin because it almost feels opportunistic for me to do so. I feel luxuried in my circumstances, not oppressed.

He gives me an "N" pin (Non-heterosexual) and watches as I attach it to my shirt. Douglas looks at me and sighs impatiently.

We proceed to a reception area where a young man takes our details and asks us to sit. He's wearing all five CoUNTA symbols (people of Color, Undocumented, Non-heterosexual, Trans or other gendered, non-Abled) as well as a horse symbol, all stitched to his shirt.



CC0 1.0 Untitled by Unknown | Image was cropped. Image used for illustration purposes only.
UC-Denver's LSA's Melawayo House.


I begin to ask him about them - especially the horse, which I've never seen before - but Douglas tugs at my shirt.

"You don't ask those sorts of questions here," she says. It's not open for discussion.

Suddenly, the officers' phones begin beeping.

"Damnit," says Jalal. He taps the screen. Dispatch says there's a DBD here on campus, but Jalal asks them to put someone else on it as they're about to step into a meeting.

"No go," says the voice on the other end, "this is red and needs actioning now."

Jalal reminds Dispatch our meeting is with an SJC.

"Copy, Seven-Eight, we'll reallocate. Thanks for the heads up. Out."

Jalal grins.

"Just gotta know what to say."

The young man at reception approaches and gestures to his left.

"The justices will see you now," he says politely, providing directions to the conference room. We make our way down a corridor as I feel the glare of the two security personnel tunneling through me. I clear my throat.

Projected on to the wall are holographic images of UC's CoUNTA riots of 2035. From October through November of that year, both CoUNTA and non-CoUNTA students protested for official recognition of the CoUNTA scheme. Buildings were torched, classes were canceled, and rallying students basically took over the campus. It was the same in Boulder, and elsewhere across Colorado's college campuses.

UC officially affirmed CoUNTA identification in December that year. The university does not require it, but identifying as CoUNTA comes with a host of advantages.

More stubborn college administrations nationwide provoked a prolonged crisis on their campuses. At the University of Chicago, a dozen people died in the protests.

We knock before entering and step into the conference room where three justices acknowledge us. Douglas directs me to the seating against the wall. I cannot sit at the table.

"Who is she?" asks one of the justices. Douglas explains my presence.

The three justices are African-American, but I believe one may be Latino. His name is Hispanic, but I remind myself not to pre-judge. A moment of panic sets in as I realize that I mentally applied a masculine gender to the man at reception, and I remind myself not to label people.

I am looked over again by the justices. Finally one says, "She can stay, but make sure she knows not to speak."

I nod emphatically.

UC-Denver's Student Judiciary Council reports straight to LSA's Justice Committee but essentially controls policy on campus in the area of student law and justice. Their recommendations are usually adopted by the Committee for presentation before the student government Senate, and the Senate rarely votes against the SJC.

The justices (all Seniors) are formidable presences on campus. Extremely well respected, they can anticipate a range of offers from top law firms when they graduate.

The next forty minutes are spent discussing all aspects of justice on campus, essentially catching up with CHURC on any new developments. A new unit does this once a month and the justices seem a little impatient with the idea of briefing a different pair of officers each time.

The justices begin by informing us they are attempting to push for free tuition for students with three or more CoUNTA identities. What this means, is that if a student identifies as say, a person of color, transgendered and undocumented, they would be entitled to free tuition.

The SJC wants a sliding scale of "compensatory maneuvers" which would also give students with four CoUNTA identities "mandated nutrition outcomes" - in other words, 100% subsidized meals - and an extra .25 GPA to account for the learning challenges incurred by minority identities.

The justices propose students with five CoUNTA identities should also receive free housing (on top of the meals and free tuition) and an extra .75 GPA total.

The university has baulked at the extras on top of the free tuition, and wants students with three identities to provide proof before the tuition subsidy is granted. That last point is a non-starter with the SJC, and talks are ongoing.

Douglas asks what the endgame will look like if the university continues to hold out.

"We'll riot them mother******s to the ground," replies one of the justices.

Next, we're updated that there have been four DPRs over the past month, up from three the month prior. DPR stands for "Designated Physical Redress" and is a punishment applied by SJCs in rare cares when a student's crime exceeds the standard set for a fine or Labor Requirement (LR).

It usually involves students making contact with student government officials or otherwise seriously threatening them. Contempt of court can also prompt a DPR.

DPRs are a simple beating at the hands of bailiffs or Student Security officers for up to five minutes. They're not officially sanctioned but are not challenged by student governments or university officials.

The justices are concerned that DPRs are up, but not too concerned. Each student took the punishment handed out and was not seriously hurt.

Moving on, we're told that the LSA is pushing the university for more funds for Student Security (StuSec). Student Security officers hold a paid position and the justices want to add another two dozen officers. I notice Douglas and Jalal look at each other.

CHURC has an interest in colleges' levels of student security because most SJCs would like to police Kaley's Law themselves, but don't have the resources. The NCRA (CHURC's federal parent institution) is naturally extremely progressive but student governments are known to tend even more so, and the NCRA wants Kaley's Law applied evenly throughout the country. Basically, it's concerned that SJCs will use the increase in power more StuSec officers gives them, to push Kaley's Law too far too quickly.

The NCRA also knows that teaching people to control their own speech is a slow-moving affair. People who are rushed through the process tend to rebel.

So far the university has said yes to funding another six officers but won't go further than that. The SJCs believe they will have to hand the issue off to the panel which will replace them next year (they officially leave office August 21 - the week before classes begin.)

Next on the agenda is a push that the LSA is making for mandatory WHeCAL identification. In essence, the justices want everyone with no CoUNTA identities to identify themselves as full WHeCAL (White, Heterosexual, Cisgendered, Able-bodied, Legal resident status). WHeCAL is - of course - CoUNTA's oppression twin.

They believe this will help anyone triggered by full WHeCAL individuals to safely avoid them and circumvent the Harm Cycle. But the university is only on board for this with new students; it doesn't feel that asking existing students to abide by something they never signed up for when applying to UC is unfair.

I get the feeling the SJC may relent on this issue until one of the justices suddenly stands and begins remonstrating loudly. She says UC is playing the justices and that the college believes the SJC will fold on the issue if they hold out long enough. She yells for quite a long time, arguing everything from Cicero to Marx.

Eventually, the justice in the middle says, "B****, sit your ass down and take some medication." Her colleague sits and fumes.

Jalal chooses to segue to the expansion of CoUNTA identifications. CoUNTA-broadening is one of the next stages in the cultural identity sphere and colleges are pushing harder than anyone.

"We want animals, the cashless, Muslims and plants" says one justice. "And that's just for starters."

They're leveraging the arguments made by UC's own Identity Studies faculty in order to push for greater recognition. The panel believes the university will trade it for something they want like CoUNTA proofs for free tuition. But they won't get it, says one of the justices, because you don't really need the university's leadership to affirm something like that. The LSA can mandate it through the Senate and it will be a student law.

It's just nice to have the university behind it if it doesn't cost the SJC anything.

Next up is the addition to Catholics For Love (CFL) to UC's approved student groups. Despite being an ally of Gen.Life, Catholics For Love has no automatic love from the justices, and they have veto power over approved student groups - for the "welfare and harmony of the greater student body".

CFL has made several good faith payments to the LSA - including direct sponsorship of part of the SJC's budget, and the justices seem more favorably disposed, insofar as they appear completely indifferent. It seems as though CFL will be approved, but on a probationary basis, adds the possibly Hispanic justice curtly.

The finale of the meeting is incredibly touchy for all concerned, as Douglas pivots as tactfully as she can. NCRA Administrator Shon'ae has made overtures to the AUSG (American Union of Student Governments) about bringing the SJCs under the umbrella of the NCRA via the state CHURCs. Such a move would give the SJCs the imprimatur of the federal government, making them far more powerful.

But it would also enable the NCRA to expand its mission of justice down to the college level, applying the same message with consistency across campuses. And not just with regards to student security: enveloping the SJCs means CHURC can influence its full spectrum of justice based issues without being concerned about individual colleges' student governments charging ahead. It would mean Texas proceeds at the same pace as Massachusetts.

Queen Shon'ae enjoys an enormous amount of respect and esteem among SJCs and student governments all over the nation, but the justices clearly couldn't be more opposed to the idea.

Douglas doesn't even finish her sentence before the middle justice spits "no way", with her two colleagues flanking her with emphatic shakes of the head.

For the next ten minutes both she and Jalal are educated in the essentials of student government independence, a full throated tirade firmly delivered mostly by the middle justice with occasional interjections from the other two.

The speech ends on a sour note, as the Cicero-quoting justice suggests that the NCRA is looking for a foothold to take over not just the SJCs, but the whole student government process of colleges across the nation. Jalal waves his hands defensively and begins to protest, when both officers' phones begin beeping again. Jalal taps and a voice hurriedly clues him in to what has happened.

The earlier DBD which Jalal waved off was instigated by a straight white man at UC's Calager Library. UC-Denver practices Minority Priority, and the man apparently didn't appreciate being made to wait for assistance at the Get Help Desk while individuals with CoUNTA badges were served ahead of him. The DBD was called in by a fellow student who witnessed the man loudly complaining.

StuSec arrived shortly thereafter, explains Dispatch, at which point several like minded students joined the man complaining, and together physically resisted security. This was the point at which Dispatch contacted Officers Jalal and Douglas earlier (my guess is they wanted the students to see a CHURC badge to help them realize the gravity of the situation).

The incident was further complicated about twenty minutes ago by the arrival of officers from the Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD). Most states no longer have independent state funded civil rights agencies (the NCRA and its state CHURCs make them redundant) but Colorado does, and it actually funds it well, despite Administrator Shon'ae's efforts to shut it down.

Somehow, the CCRD heard about the altercation (likely their intelligence-gathering software trawled social media and found a student's post about the incident) and in a fit of self-importance, they dispatched their own officers to muddy the waters.

Dispatch catches its breath and then explains that StuSec has ordered CCRD off campus and CCRD is refusing to leave. There are non-CoUNTA students who need to be processed as part of the DBD and they can't go anywhere until this is sorted out. Dispatch says the situation is escalating to threats and the police have been called. There is no police presence on campus so officers are en route from downtown.

The justices listen to this and then look Douglas and Jalal squarely in the eye. The middle justice addresses them:

"We're gonna give you 15 minutes to sort this out before we get Collectively involved."

To this point today, Douglas has not looked so anxious. Jalal nods silently with a fearful look on his face and I feel a lump form in my throat.

We leave the room and trace our steps back down the corridor and the pixels on the wall stare back at me; the riots. Jalal walks with a long stride - he isn't waiting. A voice who I'm sure is the Cicero-quoting justice suddenly screams the words "fifteen minutes" from the conference room. The pitch and the tone have an unstable feel and the shrillness of the shriek follows closely in my ears.

Douglas breaks into a little trot to keep up with Jalal. Her anxious face has hardened back into her no-nonsense face, but I can tell she is extremely concerned.

Collectively has watches in most major cities and towns, but they also have a formidable presence in most four year colleges, including UC-Denver.

Here, the watch is named Collectively Cloudly, which is meant to invoke Denver's mile-high altitude. Collectively Cloudly sounds innocent enough, but it possesses all the ruthlessness of Collectively's other watches. It's helmed by the much feared Shaylen Troysa (a UC student) who has been imprisoned twice and is suspected by authorities in the assault of dozens of students and several faculty who have not fully bought into Collectively's mission for the campus.

Troysa is believed to have ordered the execution of Professor Carol Enzo two years ago for continuing to publicly speak out against abortion after the second trimester. Enzo was found by police after failing to show up for work three days in a row. She had been left in her kitchen with a knife through her throat. No one was charged.

If CHURC, the Sovereign Black Neighborhood movement and organizations like NewLove, the Grass:Roots Center and Gen.eration represent the intellectual side of the movement to ensure justice reigns, Collectively is the muscle that can inspire capitulation simply with the threat that it might flex.

But Jalal and Douglas both know that if the justices call Troysa, a thousand angry members of Collectively (UC students) will descend upon the library and then anything can happen. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that Collectively might burn the library to the ground with everyone inside, if they are called.

I'm too far behind to hear what Jalal says to Douglas, but she responds with the words, "Three or four minutes if we run". I hurry to catch up.

"That's too long. We'll get the car," says Jalal.

We rapidly approach the two sentinels standing guard by the elevators and I remember my ID. I tell the officers I need to get my license back. Douglas cuts me off.

"We don't have time. Come with us or stay, it's your choice."

I choose the story and let security know that I'll return for my ID. I receive no acknowledgment.

In the elevator Douglas tells Jalal to go for the car and meet us on the street. Jalal walks briskly to the entrance, under all those crystalline shards, then makes a run for the car. Douglas trots a little faster and I have to half jog to keep up.

Sixty seconds later we're all in the SUV, on our way to Calager Library. I discover later that the most direct legal route to the library by car circumnavigates the campus, but Jalal has other ideas. He takes us further into the campus, then exits the road and drives across the quad, sounding his horn to the alarm of the scattering students.



11:29 a.m.

We arrive at the library in thirty seconds. The officers deftly exit the car, double tapping their phones and running to the library entrance with one hand on their sidearm.

It's pandemonium inside. A crowd has gathered and is mashed up against the entrance. Phones are being held up like some sort of technological salute. There's yelling and crying from somewhere inside.

Jalal and Douglas push their way through the crowd as I follow close behind. I try not to get left behind but the two officers have forgotten me in their haste to prevent a disaster.

The Get Help Desk is half way to the other side of the building. Jalal's baritone voice thunders among the students and they part - somewhat. Douglas doesn't mind jostling.

The scene before us as we break through the human tide leaves even the officers momentarily stunned. On the floor by the Get Help Desk are eleven WHeCAL (fully non-CoUNTA) students, hands cuffed behind them and with bloodied faces and bodies. One of them is lying motionless on his side. A girl, who I presume is the still man's girlfriend, is leaning over as far as she can, sobbing over him. The rest are silent.

In front of them is a furious standoff between nine StuSec officers and a half dozen CCRD officers. One CCRD officer is on the ground with what looks like a staff member tending his bleeding and possibly broken nose. His compatriots are toe-to-toe with StuSec and they are aggressively giving each other orders which are being ignored. Hands are on sidearms and there's a feeling in the air that this could tip over very soon. The mash of people is formed in a semicircle around the scene.

Jalal wades in first, stepping between the two warring groups as Douglas contacts Dispatch. She asks where the other CHURC units are and wasn't there supposed to be another unit here already? Dispatch replies that Six-One-Downtown and Three-Nine-Downtown are both enroute but are stuck in traffic. Douglas mutters something about CHURC needing hovercars.

Dispatch estimates Six-One and Three-Nine will arrive in twenty minutes. Seven-Eight-Westminster is on its own.

Douglas joins Jalal in the scrum of testosterone and tries to separate two officers who have begun pushing each other. I wonder when it escalated to breaking noses, as I look at the CCRD officer being treated.

Jalal is trying to calm down two CCRD officers who seem intent on further aggravating the StuSec personnel opposite. His long arms enable him to place one hand gently on each officer's chest as he attempts to soothe the situation.

One of them decides to aggressively slap his hand away and Jalal reacts like a trigger. He swiftly brings his hand back up and strikes the officer in the throat. The officer drops. His colleague actually raises his weapon at Jalal, but before he can action the situation Jalal has his wrist in a lock and flips him over, relieving him of his pistol. There are gasps from the crowd assembled.

Jalal's sidearm is now in his hand and is pointed at the remaining CCRD personnel. Douglas follows suit. The CCRD guys draw their sidearms, pointing everywhere and nowhere. This prompts StuSec to do the same.

The WHeCAL students look up from the floor, terrified.

It looks like the situation has just escalated precipitously but with two CCRD officers on the ground and one still being treated, there are now only three officers standing, and eleven guns are trained on them.

The remaining CCRD personnel realize they are out gunned and slowly place their weapons on the floor. Douglas collects them and then approaches the two on the ground and their comrade with the possible broken nose, taking three more.

Jalal looks at Douglas and smiles. "Three minutes," he says.

And then the worst possible thing happens.

There's yelling from the direction of the library entrance, and suddenly a dozen police officers burst through the gathered crowd. They have weapons drawn and are yelling at everyone to lay down their guns.

The StuSec officers are clearly pumped up now and are raising their pistols at the police, who have fanned out to cover them. Jalal and Douglas exchange quick glances and we have another standoff.

It's obvious that the confusion on all sides is going to escalate things once more, and then Jalal does something amazing. He holsters his sidearm, and steps in between the two parties.

He carefully pulls out his badge and shows it to the lieutenant. He introduces himself and Douglas. Then he calmly explains that if the situation is not resolved to the satisfaction of the campus Student Judiciary Council in three - no, two and a half minutes - the SJC will call Collectively to come clean this up.

The StuSec officers are nodding and saying, "Mmm-hm". The lieutenant turns even whiter. He knows what this means.

Jalal approaches the lieutenant to continue the conversation. He's calm, he's courteous, and his smile is disarming. I can't hear what he's saying exactly, but it works. The lieutenant orders his men to lower their guns, and explains for all to hear that there's been a misunderstanding of jurisdiction. He looks relieved to have been presented with a plausible reason to exit this mess.

He orders his officers to leave and they silently file out of the building.

"Thirty seconds", calls out Douglas. She's grinning now.

Jalal lifts his phone to his ear and calls the SJC offices. He's quickly connected with one of the justices. The look of relief on his face says everything as his broad shoulders relax a little. Douglas casually stands between StuSec and the CCRD personnel.

I approach to ask Jalal about his conversation with the SJC but he brushes me off with a curt, "Not now". He's still in crisis mode.

He strides over to StuSec - who have holstered their sidearms but still look highly reactive - and asks who's in charge. I follow at a respectful distance.

There's jurisdiction to sort out and Jalal wants to get it done quickly. There's a sergeant, an African-American who has the build of a football player and who stands a little shorter than Jalal.

The Sergeant explains that they need to deal with not just the white students but also the CCRD officers who "committed acts of aggression". In a perfect world, I think CHURC would like to deal with all parties concerned, but Jalal knows that's not going to happen. Calmly, he states that StuSec should take care of the white students, but that CHURC would like to deal with CCRD. CHURC actually has the legislative authority to deal with them, he elaborates. He goes on to imply that the political fallout from CCRD officers attacking federal civil rights agents could force Colorado to curtail or even end the activities of the department. But it has to look like a CHURC issue. They need to be the ones to take the CCRD officers in.

The sergeant nods and he and Jalal shake hands.

Five minutes later the first of four more CHURC units arrive. Three-Nine-Downtown actually never shows, but there is enough manpower and the extra units take the six CCRD officers to be held downtown. They are led off, cuffed as students and faculty applaud. They are CHURC prisoners now.

Colorado may enjoy having its own state civil rights division - state politicians have spoken pejoratively about the "empire" the NCRA is building under Administrator Shon'ae - but the veneer of independence in the civil rights realm is probably not worth the protracted battle with the federal government, which will be fueled by dozens of video angles of the scene which just played out. Social media always wins.

In any case, CCRD officers will spend the day in a CHURC holding cell. What happens after that is anyone's guess.

The last of CCRD's personnel is escorted out by Two-Two-Downtown. The officer with the possible broken nose gives me a despondent look before his chin hits his blood-stained chest.

The white students by the Get Help Desk look terror stricken. Things obviously became physical with StuSec at some point and they know they're probably in for a DPR at the hands of the officers looking down on them.

Some of them attempt to petition Douglas and Jalal for help. One even claims he has a CoUNTA identity. His pathetic cries of, "But I'm bisexual," go unheeded. The SJC has a job to do and cannot tolerate assault against its officers.

We make our way out of the library to the sounds of sobbing behind us. The mash of people has thinned out a bit and we enter our car.

"Not a bad day for a ride along, is it?" says Jalal from behind the wheel.



12:07 p.m.

The officers decide we should head to lunch and we stop in at a diner near CodeIN Stadium, which is right next door to the university. We order, and then Douglas steps outside. We were obviously at UC-Denver much longer than intended, which has thrown our schedule completely out and Douglas needs to reorganize the afternoon.

In the meantime, I return to asking Jalal about the SJC's response when he called them.

"They were okay," he says nonchalantly. "They saw how it went down on the security footage as it happened. No one got seriously hurt and they wanted to see StuSec take the CCRD officers in, but they know CHURC has an interest in making an example of the CCRD guys."

I say that StuSec taking CCRD officers into custody would have set an interesting precedent for SJCs nationwide. Only Colorado, Kansas, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia have state civil rights agencies. Every other state is content to let the US Government spend the money. But the issue would be more than SJCs and their StuSec officers having authority over state employees on campus: it would elevate their status considerably - they wouldn't still be mere college students serving in student government anymore, would they? If they suddenly had the power to detain state officials?

I wonder how comfortable the NCRA would be with colleges becoming small islands of sovereignty in the civil rights arena. Administrator Shon'ae has done an enviable job concentrating the responsibility for administering civil rights legislation within the NCRA and state CHURCs. Would she be happy giving some of it away?

"I don't think it needs to be a zero-sum question", says Jalal. "In fact, I don't like zero-sum issues because they ignore detail. Why does it have to be all one agency or all another? We (CHURC officers) go to colleges to build relationships and work together on justice issues. We can share the responsibility."

I remind him that he put two guys on the ground today who were looking for a piece of that responsibility.

"Yeah, but is CCRD actually trying to be part of the conversation? Most people in CHURC, and most people generally I think, feel that CCRD is more about a states' rights thing, like 'we don't want no feds coming in here and messing with our responsibilities' and that's not going to accomplish a damn thing. And they just rolled in there and pretended like they owned the joint."

I contrast their style with Jalal's and he dips his head humbly. He did after all, end a standoff with police and negotiate to take the CCRD officers - all without violence.

"That's what I mean", he says, taking a sip of his soda before continuing. "There's enough civil rights issues for everyone to have a piece of the pie - if they act professional."

I ruminate on that and then I realize that in all the adrenaline, I forgot to get my ID back from the SJC.

"You'll have to go back for it", Jalal offers apologetically. The afternoon is going to be tight so we can get as much done as possible. I nod.

As if on cue, Douglas returns and takes her seat next to Jalal.

"Did you plug in that church?" he asks. Douglas responds with a clipped "mmm" sound as she drinks her ice tea.

Lunch is brief - sandwiches all round - and within a half hour of arriving we are on the road again.

As Douglas pulls the SUV out on to the road, I ask Jalal about our next visit. He tells me I'm in for a treat - we're heading to Denver's Sovereign Black Neighborhood.

The local SBN is called Bassette, after Rachel Bassette Noel, a 20th century civil rights activist from Denver. She was the first African-American woman elected to public office and implemented a plan to integrate local schools.

As Jalal elaborates on the treat I am in for, Douglas interjects to explain that she has ensured I am pre-authorized to enter (Bassette, like most SBNs, has strict rules regarding the entry of white people), but to do exactly as the officers say and not to speak. At all. I respond with a quick, "Yes".

Bassette is not that far - it's just east of downtown - but Jalal wants us to head north around downtown and take I-70, but Douglas shakes her head. She takes us into downtown, deftly avoiding traffic with a little help from Dispatch.

Denver is one of the few cities with multi-level traffic and Douglas sighs loudly as hovercars pass over us at high speed.

We reach the western gate into Bassette in about twelve minutes. Bassette comprises the former neighborhoods of Cole, Whittier, Skyland and parts of Park Hill. Two golf courses bite into it in the middle from the north and south. When Bassette was incorporated in 2036, African-Americans from all over Colorado flocked to its borders for safety and security, and the promise of prosperity those two things can bring.

Today, Bassette is home to 127,000 African-Americans.



12:52 p.m.

The western gate - which fittingly sits astride MLK Jr. Boulevard - is manned by about a dozen fully equipped soldiers, replete with tactical gear, automatic rifles and an armored personnel carrier. A guard tower is manned with what looks like a heavy caliber machine gun.

A half dozen Denver police officers stand across the road from the gate, watching.

We wait in a line reserved for visitors, then Douglas shows a corporal her ID and states that we have a meeting. I hear my name mentioned but we are soon waved through.

We're heading to Bassette's city hall, which sits on the corner of MLK Jr. Boulevard and Colorado Boulevard - roughly in the center of Bassette. Along the way, I marvel at all the new apartment blocks. Post-incorporation the SBN filled rapidly, and families were hosting other families in small houses in an enviable gesture of community and solidarity. But, it quickly became apparent to all concerned that high density residential living was a need rather than a desire. The city of Denver and the state both contributed funds toward an Initial Community Development Grant of $12.5bn, and much of that went on the immediate needs of domiciles for new arrivals.

City hall is also a new construction - a four level office building with a facade composed of glass and brick, and with SBN police officers guarding the front entrance. We park across the street and the officers double tap their phones. After showing IDs to the officers who look at Douglas and I sternly, we are directed to the fourth floor.

The inside is less emotive than UC-Denver's Melawayo House. There are no busts, and no digital portraits of past battles on the wall. There are a lot of suits, and a businesslike atmosphere permeates. The SBN is about bettering the lives of African-Americans in Denver. There is clear eyed purpose here.

Our meeting takes place in a conference room with a commanding view of the intersection below and some of the nearby retail.

Shaking hands with Jalal and Douglas are Bassette's City Liaison, Robert Jones, and Deputy Communications Manager, Attie Bordelon. Both shake hands with me and Jones invites me to sit at the table. There is no tension or suspicion in the air - it is a stark contrast to our meeting with UC's SJC. We are offered coffee.

I soon learn that even though CHURC has a dedicated Bassette Team which deals with SBN affairs (located in CHURC's downtown office), that CHURC likes to send various units to engage with the SBN community, for the same reasons they send a different unit to liaise with the SJC - it keeps the officers up to date with life on the ground in Bassette. So once every two weeks, another unit talks with Jones and Bordelon. They don't seem to mind.

They tell us that things are going quite well in Bassette and that only a few minor issues persist. Douglas pulls out her tablet, and begins taking notes.

There is an ongoing issue with harassment of Bassette residents ("Mainly by white folks, from what we can tell", Jones elaborates), which occurs when residents leave the safety of Bassette's walls. Conservative state and local politicians have done an exemplary job of portraying African-Americans living in Bassette as lazy, indolent malcontents who want to milk Denver's white residents for every last tax dollar so they don't have to work, and it seems the message is actually being bought by some people.



CC0 1.0 Untitled by chidi | Image was cropped. Image used for illustration purposes only.
Robert Jones, Bassette's City Liaison.


While it's true that Bassette has received on average 8.15% of Denver's budget over the past three years, the political vernacular directed at its denizens is clearly designed to whip up a fervor against them, which is playing out in the way they are treated throughout the city. Bordelon provides anecdotes of non-Bassette African-Americans who receive the same treatment. Little old ladies on their way back from the store. Children playing in a playground.

"Go back to Bassy!" they yell to pregnant mothers.

Jalal asks what response CHURC has provided so far. Jones shrugs his shoulders as if he knows there's little which can be done. It's a bit like catching raindrops with a strainer. If a guy walks up to you and abuses you then walks away, what can you do? If you have a phone you might be able to image his license plate, but most people who encounter such behavior are naturally shocked and try to avoid escalation.

This is one reason why Bassette is so needed. It's the only place African-Americans in Denver can truly feel safe.

Jalal promises to refer it to the Bassette Team for follow up. Jones and Bordelon don't look particularly convinced.

Next up is the status of Sanctuary residents, who are non-Bassette African-Americans who have sought refuge after having been accused of a crime outside Bassette's walls. Most of them are simple assault cases stemming from altercations with white Denverites, but Borderlon tells us there are a few accused robberies, rapes, and four murders. Jones tells us there's even a man accused of a Kaley's Law violation, then breaks into cackles which turn into a chesty cough.

Pending the outcome of their cases, Bassette keeps its Sanctuary residents in comfortably appointed apartments on a floor of one of the blocks we passed earlier. Police officers guard the accused and they are rarely permitted outside.

Any African-American who applies for permanent residence in Bassette will receive it no questions asked - even Sanctuary applicants. And of course, every Sanctuary resident applies for permanent residence.

But Bassette then looks at the weight of the evidence and decides whether or not to hand the individual over to outside authorities (this is called a municipal extradition).

Obviously most Sanctuary residents are from Denver. And, because in three out of four cases extradition is denied, this creates friction with Denver's City Council and with the state of Colorado. Only the clear-cut, extreme cases are extradited and even then Bassette's hard line faction rarely agrees. Jones says that he can see perhaps one of the four murder cases being extradited.

He continues by explaining that Bassette needs help with smoothing relations with the city over the issue. Jalal suggests perhaps some sort of trade, to which Borderlon replies that they've tried that and it hasn't worked. The city doesn't want to give up anything Bassette wants.

(Bassette's main desire is for more space, which Jones tells us is a non-starter for Denver.)

Douglas takes down notes and Jalal asks her to write down the name, "Marty Bloemfeld". She looks at him and then scribbles the name.

The next topic is supplies, which Borderlon says have historically been an issue. Denver already makes receiving commodities difficult: the city only permits commercial deliveries to enter via the Holly St North gate, ostensibly to reduce heavy traffic at other intersections (Bassette is surrounded on the west, south, and east by low-density neighborhoods).

Also, any shipping firm which wishes to truck goods into Bassette must obtain a Denver city permit. The permit can take weeks for the city to process and is expensive.

But lately, Denver has been pushing for even more regulation: certain Council members want the city to inspect each commercial vehicle entering Bassette. City Council does not permit the shipment of weapons to Bassette unless for government use and it wants to tie up each and every heavy vehicle entering Bassette with this fallacious reasoning. It's clearly ridiculous.

Moreover, the city is on the verge of implementing a tax on goods entering Bassette. Conservative City Council members have been pushing for "export adjustments" since Bassette was incorporated, and it may happen this fiscal year.

Jalal remarks that it almost seems like a breach of Kaley's Law, since it involves discrimination against African-Americans. Jones nods soberly, and replies that CHURC's Bassette Team is investigating along those lines.

Bassette is concerned about two things as a result of the export adjustment. First, that it would back up traffic west along Smith Rd north of Bassette. If each vehicle needs to be inspected (and we can probably surmise that the city will not instruct its personnel to be quick) it would almost completely close off a whole lane.

Second, Jones fears that violence will break out between city inspection officials and Bassette's security. If city officials are inspecting each vehicle on Bassette's doorstep the possibility of conflict - even violent conflict - is raised considerably, especially when the city is being needlessly idiosyncratic about trade.

Jones' voice is even and I'm impressed by his composure. He has leader written all over his sage features and it's a wonder to me that he can call these issues "minor".

Jalal leans toward Douglas and again mouths the words, "Marty Bloemfeld". He turns back to Jones and Bordelon and explains that he has a contact at NCRA headquarters in DC - a contact who might be able to lubricate some of the problems Bassette is facing. I'm intrigued, and I make a mental note to ask Jalal about his contact later. Bordelon and Jones nod politely but I sense a well of cynicism regarding CHURC's ability to affect change.

It makes me want to tell him about our day so far.

At about 2:00 p.m. our meeting wraps up and we are escorted downstairs by our hosts, where upon shaking hands we are bid a kind farewell. Jones even calls out that he will instruct the western gate to prioritize our exit.



2:05 p.m.

As we pull out of the parking lot on to MLK Jr. Boulevard, Jalal asks Douglas how long until their next meeting.

"Twenty-five minutes," she replies. We're heading back up to Broomfield, a city in the north of the Denver Metro area.

Jalal rubs his hands together with glee and asks if there's enough time to get Starbucks.

"Yeah, but only because I'm driving," Douglas retorts.

When we leave Bassette we'll turn right onto North Downing, and Starbucks is not that far. Jalal uses his phone to order and asks if he can get me anything.

"My treat," he says, looking back at me with his customary grin. "Since you were almost in the middle of a gunfight today." I can't help but smile, and ask for a Nutella Macchiato.

"Make that two," adds Douglas, her expression unchanging.

We are grateful to Jones as Bassette security waves us through to the priority exit lane, and after a brief ID check, we speed through and turn right.

Douglas' driving gets us to Starbucks with haste, but our Nutella Macchiatos are not to be - each officers' phones begin beeping again as we pull into the drive-thru.

Dispatch says there's a DBD that's been called in on West 84th. It has been called in by a business, which is unusual but not entirely unheard of. The problem is that it takes us out of our way again.

"F***," spits Jalal. "I wanted that Starbucks."

We're now back into NASCAR mode and it's both a good thing and frightening that Douglas is behind the wheel. She speeds us out of Starbucks' parking lot and before long we're on I-70 then I-25. Other cars fall behind us at high speed and the part of me that isn't extremely anxious hears Jalal on his phone, postponing our meeting. He apologizes with genuineness.



2:22 p.m.

It takes us eight minutes to pull into a Squish Burger parking lot on West 84th. We exit the SUV and the officers double tap their phones again. I feel the first pangs of weariness. Can every day be this hectic?

Inside is our Discrimination-Based Disturbance, which consists of a white man in his thirties waiting sullenly by the counter. He is glaring at the staff - who look petrified - with his arms crossed.

He greets us with a sarcastic, "About time!" I notice Jalal sneer impatiently.

As the officers approach the man turns to me, points in my direction and asks who I am: the officers are wearing a uniform and I am not.

"The Queen of Sheba," replies Jalal.

Douglas asks the closest of the nervous staff members what the issue is. The poor girl is a Latina of not more than sixteen or seventeen, and she doesn't get a chance to answer as the man loudly begins complaining that he is being discriminated against.

Occasionally, Squish Burger runs special fifty cent promotions for people with CoUNTA identities. A burger, fries, and a small soda will come to $1.50 and it's a generous nod to the economic plight of many CoUNTA individuals.

But, Squish Burger's policy is that any individual claiming the promotion has to wear a CoUNTA badge of some sort, or be able to show some proof of the identity they are claiming; it's an intrusive policy which should probably be changed, but from what I've heard Squish Burger is fairly relaxed about enforcing it.

The person in front of us loudly proclaiming his identity as a gay man is not wearing a CoUNTA badge and refuses to show any proof. Douglas and Jalal are completely unperturbed - Douglas rolls her eyes repeatedly - as the man continues his bellyaching about the harm and violence he has been caused, and how he might sue. He even suggests someone might need to phone an ambulance because he's feeling dizzy.

Douglas and Jalal are clearly not impressed by the man's histrionics. I think Jalal is pondering the money he won't get back from Starbucks for his coffee order...for this?

Eventually, he interrupts the man and asks him for proof of his CoUNTA identity. The man refuses and proceeds to inform the officers that he doesn't have to prove any identity to anyone.

Jalal responds by correcting the man: when a CHURC officer requests Proof of Minority Identity (PMI), a person is legally obliged to cooperate. It's not a tactic CHURC likes to use with possible minorities because questioning a person's CoUNTA identity has been known to trigger the Harm Cycle.

But it's a useful safeguard against people trying to game benefits rightly intended for genuinely smoothed minorities, which is pretty clearly what this man is attempting.

Jalal takes a step forward and repeats his request, and it sounds like a demand. I'm standing near the counter and I ask the girl if she's okay. She turns to me with an anxious smile etched on her face, nods, and then turns back to watch Jalal move even closer to the man. He towers over him.

Finally, the man cracks and breaks into sobs. His protests about just being hungry fall on deaf ears as Douglas forcefully pulls his arms behind his back and handcuffs him. He wails as Jalal leads him to the exit and for the second time today I have a passenger in the back seat with me.



2:38 p.m.

We leave Headquarters again, having transferred the man - now complaining about excessive force - to a holding cell. Jalal casually informs me that he'll be charged with misdemeanor minority identity fraud. I find myself without sympathy for the man.

We're on the road again, heading to our destination in Broomfield. Travelling north along the Turnpike, we would normally expect to arrive in about fifteen minutes. However, Douglas is behind the wheel and once again, we are flying past the other vehicles.

I decide to take the opportunity to ask Jalal about his contact at NCRA headquarters. Who is this mysterious Marty Bloemfeld, I ask, and what can he do for Bassette?

"Well, not so mysterious," responds Jalal. "He's a Deputy Director in the NCRA's CHURC Local Liaison Office. Their job is to help CHURC manage its relationship with the towns and cities it's posted in, and I'm guessing he would know someone local who can help smooth the situation between Bassette and Denver. We went to college together, so he'll take my call. Normally, there's no way a CHURC ground officer could go that high!"

He continues by suggesting that much of the obstinacy Denver is displaying toward its SBN can be worked out with a little pressure.

"It's easy to suggest a corporate breach of Kaley's Law is occurring - that Denver is perpetrating. And that's just one way to convince the city. They could do what the SJC did earlier today, and suggest that they'll get Collectively involved. Collectively High has twelve thousand members, so the city knows that'll mean daily riots all over Denver under the guise of protecting African-American residents. That's another way. A third way is to transfer the issue out of the NCRA. Administrator Shon'ae is no fool and she could easily convince the President to see to it that all sorts of funding is withheld from Denver or even the state. See how Denver likes its 'export adjustments' then."

Jalal snaps his fingers.

"Problem solved. Just like that."

I am impressed by the amount of pressure that civil rights organizations in this nation can bring to bear. It wasn't long ago that civil rights were second-class rights, and minorities could count on being under the thumb of people with luxuried existences who dictated the terms of their suffering. Now they are in power at the highest levels and can come to the assistance of their brothers/sisters/+ by influencing major cities to alter damaging, violent policies. It amazes me.



2:48 p.m.

We arrive at our destination - a Greinberg's Bar n' Grill which sits astride 287. The officers haven't yet told me what we're doing here, and as we head into another parking lot and exit our SUV, Jalal pulls me to one side as he double taps his phone.

He quickly briefs me on what we're doing at Greinberg's: the NCRA is about to roll out a brand new policy initiative and it's using CHURC units to help facilitate it. Jalal explains that I'll discover what it is inside, and that I can't talk about it until the publication date of this piece, when it is due to be announced by Administrator Shon'ae.

I nod soberly, wondering what new project the NCRA has planned. Douglas makes eye contact with Jalal and flicks her head in the direction of the main entrance.

"No," says Jalal, shaking his head, "we're going through the kitchen."

I follow the officers to the rear of the building, where Jalal raps on the door. A large man in a stained apron opens and gestures to the left. Jalal thanks him and I follow, feeling the large man's eyes on me. To the right the kitchen staff seem relaxed but focused; they're probably preparing for dinner. Meat is being trimmed, vegetables are being chopped, and the smell of slow-cooking beef fills my nostrils as I realize I could go for a steak right now. Even though I didn't eat that long ago.

Jalal looks left and right, clearly unsure of where exactly he should be going. We pass employees' bathrooms, the employees' lounge and an empty office, and we're heading toward the dining room, when a voice calls us back.

"Officers."

A man in a suit is standing behind us, gesturing for us to join him. The door had been shut. Now it reveals a dingy, undecorated office, perhaps belonging to the restaurant manager. There is a desk set near the door, and in front of it ten people sit on plastic chairs in a tight semicircle. It's a considerable squeeze which forces the officers and I to stand, but we fit. Douglas backs against the wall so the man in the suit can shut the door.

There is a highly conspiratorial feeling to all this. The men and women seated look serious and they eye the agents with what seems to be anticipation. They look at me with obvious suspicion.

After introductions are made, Douglas begins speaking.

Through the next hour I learn that the NCRA is launching one of the largest projects in this nation's civil rights history: CHURC units just like Seven-Eight-Westminster all over the United States have been deputized to set up community-based Hate Reaction Teams.

Their function is perhaps a derivative of the source of my growing fatigue: CHURC is simply too busy to handle literally every infraction of Kaley's Law that might be committed. The NCRA is committed to fundamentally altering the thinking that produces hate, bias, and intimidation toward minorities and to do that it needs to make sure that people commit to expressing themselves in appropriate, considerate ways, which means correcting people when they fail.

But Seven-Eight and Westminster's other units could work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and thousands of injustices would still go unchecked daily in north Denver.

The NCRA can't police Kaley's Law with CHURC units alone; the legislation's focus is far too broad.

Jalal and Douglas are here to form the first of many HRTs in Westminster. The function of the team will be to recruit, train, and assign Hate Reaction Agents from members of the community, who will be empowered to issue first offense notices under Kaley's Law (a first offense is a warning only).

Each individual in the team must qualify as a Hate Reaction Agent, and then when Jalal and Douglas sign off on behalf of Westminster Headquarters, team members can seek out individuals who they believe would make responsible HRAs.

After completing training, the HRAs will operate within the community, helping to assist other members to express themselves in Kaley-friendly ways.

HRAs won't be uniformed because they won't be official CHURC employees. An army of civil rights officials will be embedded in the texture of American society, ready to assist people to speak and act more justly, and correct them when they do not.

I am encouraged by the disparate nature of the potential HRT members; there's a doctor, two high school teachers, a human resources manager and a professor of American history, among others. They inquire with eagerness about the responsibilities of the position and are serious about the impact they can have.

Douglas stresses that in the beginning Seven-Eight will check in twice a week. And the HRT members will be expected to check in with the HRAs they put in the field.

I learn that Seven-Eight will look to train and equip ten HRTs within six months, and that the NCRA is anticipating each HRT member will be able identify and train a further 2-3 potential HRAs within a year. Which means that by next October Seven-Eight could have 500 Hate Reaction Agents under its purview.

The scope boggles the mind - but I find myself wondering at the practicality. I'm as justice minded as they come, but if each HRT is successful in identifying and training 2-3 HRAs per person, that would mean tens of thousands of Hate Reaction Agents in Denver actively seeking out Kaley's Law breaches, issuing first offense notices, listening, watching, learning.

Is it too much? Who would know? And how will Americans deal with the government deputizing millions of citizens whose job it will be to monitor the content of their speech and actions?

The NCRA wants to change the way people snapshot their thoughts. Change through correction. Practice. I find my mind wandering.

I bring myself back mentally when the possible-restaurant-manager clears his throat and asks what HRAs will be permitted to do if marks become violent?

(A mark is a person observed breaching Kaley's Law in speech or action.)

This strikes me as very possible. Jalal replies by stressing that HRAs are not permitted to engage members of the public physically and are required to leave the scene if a mark becomes agitated. CHURC will provide reassurance training - designed to lower tensions with marks - but CHURC doesn't want its HRAs being assaulted by the public that it is trying to bring along.

I wonder how they'll manage if a large number of people become angry.

Jalal ends the meeting by announcing the first training module will take place next week. The team will meet in the same place until their training is complete, and I find myself feeling sorry for the team members.

I try to clench my jaw to suppress a yawn, but it escapes regardless as I cover my mouth with my hand. Douglas sees me and frowns.



4:00 p.m.

We exit Greinberg's parking lot and head east. Jalal is at the wheel after ribbing Douglas about how terrified I was of her driving.

"Look, she's shaking," he jokes, as he looks back at me mischievously. He's barely exaggerating. Douglas remains stony faced.

Seven-Eight heads east. Jalal pre-empts my question by informing me that we are heading to an elementary school to liaise with a Gen.Life representative. My interest outweighs the tight feeling in my shoulders: Gen.life is doing cutting-edge work with America's youth in the fields of unmanaged learning, hostility redirection and mental pollution. I've never spoken with a Gen.life staffer before.

The officers' phones begin beeping again: Douglas taps her phone to speak with Dispatch. I only catch every third or fourth word.

"We have to stop at Wal-Mart," she says afterward. There's some kind of disturbance there. I note Douglas doesn't use DBD to describe it. I ask for clarification. She tells me to wait until we get there and then contacts our Gen.life meeting to advise that we'll be delayed.

The conversation is closed.



4:04 p.m.

We're heading to the new Wal-Mart on Main St, and I can see why Dispatch gave this one to Seven-Eight: we're almost there, pulling in within a minute.

The lights from the entrance illuminate it against the encroaching dusk, and serve to remind that this has been a long day, and it's not over yet.

Jalal spots the reason for our detour near the entrance and navigates the SUV there quickly. My view is restricted and I crane my neck to see.

The car comes to an abrupt stop and Jalal immediately jumps out, double tapping his phone. I follow at a slower pace than Douglas, hustling but bringing up the rear.

Before us, two white security guards have a young African-American man pinned down. He's on his stomach and he looks uncomfortable. One of two men restraining him is bleeding from the chin, while the other has a bruise on his cheek. A third white security guard spots us and approaches. He must be in his early fifties.

"Hey listen guys, this is all above board, okay?" he says. His pale, portly figure is contrasted with Jalal's muscular physique and his flabby hands are in the air in a defensive gesture, above a badge which says, "McDermott".

Jalal explains that CHURC received an anonymous tip about a CoUNTA individual being subjected to excessive force by store security. The security guard begins shaking his head.

"Look, that's not what happened," he says. "You see my guys, there? The excessive force is coming from the suspect."

"Young man," Douglas interjects.

"Excuse me?"

"Refer to him as 'the young man', 'the customer' or 'the gentleman'".

McDermott looks confused. "Whatever," he says, before relaying the young man's alleged attempt to steal a watch. He claims his two officers intercepted the man, who then assaulted them both and attempted to flee.

With his torso pressed to the ground and straining to speak, the man yells out a different version of events: he claims he was on his way to pay for the watch when he was suddenly assaulted by security guards. He accuses them of systemic racism and poorism (discrimination against financially-smoothed individuals). Jalal sidesteps McDermott and kneels before the young man. He exchanges words with him in a quiet voice. Suddenly, the two security guards pinning him both become wide-eyed.

Jalal rises and addresses McDermott.

"Okay, let him go," he commands.

"Excuse me?" says the man for the second time.

Jalal states that the young man is accusing the security guards of a pattern of victimizing behavior whenever he enters the store. He claims security follows him, and that he has been addressed with "boy" and with the "n" word repeatedly. The last time he visited the store, he claims, security told him not to come back and to, "Take his ass back to Bassy."

McDermott is completely caught off guard.

"That's ridiculous," he says, "My guys would be fired instantly for using that kind of language. Three times a year they go through company training - which is approved by the NCRA."

Jalal is shaking his head.

"Doesn't matter," he says, "The fact is that your two guys are sitting on my guy and he claims he's been harassed by your guys - repeatedly. Let him go."

McDermott doesn't quite know what to make of this. We can see the wheels turning as his eyes move one way, then another, in an unconscious effort to process Jalal's command.

"Or, my boss can contact Wal-Mart's human resources - I'm sure he has a direct line to someone fairly high up - and they can fire you in the next fifteen minutes," Jalal continues, squarely looking him in the eye.

McDermott relents.



4:15 p.m.

We're back on the road and Jalal has foregone the driver's seat. He chats amiably with me as Douglas deftly weaves between traffic.

I ask if today's interruptions constitute normal. Surely, the schedule can't be tossed around this much every day?

"No...sometimes it's a lot worse," he replies, still smiling. "Except we don't usually encounter an armed standoff with government officials," he adds, breaking into a chuckle.

I try to tactfully segue into the subject of the Hate Reaction Teams.

"Oh yeah, we need them. Absolutely," Jalal says. I notice Douglas nodding her head. She is concentrating intently, overtaking another SUV as rain begins to fall. Jalal continues.

"If some of the small stuff can be handled by a Hate Reaction Agent - say, the woman at Target this morning, or some jerk who doesn't like that the diner he's at is practicing Minority Priority - that means just a little bit of extra time for us to take meetings, like the one we're going to. Every time we have to deal with something small like a microreparation that someone doesn't want to pay, or a DBD, it's less time we have for a meeting with the SJCs or with Bassette leadership."

I ask how a Hate Reaction Agent is intended to operate: does CHURC just hope that one is on the scene whenever there's a DBD or similar issue? And what if there isn't?

"Eventually, they're going to be deployable," says Douglas.

Jalal adds to the thought, "There will be so many HRAs that there's bound to be one on hand for some situations that we would normally be Dispatched to deal with," he says, "For others, they'll be able to Dispatch HRAs instead of us, which frees us up. We may look like cops, but we're meant to have a wider influence. A meeting with Collectively for example, can have an enormous trickle down effect in the community. Detaining some schmuck impersonating a CoUNTA identity is a waste of time."

Douglas is nodding again, as Jalal continues his disquisition.

"Now, you were sitting in that meeting, thinking: do we really need HRAs and HRTs? Right?" I nod subconsciously. How did he know?

"Because that's a lot of Hate Reaction Agents running around, policing everybody, getting up in their business, right? Okay, but that's because you're thinking of their primary function as cops. Probably the same way you've been thinking of us as cops. But here's the thing: we're not cops. As I said. HRAs are not cops, either. You'd probably be okay with your friend correcting someone who used derogatory language to describe, say, women who have had abortions. That's an ordinary citizen. Okay, so why not train ordinary citizens? Give them scripts, talking points, teach them strategies to use with their fellow citizens, who can use those strategies to express themselves in more constructive ways. Queen Shon'ae is trying to get people to practice empathy and non-judgment. But they can't if their neighbors aren't there to help coach them up.

"So, if we can Dispatch a HRA to Starbucks this morning, to address the man getting all rowdy - as long as he doesn't get too rowdy - it helps us keep our meeting at Northview. Which then means that hopefully the schedule is kept up the whole day, so when we come to a really important meeting like at UC, we don't have to keep the SJC waiting, which is good for our relationship with them. And if the guy at Starbucks doesn't want to be settled, if he just wants to be a big baby, the HRA can give him a Kaley's Law first offense notice. And we can be dispatched anyway if he still won't settle down."

I find that I feel better after Jalal's explanation. I had been imagining HRAs as a lot of people busying themselves with correcting other people, practicing pedantry and mastering the art of being intrusive - and who likes that? No one wants to see Kaley's Law become unpopular, simply because it was put in front of people too often. To have them used to help settle small-scale disputes, and to help the populace express itself in more humane and constructive ways, makes a lot of sense.

But Jalal also has a point - I've been thinking about CHURC's role like I think of the police.



4:23 p.m.

We reach William J. Zeemer Elementary School and the officers open up umbrellas to ward off the rain, which is falling harder now. I follow suit and we make our way to the office.

We introduce ourselves to reception and wait. Jalal turns to Douglas and repeats his by now well worn question: isn't there a Starbucks nearby?

"West One Thirty-Six, near the Thrum lot," she replies.

Jalal is rubbing his hands together in anticipation of the caffeine fix to come, when two women approach us. We're introduced to Principal Jankovec, and Maryanne Conley of Gen.life. They're both friendly and warm and Ms Conley appears to wear a wide smile constantly.

Principal Jankovec escorts us to her office where for ten minutes we discuss the minutiae of how Gen.life's affirming, holistic approach to education has assisted in raising test scores and achieving better attitudes.



CC0 1.0 Untitled by bdabney | Image was cropped. Image used for illustration purposes only.
William J. Zeemer Elementary School.


Afterward, Ms Conley - "call me Maryanne" - takes us on a tour of the school, explaining how Gen.life's activities help students by engaging after school activities "as the fulcrum of a fuller school and life experience."

She relates that after school programs run by Gen.life have finally attracted more than 50% of all students, after years of attempting to breach that number.

"Oh, gosh yes," she replies, when I ask if half the student body was an indication that Gen.life's programs were working. We pass the open door of a classroom of students who appear to be practicing guided meditation.

"We know some parents are really just interested in a place they can put the kids until they get off work, or even just a place to keep them out of trouble. Some of the financially smoothed families openly tell us that they love having a constructive place where their children can just hang out and someone responsible is giving them that break that the parents need for a couple of hours."

There is a twinkle in Maryanne's eye as she says this. I feel a strange feeling prompting me, but I don't know why. Maryanne is still smiling.

We pass another classroom and I stop. The door appears to be shut. Douglas and Jalal stop with me, and we all look inside. A number of children are - there's no other way to put it - simply destroying things. They are screaming and throwing stationery. Some of the walls are being written on by the children, and the wall facing away from the door is being urinated on.

"Oh, that's our 'focused destruction' program," says Maryanne. She is suddenly next to me and her voice makes me jump. "The children are encouraged to let loose their instincts. Holding them back is antithetical to a supportive, nurturing environment."

"Does this improve test scores?" I blurt out. I chasten myself for my insensitivity. Somewhere behind me I hear Douglas sigh.

"Oh, yes," replies Maryanne. "On average these children's test scores have been elevated twenty-three percent. See that young man in the corner, tearing pages from that book? His scores have increased forty-one percent in the past year. It was thought he would not be a good candidate for high school, and now...well, he wants to become an engineer."

Unfortunately, the young man is eating the pages now. I ask Maryanne if anyone will stop him.

"Oh no, absolutely not," she responds, her smile momentarily evaporating. "That would be contra the whole idea of 'focused destruction'." She gently takes my arm and I don't ask her why she's doing that, as she leads me away from the room and back to the hallway.

"You see, we believe that every child has an innate understanding of how the world works. Some children are attuned to its love, some are attuned to its intellectual side, others are attuned to its philosophies," she says, keeping my arm linked with hers.

"And some are just attuned to its occasional destructive intent. It's how they most easily relate to the world and we allow them to indulge that. It fulfills and satisfies them in a way nothing else can."

Maryanne is wistfully looking ahead as the melody of her voice drifts with us. I glance at her arm around mine, then left at Jalal, who mouths the words, "go with it". I feel myself faintly nodding my head. A distinctly uncomfortable feeling takes hold of me, but my mind is fuzzy - I put it down to the lengthy day - and I just let it happen.

We continue to walk the hallway, as Maryanne extols the virtues of different "attenuations". To our left is a classroom full of children chanting something.

Eleka muarran shihamzi anduba over and over again. The high pitched juvenile voices turn into a hum in my head. A throbbing sitting at the front of my skull threatens to escalate. Maryanne's arm pulls me away and her chattering is outside me, as though my head is too full to accept the words she is speaking.

Jalal asks her something, and Douglas attaches a question of her own to Jalal's. Maryanne stops to answer, letting go of my arm in order to gesture confidently about a program. My head swims and we continue walking.

Soon we reach the library - the Resource and Collaboration Center - and the dull fullness in my head worsens at the door. I recoil, without knowing why. I find I do not want to go inside. Jalal puts his hand on my shoulder.

"You okay, Ericha?" It's the first time I can recall him using my name.

Maryanne stops mid-sentence and turns to me. "Oh, you poor thing...are you unwell?" Her saccharine tone is not helping. In fact, I feel worse for it. My head sways to the side a little.

I turn to Jalal and nod. "I'll be okay," I say. Did I just say that? I have to go in the library. Every fiber of me wants to run screaming. I do not know why.

"Okay then," Maryanne continues. She enters, followed by Douglas. Jalal is looking at me with real concern.

"Sure you're alright?" he asks again, with a voice of real concern.

I don't know why I respond the way I do. I only know that it comes from the deepest place in me, a place of truth amid the ocean of thoughts which has replaced my mind somehow. There's no melodrama to it, it's just a crust off the edge of my consciousness. I grab Jalal by his bulletproof vest and tell him we should not go into the library.

He looks at me oddly and then gently puts his arm around my shoulder and leads me in.

"C'mon," he says, "you'll be okay."

I follow, hanging on to his reassurance, but as every step takes us further from the safety of the hall, his words die a little until there's nothing left. My legs are weak. We're following Maryanne and Douglas past a bank of cubicles where students are studying.

The books were all removed five years ago and have been replaced by servers which sit in a storage room nearby. Most of the library is made up of study cubicles or Community, Cooperation, Collaboration (CCC) areas, which are large open spaces with low walls where students can get together. There are also touchscreen reference panels dotted about the center.

Maryanne leads us past a CCC area to a staff room. I'm feeling a sense of innate dread which nothing can account for but which makes me want to run, except my legs, which feel like lead weights, are somehow only capable of moving me forward. I continue with a dulled fogginess, following...nothing. The staff room is down a corridor and to the left. I can see that the light in the room is very low. Maryanne seems to be walking in slow motion, and she turns to us, gesturing to follow, and her dark chocolate-brown hair flicks whimsically against her chin.

We proceed down the corridor and I notice that Douglas has a hand on her sidearm for some reason. As we approach, we gain a view into the dimly lit room. Finally, we're at the entrance. Maryanne turns back to look at us with her permanent smile. Douglas looks in the room and gasps. I feel Jalal's arm clasp against me.

I faint.

Some twenty minutes later I regain consciousness. I spend a while looking around, and realize I am in a treatment room of some sort. I am on a bed...no, a stretcher. I look around and as my mind begins to clear, I find Jalal.

"Hey there," he says warmly, approaching me and taking my hand. "How we doing?"

I blink a few times. A buzzing in my head fades and I hear Douglas' voice in the hallway.

"Where am I?" I ask.

"School nurse's office," replies Jalal. He proceeds to tell me how long I was out, and that they had to get the nurse to bring the stretcher for me after I fainted. Jalal caught me before I hit the ground (I thank him profusely) and I was brought here. Apparently Douglas and Maryanne followed us out into the hall and Douglas stayed a while with Maryanne - after all, we were here to touch base with Gen.life - and talked business.

Suddenly, everything comes back to me and I remember what I saw in the room. Jalal sees that I remember and holds my hand. My eyes are wide.

"It's okay," he says, "It's okay."

I ask him if he saw.

"Yeah, I did. Don't worry about it." I wonder how he can say that after what we saw.

"We don't judge. We're not here to judge. We're just here to connect with these guys."

I sit up and nod when Jalal asks if I'm alright. My mind is not foggy and I can think clearly. But something vague still sits in the back of my mind. I can't shake it.

"Douglas is talking to your boss, just letting him know what happened."

As if on cue, Douglas walks in, and I swing my legs off the edge of the stretcher.

"Yes, she seems okay. Yes. No, I guess she's alright. Do you want to talk to her?" Douglas looks at me. "You okay? Okay, I'll flick the call to you."

I pull out my device and accept the call. Douglas hangs up and reattaches her phone to her shirt. My boss wants to know how I'm doing and what happened. I tell him everything's fine and that I want to complete the assignment today. My boss asks me again if I'm okay and I respond in the affirmative. I ease myself off the stretcher and find my feet.

The thing in my mind is fading.

After hanging up with my boss, Principal Jankovec checks on me. When she is reassured of my improved condition, she escorts us to the exit, chatting to the officers. I follow Jalal and Douglas out and as they open the door, a fresh burst of cool, damp air greets us. I welcome the taste of the crisp Denver evening and a sense of relief washes over me as I realize how glad I am to be leaving the school.

However, before exiting I feel compelled to look back down the hallway. I don't know why. Principal Jankovec's voice is chattering away about the school budget. The lighting in the hallway seems to fade as it reaches the walls and it resembles a mineshaft. A tunnel.

At the end of the tunnel I can see Maryanne standing by the door to the library. She is watching me.



5:28 p.m.

Douglas is taking the driver's side of the SUV and as we approach the vehicle, Jalal checks in just to make sure I'm okay. I tell him everything is fine, and resolve to put the incident at the school out of my mind. The day is almost at a close and I want to finish strong.

It turns out we don't have enough time to stop at Starbucks on the way to our next appointment, mainly because of my fainting. Jalal fake-whines and Douglas sighs again. I'm fairly certain the sigh is directed at me.

Douglas reminds Jalal however, that our next meeting is at a Bolivian, which is a Denver-area franchise coffee chain. Jalal's tone ascends briefly then descends.

"Not a huge fan of their product," he states. Then:

"But I gotta get me a coffee."



5:35 p.m.

The Bolivian in question is not far southwest of the elementary school. It sits beside an old electric car charging station on one side and a law firm on the other.

In what feels like a desperate move to counter years of flagging revenue, Bolivian's franchises have all been redecorated in a kitschy attempt at Latin jungle culture. The tripod seats are made of raw wood with a thin coat of black paint. There is real foliage, and real bugs to go with them. The walls are replete with photos of smiling African-Latin-American faces working coffee farms.

As we enter, my mind suggests that there is a Kaley's Law violation in the works here for leveraging Latin culture and geography for commercial gain. Speech offensive toward Latin Americans has been an offense under the Executive Order for fifteen years, and this feels...offensive.

However, it would seem that the fervent effort to create a Bolivian jungle feel inside a suburban Denver coffee shop are in vain: there are only two customers inside, and they are seated in the far corner.

Douglas brushes a palm frond away from her face in obvious annoyance and I am concerned she might shoot it.

Jalal makes eye contact with an employee whose face turns grey, before she hastily dashes from service to the rear of the shop, the flapping multicolored fake toucan feathers on her hips not adding to the authenticity of this homage to poor taste.

Very soon a thin man with a comb-over emerges, hustling to greet the officers. He gestures to them to sit at a booth in a fearfully apologetic tone. I wonder what he has done wrong.

"So, it is good to see you again," he says with a thick accent. His shirt is sweating near his name tag which says Paolo. An Italian is running an ersatz Bolivian coffee franchise in Denver. Douglas pulls out her tablet.

Jalal skips straight to business. He asks Paolo if he has instituted the changes agreed upon at their last meeting. I learn quickly that this meeting is a lot like the one at Northview Christian School. Some two weeks ago, CHURC was notified that there were literally no non-white people employed at this Bolivian, and Jalal and Douglas were tasked with checking it out.

Apparently, last week when the officers showed up, they were not happy with Paolo's reasoning as to the lack of employees of color. They gave him until today to make changes: employ 50% non-white people, pay each of them a 15% CoUNTA bonus, introduce microreparations for people with CoUNTA identities and install a sign outside in a prominent location, notifying potential customers of the store's failures.

Paolo continues to sweat and an odor is becoming obvious. He stammers about having employed two "lovely Hispanic girls" and that he is organizing the CoUNTA bonus. He is "getting to" the microreparations and says he has ordered the sign. Jalal gives Douglas an unimpressed look as she stares, unmoved. Paolo is manufacturing excuses.

He has no time. He didn't get many qualified applicants for the job. He can't afford microreparations.

I feel a strange sense of judgment upon this man whose obvious lack of effort is not made up for by his fear. He is mocking justice.

Jalal suddenly gets up out of the booth.

"I'm shutting you down. Immediately," he states. Paolo is in shock.

"B-b-b-but I...will hire the people. I will do the sign, I will microrep-" he starts.

"Too late," Douglas interrupts. She scribbles something on her tablet and sends it to his address. Somewhere, a satellite is receiving and sending ones and zeros that spell the end of Paolo's financial future. He hasn't gotten up yet.

"Order your employees to close the store," continues Jalal, "and make sure they know why they're out of a job." He strides to the customers in the corner and speaks with them softly. They are two women. Their brows crease in confusion and then they hesitantly rise and make their way to the exit.

Paolo is moving slowly. He shuffles to the rear of the store. He looks defeated.



6:02 p.m.

Jalal eases the SUV out of the Bolivian's parking lot, commenting on Paolo's large frame in the rear view as he locks the doors for the last time. Atop the tall sign street side, the palm frond logo is no longer lit.

He deserves it; he didn't even try I find myself thinking. He couldn't have given a better effort? Or at least groveled for an extra week? He couldn't have tried some honesty?

He deserved everything that's going to happen to him. The thoughts come from outside my mind. I agree with them.

My little soliloquy is interrupted by Jalal's cheerful voice intoning the last visit of the day.

"You up for one more? Or are you too tired?" he jests. I respond that I'm good and remind him he didn't get his caffeine fix at the Bolivian.

"That's right, let's see-"

"West Ninety-Second" says Douglas.

"That's Starbucks?"

Douglas nods.

"So what's the meeting?" I ask.



6:10 p.m.

We pull out of Starbucks' drive-thru and Jalal's smile seems to have widened even further. He makes small murmuring sounds of contentment as he sips his coffee, while Douglas looks straight ahead, occasionally taking a drink of her Cherry Soy Latteccino.

"Don't forget to notify DT-B about the harassment Jones and Bordelon were talking about," she suddenly says.

"It's cool. I'll probably call them on the way back to headquarters. I should be able to get someone still. They're always there."

Douglas grunts in acknowledgment. My Nutella Macchiato is warming my hands nicely.

"Hey Ericha," says Jalal, "how are you now - are you done fainting?" He's mocking me, but in a nice way. I think there's real concern there.

"I won't faint if you won't," I shoot back, and he chuckles, before swigging his coffee.

"Only people gonna faint are some of the folks we're about to see next," he replies, removing all amusement from his voice.

We turn left off Sheridan, and on to West 80th.



6:19 p.m.

"Pain in the ass place to get to," Jalal complains, shutting the drivers' side door. Douglas looks at the building in an almost diffident fashion.

Metro City Mountain Church sits at the end of West 78th Ave, occupying several lots which formerly were houses. It's a fairly low structure, which I imagine made it easier to get zoning permission to build it in a residential neighborhood, but boxy in an ironic sort of way and with a retro logo atop the facade which makes me think these guys are trying to be cooler than they are. The parking lot winds its way around the building and behind it.

We enter the lobby and a young man greets us. Jalal tells him about our meeting and he asks us to wait, before scurrying off.

The lobby is nice. Hardwood flooring, with plush carpeted pathways leading to what looks like the main auditorium, the bathrooms and a cafe which sits in the corner. It has views of a railway track.

In another area free arcade games are advertised by a big gaudy sign above a nook with "children's ministry" posters taped to the walls. The games look like antiques, restored for use and made free to play. I know they're trying to be ironic and hipster-y about what's cool but something about that primitive machine from a bygone era, shoehorned into modern times, just seems to perfectly encapsulate this religion.

The lights above us illuminate the lobby. Our shadows fall against the hardwood.

After about thirty seconds, a tall, well-built man approaches us. He has a flaming red beard and a full shock of hair and looks like a Viking, if Vikings wore flannel shirts and dark blue jeans with tan colored boots.

He introduces himself as, "Bill Kroner, Lead Pastor" and offers his hand to Jalal, who ignores it.

"Let's do this. Where are we meeting?" he asks, testily.

Bill withdraws his hand and realizes introductions aren't going to happen.

"This way," he gestures.

We turn right and walk to the far end of the lobby, climbing a flight of stairs which lead to a concourse overlooking the lobby. There are offices leading off the concourse and we eventually come upon a conference room (our fourth of the day).

Inside are twelve men and women seated around a table. Bill gestures to us to have a seat, and as Jalal and Douglas oblige him, I make a point of sitting in one of the seats against the wall. A yawn escapes my lips. I wonder how the officers do this, day after day, as Bill begins introducing the church's leadership team. Jalal cuts him off.

"Let's skip that, we don't need to know everybody's name and what they do. We're here for one reason." Everybody looks anxious and I sense Jalal feels the authority he has here.

"We took a meeting earlier today with the Imam and elders of a mosque on Eighty-Fourth, near Washington. Know it?"

There's a protracted silence before someone finally speaks up.

"Bill, I think Ed's running ministry there." Jalal's head snaps left to the woman speaking.

"Yeah, he said something about it last week at SLTM," chirps a man at the far end of the table.

Jalal's gaze turns to Bill, who nods.

"Yeah, they're right. One of our elders - he's not here today - is running a ministry program for people of other faiths, witnessing, trying to talk to them about Jesus - that sort of thing."

Bill is looking Jalal square in the eye, which I think is the first time anyone today has been able to do that. He doesn't appear intimidated by the officers. My interest is piqued.

Douglas is tapping away on her tablet as Jalal peppers Bill with questions about the program. How often do they send people to the mosque? How long do they stay at the mosque? How many times total has the church sent representatives to the mosque? Have they ever made physical contact with anyone there? Have they been asked to leave? Have they complied with that request?

According to Bill (with help from around the table) the program has been running for about a month, and Ed has been accompanying five or six church attendees weekly. No one has yet asked them to leave (they claim) and they adamantly deny any physical contact.

Douglas is furiously tapping away. Jalal spreads his gaze from left to right, and places his hands in a wide profile on the light-brown polished wood table.

"Okay, here's what's going to happen: one, you're going to shut down this ministry thing to mosques, temples, synagogues, covens, wherever. Two, you're going to write a formal apology to the Imam and the elders of the mosque, and a separate apology to the members. You're going to apologize for your disrespect and you're going to assure them that you'll leave them alone. We are going to review both letters before they are delivered. Three, you're going to make a good-faith payment to the mosque which will be an amount equal to what you collected during your services last week. Four, for the next three months, you're going to submit in advance a full text of your sermons to CHURC before they are delivered, and we are going to review them for hate speech. Five, you're going to schedule weekly meetings with us so we can ensure compliance."

The room is deathly silent. I hear Bill wearily run his hand through his thick red hair.

"Okay, no to all of the above," he says. For a second, Jalal looks completely stunned, before regaining his composure.

"Excuse me?"

"I said no. We were out there exercising our First Amendment rights. We weren't harassing anybody. Our ministry isn't about that. We politely ask-"

"I don't give a f*** how polite you are," Jalal snaps. Bill remains nonchalant. "The fact is you're harassing Muslims on their way to worship-"

"Which is a violation of what law?" asks Bill. Jalal's permanent smile is a memory now. He and Bill are looking each other squarely in the eye.

"In about five minutes Muslims are going to be covered by Kaley's Law, and you're going to see what a violation means."

"So you're saying that we haven't yet breached Kaley's Law."

Douglas looks up and shoots daggers at him.

"Look, I don't think anyone meant anything bad-" begins a young man, about ten feet down the table. Bill raises a hand and he stops.

"You're going to comply with our orders," says Douglas evenly. "And you're going to comply right now. You're getting the-"

"We are not going to comply," Bill interjects. "We are within our rights to minister to other people, and we are peacefully-"

Suddenly, Jalal gets up, and walks behind Douglas, who rises from her seat. Bill seems to sense danger and gets up too, but Jalal's long strides reach him and before he can continue speaking, Jalal swiftly strikes him in the solar plexus with the butt of his hand. Bill goes down, rasping and wincing in pain. The women shriek as the men get up and move to his aid. Bill somehow raises a hand in a "stop" gesture, as Douglas draws her sidearm, pointing it at the men.

"We could have done this the easy way," says Jalal, looking at Bill's crumpled form. Bill looks like he is taking a knee. He looks up and Jalal brings his fist down, striking Bill in the face and sending him to the ground.

Douglas yells at everyone to remain in their seats, as Jalal pulls out his cuffs. He grabs each of Bill's hands and cuffs them.

"Not too tight I hope?"

Jalal picks the still wheezing man up, and forces him out of the room.



6:47 p.m.

Again, I have a miserable looking passenger sitting next to me in the SUV. Bill looks at me with a large black stain around his right eye.

You deserved this comes into my head. I involuntarily twitch and Bill looks at me strangely.

"I didn't get your name," he asks, as Douglas pulls out of the parking lot.

"Shut it," snaps Jalal, turning to look at him.

Jalal asks if I'm okay and I assure him everything's fine. Bill's still looking at me. His upper lip is bleeding and he keeps trying to swallow it.

"What did you see today?" he suddenly whispers. I hesitate to respond, and the seconds tick by. The night outside is punctured by streetlights, which blur by. Bill is still eyeing me. He repeats his question.

Suddenly, his gaze changes as his face turns pale and gaunt and he recoils from me in what looks like fear. My curiosity is aroused, until Jalal begins making small talk with me. He is oblivious to the bleeding man who is sitting next to me in the car, wearing a look of terror.



6:51 p.m.

Douglas leads Bill into Headquarters. He looks back at me with what I think is a fearful relief that he is no longer in the car with me. I'm confused but the weariness prevents me from pondering the pastor's strange actions in too much depth.

I stretch, throwing my hands to the night sky, and I feel things crack and pull.

"Had a good day?" says a low voice behind me. I turn to see Jalal wearing his Jalal grin. I nod in response.

"How do you do it, though?" I ask. I can't even imagine.

"You get used to it. Plus, this-" he says, holding up his empty Starbucks. I nod slowly in understanding. Caffeine does fix everything.

Suddenly, his phone beeps again. Surely, he's not still on call?

He taps it, and a disembodied voice says something about a DBD at a bar ten minutes north of us. Jalal says he'll take it then moves to head inside. He has to get Douglas.

"You want a piece of this one?" he asks me cheerfully.

"No thanks," I say, starting toward my car. "This day was long enough." Jalal laughs.

"Go home and get some rest," he calls out.

"You look like hell."



Huntington Courier would like to acknowledge and thank CHURC Colorado and the NCRA for their co-operation and assistance in producing this piece.
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