Colorado Woman Fights Against ID Checks
Deborah Davis is fighting charges stemming from her refusal to be searched while taking a bus passing through a Lakewood, Colorado Federal Center.
Refusal to Present ID Sparks Test of Rights (Rocky Mountain News)
Federal prosecutors are reviewing whether to pursue charges against an Arvada [Colorado] woman who refused to show identification to federal police while riding an RTD bus through the Federal Center in Lakewood. Deborah Davis, 50, was ticketed for two petty offenses Sept. 26 by officers who commonly board the RTD bus as it passes through the Federal Center and ask passengers for identification. During the Thanksgiving weekend, an activist who has helped publicize other challenges to government ID requirements posted a Web site about the case, which he said had logged more than 1.5 million visitors by lunchtime Monday.
“The petty offense ticket was issued by police on the scene,” Colorado U.S. attorney’s spokesman Jeff Dorschner said Monday. “The status of the matter is now under review.” A decision on whether the government will pursue the case is expected in a week or two.
Davis said she commuted daily from her home in Arvada to her job at a small business in Lakewood, taking an RTD bus south on Kipling Street each morning from the recreation center in Wheat Ridge, where she left her car. She said the bus always passed through the Federal Center and some people got off there. Guards at the Federal Center gate always boarded the bus and asked to see all passengers’ identification, she said. She said the guards just looked at the IDs and did not record them or compare them with any lists. When she refused to show her ID, she said, officers with the Federal Protective Service removed her from the bus, handcuffed her, put her in the back of a patrol car and took her to a federal police station within the Federal Center, where she waited while officers conferred. She was subsequently given two tickets and released.
“We don’t believe the federal government has the legal authority to put Deborah Davis in jail, or even make her pay a fine, just because she declined the government’s request for identification,” said Mark Silverstein, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, which has taken up the case. “She was commuting to her job,” Silverstein said. “She wasn’t doing anything wrong. She wasn’t even suspected of doing anything wrong.” “Passengers aren’t required to carry passports or any other identification documents in order to ride to work on a public bus,” he said.
Some supporters have called Davis “the Rosa Parks of the Patriot Act generation,” a reference to the African-American woman who became a civil rights heroine after she refused to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man, Scannell said.
Davis said she showed her ID when a Federal Center guard asked to see it for the first couple of days she rode the RTD bus through the center. But it bothered her. “It’s wrong,” she said Monday. “It’s not even security. It’s just a lesson in compliance – the big guys pushing the little guys around.”
Davis has four children, including a 21-year-old son serving in Iraq with the Army and a 28-year-old son who is a Navy veteran. She has five grandchildren.
Davis should indeed have every right not to show identification to federal agents for the mere act of riding a city bus. It has long been commonplace to require the presentation of ID to enter certain federal installations but not in circumstances, as with Fort Benning, Georgia, where a thoroughfare passes through it carrying routine traffic. I don’t quite have a picture in my mind of the bus route but find it quite odd that it passes through a federal compound.
Update: The website referred to in the article is papersplease.org. It offers this explanation:
The bus she rides crosses the property of the Denver Federal Center, a collection of government offices such as the Veterans Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, and part of the National Archives. The Denver Federal Center is not a high security area: it’s not Area 51 or NORAD.
Of course, neither were the Murrah Building in Oklahoma or the World Trade Center.
Substantial parts of the RMN article above are taken straight from the ACLU press release on the matter.