Protesters begin hunger strike in Marshall case

Posted at 12:56 AM, Jan 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-12 09:01:02-05

Protesters, who are angry that the city of Denver has yet to release jailhouse video of what turned out to be a fatal confrontation between a homeless man and Sheriff Deputies, launched a hunger strike Monday.

They are demanding that the video, showing Michael Marshall being subdued by deputies, be released.

Marshall was arrested November 7 for trespassing and causing a disturbance at a local motel.

On November 11, he was involved in a disturbance at the jail. Deputies responded and restrained him on the floor.  He stopped breathing, suffered brain damage and died several days later.

Last week, the Denver Medical Examiner ruled that Marshall’s death was caused by positional asphyxia, and said the manner was homicide.

“It’s two months since the actual incident happened in the jail,” said Pastor Terrence Hughes of the New Covenant Christian Church. “We’ve been through this before, so we’re not doing the same rhetoric -- oh, we’re just going to protest -- we’re going to take direct action.”

Hughes said several people in Denver and others around the country have joined the hunger strike.

“Some of us are going without food,” he said. “We’re just going to have liquids, and we’re going to do this continually until the demands are met. Others will roll in and out of this."

Hughes said there will be consequences for many of those taking part.

“Our discomfort means nothing,” he told Denver7. “It’s time for us to take a greater step.”

Hughes added, “We’re putting our lives on the line for fellow brothers and sisters who are in these jails being brutalized.”

“I just want to know why it happened and how it happened,” said Marshall’s brother, Rodney.

Both Sheriff Patrick Firman and Safety Department Executive Director Stephanie O’Malley have issued an assurance that the video will be released, first to the family and then to the public, once the investigation is complete.

But the protesters want the video released immediately.

“I believe a cover-up is already taking place,” said Bishop Jerry Demmer, of Absolute Word Church.  “We need to be proactive instead of reactive.

Demmer said he anticipates that the Denver District Attorney will clear the deputies involved.

“We will not accept it, when the deputies are acquitted,” he said. “We are totally, completely, always non-violent and so the reaction should be – we march.  Maybe we need to shut down businesses downtown, start getting business owners to be a part of what’s going on in this community.  If it wasn’t for the community, there would be no business owners.”

The protesters told Denver7 that they will gather in front of the City and County Building every day at 1 p.m. and again at 6 p.m. to call for more transparency from the city.

“I want to know how he ended up on his deathbed in the hospital,” said Rodney Marshall. “I want to know how it happened.”