Stanley Exercises Civil Disobedience

The Colorado Freedom Report:  A libertarian journal of politics and culture.

The Colorado Freedom

Stanley Exercises Civil Disobedience

by Ari Armstrong

[The following article originally appeared in the January 2002 edition of Colorado Liberty.]

On December 16, 1773, Samuel Adams led the Sons of Liberty to toss 342 chests of tea into the Boston harbor in protest of unequal treatment by the British government.

Rick Stanley speaks at the Bill of Rights day celebration moments before he was arrested by Denver police for exercising his Constitutional rights. More photographs of the event are shown below.

During the summer of 1846, Henry David Thoreau spent a night in jail because he refused to pay a poll tax in order to protest slavery. In Civil Disobedience, Thoreau writes, "Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right." He adds, "Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison."

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested by local police for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man. In the aftermath of the protests that Parks' ordeal sparked, the police harassed and intimidated members of the black community.

On December 15, 2001, on the 210th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution, Rick Stanley added his name to the long and proud list of those who practiced civil disobedience in the name of justice. Stanley led a rally in celebration of Bill of Rights Day in Lincoln Park next to the State Capitol.

Stanley, the Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate, gave a speech about the historical significance of the Second Amendment. Then he holstered a loaded firearm in willful violation of Denver city ordinance 38-117.5(b), but in harmony with the constitutions of the United States and the state of Colorado. Denver police arrested him and Duncan Philp, another man who chose to practice his Constitutional rights of self-defense.

The U.S. Constitution states, "A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Article 2, Section 13 of the Colorado Constitution states, "The right of no person to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person and property... shall be called in question..."

Stanley plans to take his case to a jury and to sue the City of Denver for violating his civil rights. Paul Grant, a civil rights attorney who successfully defended Laura Kriho and who ran for governor as a Libertarian in 1982, has accepted Stanley as a client.

Other Libertarians spoke out in defense of the Bill of Rights at the rally. Kent McNaughton explained the significance of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. Judd Ptak described the flaws of the so-called "Patriot Act." Gubernatorial candidates Bob Glass and James Vance touted the virtues of civil liberties.

In his speech, Stanley said, "The Bill of Rights is the crown jewel in the Constitution of the United States. And the Second Amendment is the linchpin of the Bill of Rights... Today, 210 years after the Bill of Rights became part of the Constitution, the Second Amendment is in tatters."

Stanley added, "Today I am taking a stand against an unconstitutional city ordinance. There are thousands of unconstitutional laws on the books today. Now is the time to force their repeal. We need to hold another rally here in Denver in January, and in February, and every month after that, until all the unconstitutional laws have been repealed. And we can't just do it in Denver. We need support in this effort from people all across the country... If we don't act now, our last best chance to preserve liberty in America will be lost. Do not let that happen!"

Stanley's web page is at

Stanley is shown here in handcuffs.

The Denver police prepare to take Rick to jail.

The Denver police put Rick Stanley into a police car.

The Denver police put Duncan Philp into a police car.

One Libertarian asks, "Would a Moral Person Enforce an Immoral Law?"

A Bill of Rights advocate cites part of that document.

David Aitken criticizes U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, who recent claimed Americans who advocate civil rights thereby aid terrorists.

After Stanley's arrest, civil rights attorney Paul Grant discusses the matter with Pam Stanley, Rick's wife.

A crowd participates in the Bill of Rights celebration.

The Colorado Freedom