Terrance Roberts in The Holly

Julian Rubinstein's Denver-based documentary 'The Holly' was named the audience favorite at the recent Denver Film festival.

Anti-gang activist Terrance Roberts is suing the city he wishes to lead as mayor.

In his lawsuit, filed Thursday, Roberts accused Denver of violating his First Amendment rights and using excessive force during a protest in the summer that followed the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.

In addition to the City and County of Denver, the lawsuit named as defendants Police Chief Paul Pazen and several officers that Roberts accused of pepper-spraying him on July 19, 2020. 

That day, his lawsuit said, Roberts led a counter-protest to a "pro-police" rally in downtown Denver. After speaking at the state Capitol, Roberts led a march across Civic Center park and walked past a group of officers when they reached the Greek Amphitheater.

At that point, an unnamed Denver officer "approached Mr. Roberts and sprayed him directly in the face with OC spray," according to the suit.

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"When Mr. Roberts was baselessly attacked, he was simply leading the crowd in a peaceful protest," the lawsuit said. "There was absolutely no basis to spray Mr. Roberts directly in the face with OC spray or to inflict any force on him whatsoever."

The lawsuit alleged the city violated Terrance's right to freedom of speech and assembly, that police retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment rights, that officers used excessive force on him and that they violated his due process rights. 

The lawsuit also argued that the police's use of "chemical munitions," pepper balls and other methods to target protesters shows the city failed to adequately train its officers.

Roberts earlier told The Denver Gazette he's offering his city residents his "unconventional" candidacy as an alternative to "seasoned politicians," who he accused of failing to confront and resolve Denver's most pressing problems. 

Roberts, who is the subject of Julian Rubinstein’s book “The Holly: Five Bullets, One Gun and the Struggle to Save an American Neighborhood,” grew up in northeast Denver as a member of the Bloods for several years. He went from gang member to anti-gang activist, but later faced charges of attempted murder and possession of a weapon by a previous offender.

He is running for mayor at a time when the city grapples with major challenges, including soaring crime, spiking inflation and homelessness, fueled in part by the lack of affordable housing.