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//The final call for noise and fireworks filled the air with colorful smoke. While protesters walked back to Harriman Lake Park, smoke could be seen throughout the area. Photos by Madeleine Kelly | mkellyindependent@gmail.com

As COVID-19 rages across the Front Range, many Coloradans rang in the new year at home. But a couple dozen protesters still took to the streets for the New Year’s Eve Noise Demonstration, what has become an international annual leftist night of noise. 

Protesters from several groups including Denver Communists and Colorado Springs Anti-Fascists marched to the Englewood Federal Correctional Institute to demand the freedom of those inside.  The event predominantly focused on calling for the release of Eric King, an anarchist sentenced to ten years for throwing Molotov cocktails into a congressional building in Kansas City, Missouri in 2014. Although King admitted to the crime, protesters felt the punishment was unjustly harsh.

Denver was one of multiple cities across the U.S. participating in the Noise Demonstration, many of which cited similar calls for solidarity with those incarcerated. The noise demonstrations took place to show those incarcerated that they are not alone, and to show support for abolishing the prison system. 

It is important to note that organizers acted autonomously without the support of King’s family or legal aide. Below are some photos from throughout the night. 

//While gathering in the Harriman Lake Park parking lot, banners display the message “Free Eric King, Free Them All.” The night began at 7:30 p.m. in the pitch-black parking lot of Harriman Lake Park. Protesters gathered and listed their demands, before reading poems written by King while in prison. 

“We want to stand in solidarity and make a lot of noise for all of those incarcerated in the Englewood federal facility tonight because it it nye and a lot of people are locked up in there when there 50% of the facility that has been diagnosed with COVID,” said Mary Reeves, a speaker at the event and organizer affiliated with Denver Communists. 

After the speakers had finished, approximately 30 protesters began their march to the prison with fireworks, pots, pans and whistles in hand.

//Once outside the prison, protesters chanted, “We love you, we see you,” while setting off fireworks. 

“I am out here because detention is a death sentence for every person in a cage and this is one of the largest outbreaks in the United States. I stand in solidarity with every person in cages, you can’t socially distance in a cage and detention should not be a death sentence,” said Sophie Scholl, founder of Abolish ICE Denver. 

For many, the protest was not only for King but to also call attention to the rampant COVID-19 cases plaguing America’s prisons. Despite Colorado’s push for depopulation in jails, policies like Polis’ decision to vaccinate free citizens before incarcerated ones have put many prisoners at risk. Colorado prisons have suffered some of the more severe COVID-19 outbreaks, leading to staff shortages and extended lockdowns.

//A prison official asked protesters to leave prison property and continue their protest on the sidewalk, a request that protesters refused. Despite this refusal, there was no interference from law enforcement. Prison officials remained at a distance to observe.

//Prisoners observe the protest from their cells, flashing lights in acknowledgment. For many protesters, New Year’s Eve was a fight for a larger need: prison reform. 

“I’m out here tonight because It’s not up to a few to decide whether someone spends their entire life in a cage,” said one unnamed protester.

//As the night wound down, there was one last push for noise by the protesters. One protester threw a blue smoke bomb towards the Englewood Federal Correctional Institute before departing. Despite the chaotic scene, the protest remained mostly peaceful with only a couple non-violent confrontations with law enforcement or prison officials.