//Departing the roads and cutting between the Denver Public Library and the Denver Art Museum, protesters head to Civic Center Park on May 29, 2020. Photo by Esteban Fernandez | email@example.com
This week in Denver protests: DPS cuts ties with police, DA’s office drops curfew charges and Broadway gets a make-over
By Madison Lauterbach | June 11, 2020
Monday: On June 8, Denver City Council held their first in-chamber meeting since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. The community showed up in force. Fifty-one people signed up for public comment, most of which called for the council to defund the Denver Police Department.
The public comment period lasts only 30 minutes, with each speaker getting three minutes to talk. However, the council agreed to hear everyone after they worked through their agenda for the night.
The agenda included a proclamation declaring racism a public health crisis. Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore, a co-author of the decree, said it wouldn’t change any policies but words matter.
“It matters that for the past five years on this city council we haven’t had an acknowledgment of what is America’s original sin,” Gilmore said.
Tuesday: Colorado’s police accountability bill passed the senate with a sweeping majority after changes were made to the original language.
Senate Bill 217 requires more transparency from the Denver Police Department and makes changes to use of force by police. If the bill does become law, it will require all officers to wear body cameras, ban the use of chokeholds and end qualified immunity, allowing for grievances to be addressed in civil court.
The final vote in the Senate was 32-1. Every state Democratic lawmaker sponsored the bill, with Republican Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, who represents Sterling, Colorado, casting the lone vote against it.
The bill is expected to pass the House and be on the Governor’s desk by the end of the week.
Wednesday: The Denver City Attorney’s office announced on June 10 that it would drop charges against 320 people arrested for violating the emergency curfew order imposed by Mayor Michael Hancock during the first weekend of protests.
“We recognize the profound value of peaceful protests, especially now. We are dismissing the curfew violations as part of a non-punitive, restorative approach outside of the court system,” City Attorney Kristin Bronson said in a statement.
Bronson continued to say that although she hopes no future curfew will be necessary, it is important that residents take it seriously and comply.
Between May 28 and June 1, at least 338 people were arrested on various charges, the majority of which were for violating curfew. Those charged with more serious crimes, like weapons violations, burglary, assault and arson will not have their cases dismissed.
On June 2, Mayor Hancock and police agreed to mostly stop curfew enforcement and maintain a smaller police presence in the area. As a result, protests and marches became more organized and peaceful.
Thursday: The Denver Public Schools board voted unanimously to phase out the use of police officers in schools.
Last week, school board Director Tay Anderson and Vice President Jennifer Bacon proposed a resolution to end the district’s contract with the Denver Police Department, which provides 18 school resource officers.
The vote to terminate the contract means that SROs will be phased out through June 2021, after which the district will rely on its own security team.
Senate Bill 217 was also amended Wednesday, before a midnight vote in the House Finance Committee. The changes to the bill came after hours of public testimony from people who’ve had family members killed by police. Approval of the bill came on a party-line vote, with all four Republicans voting against it, despite widespread support in the Senate.
The amendments to the bill include more time for law enforcement to implement some of the potential new laws. One of the biggest arguments against the bill coming from law enforcement officials is that they need more time for training on the new regulations. In response, lawmakers set a September deadline for new use-of-force rules to take effect. Other parts of the bill, like the ban on chokeholds and limits on when officers are allowed to shoot at a person who is running away from them, will take hold immediately after the bill is signed into law.
The committee also added a ban on carotid control holds, or sleeper holds, and a clarification on when officers can use deadly force. Lethal force can only be implemented when a lesser degree of force is inadequate and as well when an officer or someone else is in danger of being killed or seriously harmed.
Other changes made include required public reports anytime a district attorney charges an officer for use of force in an incident without charging other officers at the scene. A report must also be filed whenever a grand jury decides not to indict on an officer-involved death. Agencies will also have to collect data on when an officer unholsters or fires their weapon.
Friday: A section of Broadway will remain closed to car traffic until midnight tonight.
The street has been closed from 13th to 17th Avenues for local artists to paint a large Black Lives Matter mural. The mural itself will span from Colfax Avenue to 14th Avenue on the main Denver street. The area will remain open to foot traffic for those taking place in tonight’s two organized protests.
Organizers invited local black, indigenous and other artists of color to participate in the installation. It is expected to a similar display to the one that went up earlier this week in Washington, D.C. on Pennsylvania Avenue leading up to the White House. Similiar murals have sprouted up across the country in cities like Seattle, Oakland, Dallas and Albany.
The two protests planned for tonight are The Rise Up, a youth-led protest demanding justice for black and brown people killed by law enforcement, and the ALL OUT! March and Rally, calling for justice for William Debose, a black man who died in police custody on May 1. Both events are set to start at 6 p.m. at the State Capitol.
Meet. Play. Chill. joins the Capitol cleanup initiative
By Cassandra Ballard | June 6, 2020
In response to the vandalization and trash left from people protesting the death of George Floyd, several groups like Meet. Play. Chill. organized a cleanup of the Capitol on June 6.
“There was just this huge surge of emotion that came out last week and now was kind of the time it calmed down a bit,” said co-founder Mike Ross.
Meet. Play. Chill. is an adult recreational sports league and the organized cleanup was meant to be an apolitical way to help the city clean the mass amounts of graffiti and waste left from the riots.
“There’s no reason we can’t have a beautiful city and people can’t still go out there and get their voices heard,” Ross said.
They were able to use the platform of their organization to rally volunteers to help the community. He was able to get more than 250 people to help.
Ross said he was prepared to buy supplies for 30 volunteers but when hundreds responded to the event, he was grateful so many other people in the community helped pitch in. Volunteers and companies like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts helped with donations and provided food, coffee and cleaning supplies for attendees.
“A huge thanks to the community for helping us help them,” Ross said.
Members of Denver’s new Anti-Racist Club discuss SB-217
By Cassandra Ballard | June 6, 2020
As legislators worked to hold police more accountable for their actions, a group of activists began uniting to hold policymakers accountable for their promises.
In the days following the announcement of Senate Bill 217, on June 3, a group of protesters came together to officially create the Anti-Racist Club. An organization that works with council members, policymakers and organized the protest to defund the police on June 6.
The Anti-Racist Club was officially formed on June 4 after they organized a peaceful assembly on the State Capitol Building steps on June 2.
“Our goal is to keep systemic racism at the forefront of the conversation in policy, in everyday life through education and civic engagement,” said Katie Leonard, one of the founders of the anti-racism group.
Leonard is a Colorado native who went to Denver East High School and majored in African-American studies at Harvard. She said she was brought in to help organize a peaceful assembly.
“Everybody has a specific role when it comes to activism,” said Torrence Brown-Smith, another founder of the club. “Some people are ready to die for liberation, but some people need to live in order to tell the stories. We need to understand that we need to have those conversations with ourselves. How do we want to show up? And just because we show up differently doesn’t mean anything is wrong with us.”
A few of the women who founded the group came up with the idea to organize the peaceful assembly and invited City Council members to attend. That day City Counsel canceled the meeting for later that evening and wrote a statement acknowledging systematic racism.
They then attended the assembly in support of the young organizers, proving to the group that they needed to strengthen their actions with an actual organization.
“We’ve been in contact with City Council,” Leonard said. “Systemic racism is everywhere and we need to take a critical lens to policy. Hopefully, we can continue to engage and help them find ways to start making change. The goal is really a strategic plan to address systemic racism.”
Leonard said everything started with a group of students from the University of Northern Colorado, including Brown-Smith who was the president of the Black Student Union at UNC. Since Brown-Smith wasn’t from Colorado and didn’t know the community as well, he reached out to Leonard who had some city government insight and state-level knowledge.
Both Leonard and Brown-Smith said that racism is so intertwined in every part of government and society that it will take more than just protesting and announcing a few new bills to address it. They plan to keep the club active as they push City Council and policymakers to make changes that will actually have a lasting impact.
“Holding police accountable is deeper than just police murdering people. It’s how police harass folks. How police use their ‘power’ over people,” Brown-Smith said. “It’s a start, but for us, we’ve been at so many starts that we need to hurry up and get to the finish line.”
Proposal of SB 20-217 by Leslie Herod
By Cassandra Ballard | June 7, 2020
In direct response to all of the protests and rallies, Colorado and Denver politicians are taking actions to change the presence of law enforcement around the state.
Senate Bill 20-217, or the Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity Act, was introduced last Thursday by Reps. Leslie Herod and Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez and Sens. Rhonda Fields and Leroy Garcia. The bill is intended to reign in excessive use of force by police officers.
“[The bill aims] to ensure that our communities are safe and protected and that when people are murdered or die at the handles of law enforcement there is actually a recourse and that they are held accountable,” Herod said at a town hall held on June 5.
The contents of the bill come directly from the people, said Herod. It will mandate the use of body cameras across the state, and it will also create a public record and database on policing which will track instances of excessive use of force.
“If there are issues, we can find them, we can track them and we can change them,” Herod said.
The bill will ban the use of chokeholds, which Herod said follows the Supreme Court precedent set by Tennessee v. Garner in 1985, that Colorado has chosen to “ignore” until now. An earlier version of the bill included the repeal of the “fleeing felon” statute, which would have banned police from using deadly force if the suspect is believed to be a felon or have a weapon. This section has now been amended to state that it will create “a new use of force standard by limiting the use of physical force and limiting the use of deadly force when force is authorized.”
In addition, the proposed bill would require the Peace Officer Standards and Training board to permanently revoke the certification of any officer that is convicted of using excessive force. It will also put an end to qualified immunity for officers, so they are more likely to be held accountable for their actions.
The final part of the bill will require officers that witness excessive force by others to intervene and report the incident. Officers who fail to do so will have the same liability as the acting officer and can be decertified by the POST board. The bill intends to end the internal disincentive to speak out, or the “blue wall of silence,” by holding fellow law enforcement officers accountable.
On June 9, the bill passed in the Senate, with 32 yes votes, one no and two excused. Before the vote, several changes to the language of SB 20-217 were made, including officers cannot use tear gas on protesters without warning and officers must face imminent threat before using deadly force. The definition of “peace officer” in the bill has also been changed to include State Patrol.
“Black lives do matter, we are going to hold law enforcement accountable and it’s going to start today,” Herod said.
Weekly COVID-19 Town Hall updates
By Cassandra Ballard | June 7, 2020
On June 5, northeast and far northern Denver elected officials held their weekly COVID-19 Zoom town hall.
The novel coronavirus largely took a backseat to the pressing issue of police accountability and oversight. Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore opened the meeting by announcing a COVID-19 testing site on June 11 at Montbello High School to serve the Montbello and Green Valley Ranch neighborhoods.
It wasn’t long before attention turned to recent events.
Gilmore stressed defunding the Denver Police Department. She said that Colorado’s budget for the Department of Safety is $558 million, and the Denver Police Department receives $254 million. Gilmore said she wants to propose large cuts to the police department in 2021 on top of the already planned cuts. She then mentioned using those cuts to create protect-and-serve crews who would be representatives of the community and distribute resources like mental health therapists. The councilwoman said these were direct suggestions from younger members in the community she has brainstormed with.
Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca agreed to change the budget priorities and divert funds from the police.
“A lot of the charter changes we are looking to send to the voter in November are about structural change,” CdeBaca said. “About changing the things that uphold the inequities we have right now.”
A petition to investigate excessive use of force from both individual officers and the entire department gained over 1,500 signatures in less than five hours. Subsequently, the Director of Safety committed to the investigation. They are looking to make sure community voices are driving the investigation. Any cases of brutality in need of investigation should be reported by citizens to the independent monitor or the city council office.
One of the structural changes coming to the Finance and Governance Committee that is connected to a transparency, safety and accountability initiative CdeBaca and Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer are proposing is the Independent Monitor. CdeBaca said that the Independent Monitor who conducts investigations is currently not independent, they are appointed by the mayor. The committee is seeking to make the monitor actually independent, but how that will happen is yet to be determined.
Another charter change which was introduced June 9 is council confirmation of agency heads like the chief of police, chief of fire and sheriff appointments. Cabinet heads who will also be included in the council vote include finance, parks and recreation, safety, transportation, planning and development, aviation, health and environment, business licensing, human services, general services, and the city attorney. Currently, all are appointed by the mayor. As part of the transparency and accountability initiative, CdeBaca and Sawyer are hoping to have on the ballot in November, a critical aspect will be for the council to have some authority over selecting these appointees.
CdeBaca is also exploring a problem she has with the city attorney. The city attorney defends every element in an investigation including the police, the city, city council and the independent monitor.
“Without us having some separation there, you’ve got the same person defending all of the different parties of an investigation and that doesn’t really lead to the outcomes that we believe are necessary and independent and unbiased,” CdeBaca said.
They are also looking into banning use of chemical weapons which includes the tear gas that has been used by DPD.
CdeBaca went on to mention Denver Health employees unionizing and encouraged managers to unionize as well, asking them not to fall into anti-unionizing efforts by Denver Health.
Resolution for DPS to end contract with DPD
At the end of the town hall, Tay Anderson addressed concerns with his resolution to end the contract between the Denver Police Department and Denver Public Schools.
“This week is not just reactionary, not brand new, we’ve worked on this for the last decade from community groups and organizers that have led to this election, last election and the election before,” Anderson said.
DPS board of education wants to take police officers out of schools but intends to keep the Department of Safety school resource officers who are separate from the police.
Anderson brought up the concern of school shootings. He mentioned that DPS has not had issues with school shootings. He added that many cases around the country and in Colorado who had SROs still had children’s lives taken, and there was no prevention that happened because there was an SRO in the building.
Anderson also said DPS would still work with the police department, but their physical daily presence is not needed. He said the schools needed to be more concerned with affording nurses than police officers.
The Board of Education will vote on June 11 to officially direct the superintendent to end the contract with a phase-out, getting rid of SROs by the second semester of the school year. The board will do deep community engagement around how to handle discipline in DPS schools in the future.
“Change can’t wait any longer,” Anderson said.
Board of Education Vice President, Jennifer Bacon finished with heartfelt words.
“Safety is important to us, but the cost and the consequence of criminalizing young children actually contributes to mental health damage,” she said. “DPS has an opportunity to confront our own structural racism.”
City council meetings are at 5 p.m. and public comment happens from 5-5:30 p.m.
There are also committees on Tuesday and Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Charter changes mostly come through the finance and governance committee on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m.
These can all be streamed live or attended in person.
Text NOW to 40649 to fill out a form to voice your support for the DPS resolution
To voice support or concerns email firstname.lastname@example.org.
DPS proposes resolution to remove resource officers from school campuses
By Cassandra Ballard | June 5, 2020
In an attempt to end the school-to-prison pipeline in Denver Public Schools, a resolution was announced to end the contract between the Denver Police Department and the school district.
During a press conference at West High School on June 5, Denver School Board At-Large Director Tay Anderson and board Vice President Jennifer Bacon announced a proposal to end the contract with DPD in an attempt to keep students out of the criminal justice system. Anderson said the move was to ensure that Denver schools were no longer the epicenter for the school-to-prison pipeline and allow all students to thrive in their learning environment.
“We want to be able to have a school system where students are greeted with school nurses, with full-time mental health support, with restorative practice coordinators, and not the Denver Police Department,” Anderson said.
Bacon said that research shows black children are three to five times more likely to be referred to law enforcement or suspended. This pattern leads to black children internalizing a false sense of inherent criminality.
“Some of our own practices have introduced students to a normalization, an internalization of their place, which is not something we want to contribute to anymore,” Bacon said.
Anderson and Bacon plan to make the resolution publicly available on June 8 reading some of the language that will be used in the resolution. Anderson read part of the document, where it states that since 2014, DPS students have been ticketed or arrested in school by Denver Police Department officers at least 4,540 times, with the vast majority being black or Latinx students between the ages of 10 and 15. These punitive actions introduced the students into the criminal justice system and/or institutional trauma.
The director at-large went on to cite evidence from school districts across the country that have installed other resources and pathways for ensuring school safety that have made school resource officers obsolete.
“We are going to resolve that we work together within our school communities to create an alternative safety plan and alternative safety approaches to support our students over an amount of time,” Bacon said.
Any novel safety structures would be in addition to the district’s own Department of Safety that places campus security officers within schools.
This does not mean that the district will completely cut ties with the DPD altogether.
“When we need them, we can call them,” Anderson said. “This is not a done deal.”
The board and district superintendent will work to come to an agreement no later than August 30, 2020. The resolution is intended to be an inclusive, community-driven project which would include students, teachers, school leaders, parents, support staff and other community members to partake in the final decisions on alternative safety solutions and resources.
“It’s important to talk about the full context here,” said Superintendent Susan Cordova. “The desperate need to have safety resources on our campuses, along with mental health. The importance of having trusting relationships with the adults in our schools and the urgent and absolute need to end the school to prison pipeline.”
Annual expenditure for 18 school resource officers in the Denver school district is $721,403, all of which are provided by the DPD. The resolution plans to phase SROs out of schools until the beginning of the calendar year of 2021 when they would no longer be used.
The Denver School Board will vote on the resolution on June 11. Anderson expects to hear community input on alternatives to ensure student safety.
Supporters of the resolution include Padres & Jovenes Unidos, which has been working to get police out of schools, along with Brad Laurvick, who represents District 5 and Scott Baldermann, who represents District 1.
White coats kneel for black lives in Aurora
By Maria Muller | June 5, 2020
White Coats for Black Lives gathered people of all races on the Anschutz Medical Campus in scrubs and white coats to kneel in solidarity for the black lives taken by police officers.
During the 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence only muffled crying could be heard among the crowd. The event, held June 5 and organized by White Coats for Black Lives, brought close to 800 supporters from the surrounding hospitals.
“The most impressive part of it to me is how many different colored faces we have out here,” said medical student Jeremy Ansah-Twum. “It’s not just only our colored brothers and sisters that turned up to support us but our white allies, our Latino allies, our Asian allies. Everyone is out here supporting our cause for justice.”
White Coats for Black Lives is a medical-run student organization created to encourage physicians and medical institutions to publicly recognize racism as a public health issue. They promote medical students’ involvement in movements to end racism and police brutality.
Director for Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Anschutz Dr. Regina Richards said the event stood for solidarity for all of the individuals who lost their lives senselessly to police brutality.
“It also symbolizes a way forward. We have to move forward to end racism that has been an infectious disease and it has been infecting our world for centuries,” Dr. Richards said.
Ansah-Twum added that the nation is crying out for justice. He said the current movement has underlined racism that will take generations to undo by teaching children to love each other.
“It’s going to take generations to overcome that. But what we cannot continue to live without is justice. We need justice. When crimes are committed there needs to be repercussions. And that is the only way to get this racism to stop,” he said.
Breonna Taylor update
On June 5, Breonna Taylor would have turned 27 years old. The emergency medical technician was killed after Louisville police broke down the door to her apartment and shot her eight times while she was asleep in her bed. The shooting was another case of police brutality that garnered national attention and has now become the motivation for local and national proposed laws against “no-knock” warrants. Taylor’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming charges of battery, wrongful death, excessive force, negligence and gross negligence. On May 21, the FBI announced they were opening an investigation into the circumstances surrounding her death. The three officers involved in her shooting have been placed on administrative leave but have not been charged with any crimes.
Black Lives Matter and Abolish ICE join forces for car protest
By Amelia Petrini | June 4, 2020
Black Lives Matter 5280 held a social distancing car rally in support of the Black Lives Matter movement along with Abolish ICE on June 4.
Cars made their way eastbound down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard as organizers informed listeners of the history behind the Park Hill neighborhood while hip hop and R&B provided the soundtrack to the radio live stream provided to keep protestors updated as they drove. Protesters called for justice, specifically for Elijah McClain, Michael Marshall, Marvin Booker, Paul Castaway, and Jessie Hernandez. Among others who were slain by Denver police brutality.
The protest began at Shorter African Methodist Episcopal church, the first African-American church in the state of Colorado when it was established in 1868.
The first stop was the Aurora Immigration and Customs Enforcement processing center.
Keisha, a speaker whose husband was detained at the facility, spoke through tears about her husband. She talked about disease and the lack of PPE at the facility, particularly during COVID-19 but emphasized that this was an ongoing issue with other illnesses such as mumps and measles as well.
“It is impossible to social distance in a cage,” said one of the BLM 5280 organizers, who requested anonymity.
Protesters then called to free detainees and abolish ICE, which encouraged an orchestra of honks and chants of “No justice, No peace.”
From the ICE processing center, the protest moved to Mayor Micheal Hancock’s residence. As organizers traveled they began encouraging drivers to ignore any red lights.
The protest ended in front of Mayor Hancock’s house. Mayor Hancock’s efforts at solidarity were criticized by protestors as being performative, selling out, “walking hand in hand with police” and imposing a curfew. They expressed anger and frustration at the perceived inaction on the part of police departments in the Denver metro area when it came to disciplining officers involved in the use of excessive force.
The protest was intended to end thirty minutes after Mayor Hancock’s 9 p.m. curfew some organizers, however, encouraged the crowd to voice their opinions past curfew. The live stream continued past 11 p.m.
Chief Pazen talks accountability and use of force
By Amelia Petrini | June 4, 2020
Local black activist Neil Yarbrough interviewed Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen on the Denver Police Department’s handling of protests and the use of force during a virtual town hall held on June 4.
Yarbrough was the young activist who marched arm-in-arm with Chief Pazen the day prior to show solidarity between the Denver Police Department and the black community. The town hall was an opportunity for Yarbrough to field questions for Chief Pazen from the Denver community through Facebook and Microsoft live chat.
With over 1,200 in attendance, questions focused mainly on practices used by DPD as well as police accountability. Chief Pazen spoke in broad strokes about necessary changes within the department but offered no specific solutions or course of action. He did, however, voice support in favor of laws that would require mandatory intervention from officers who witness excessive use of force.
“This is a tipping point. This is the start of a movement,” Pazen said.
Calling it, “too big a movement to ignore,” Pazen assured the attendees that they were being heard and emphasized the need for police to work together with the community in order to bring about change.
“Our pledge on the micro level here in this department is to listen and do better,” Pazen said.
A department spokesperson said this is the first of many virtual town halls planned.
During the protests, a crowd of thousands listened to various speakers talk about race and police violence. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock led protesters in a march in the early evening, walking arm-in-arm shouting chants like “Hands up, don’t shoot.” Marches around the city continued until after the 9 p.m. curfew, as they had on previous nights. At around 10 p.m. protesters raised their phone lights in the air and remained silent for nine minutes, to represent the approximately nine minutes that George Floyd was pinned down on the ground by officers before he died.
In Minneapolis, three more former police officers involved in Floyd’s death, five days after charges were brought against Derek Chauvin. The former officers, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, were charged with aiding and abetting murder, according to criminal complaints filed by the state of Minnesota. The murder charges against Chauvin has also been elevated from third-degree to second-degree.
Tuesday sees continued peace and minimal arrests
By Annie Burky | June 3, 2020
Tuesday’s protests were a continued departure from the violence that filled the blocks around the Colorado State Capitol building starting Thursday, May 28th. Peaceful protesters met in the afternoon on the west steps of the Capitol without a clear organizer but with the continued goal of opposing the police brutality that led to the death of George Floyd.
State Rep. Leslie Herod and Senate President Leroy Garcia spoke to protesters about their commitment to shifting the cost of law enforcement misconduct cases from taxpayers to the individuals being tried. Shereen McClain, whose son Elijah died at the hands of Aurora police in August 2019, also addressed the crowd. McClain claimed that the officers in her son’s case “got away with murder.”
Through Thursday and into Sunday, leadership was typically an open question at rallies, with different figures stepping up as needed to direct the crowd’s anger. On several occasions, Tay Anderson became the central locus around which the movement’s energy was directed. Monday evening, however, a group of current and former students of the University of Northern Colorado took over. On Tuesday, leadership changed hands throughout the day with the megaphone passing through several hands.
The megaphone passed between Julius Philpot, Janaye Matthews, and Natalie Marshall before settling on Nate Smith, who led the protesters for the remainder of the night. Smith directed the crowd south on broadway past the Denver Public Library, where Colorado National Guard officers were spotted on the overlooking balcony.
A white protester, who did not provide his name, attempted to speak to the crowd multiple times before handing off the megaphone while the crowd sustained a chant of “Black lives matter.”
Smith urged protesters to refrain from vandalism and maintain a peaceful march before returning to the Capitol building. On the west steps, Smith asked everyone to return home safely.
When a phone update rang through the group at 8:41 p.m. warning of Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s Denver curfew order, protesters shifted to 20th and Stout where they sat in rows. Just after 9 p.m., protesters sat silently with fists raised for nine minutes, referencing the nearly nine minutes that a Minnesotan police officer held his knee on the neck of George Floyd.
At 1 a.m. police fired pepper balls to clear the few remaining protesters. According to reports, 21 people were arrested for violating curfew and weapons charges. It was one of the demonstrations with the highest attendance and lowest arrest numbers since the protests began.
On Monday, Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen asked protesters to send any videos they had taken of police using excessive force over the weekend. Denver City Council also announced it was considering an investigation into those claims. Herod, Garcia and other democratic lawmakers also began discussing the introduction of a bill that would hold law enforcement more accountable for their actions.
Recap: First five days of Denver protests
By Ms. Mayhem Staff
The protests in the wake of the officer-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 have now permeated all 50 states and throughout much of the world. Protests have taken place in countries like India, New Zealand, Germany and Japan. The Black Lives Matter movement has gone global.
We extensively covered the first five days of protests here in our hometown of Denver, with live updates on social media and full articles posted online. Our reporters worked tirelessly to bring you the necessary information as soon as possible. Just in case you missed some of that coverage, here’s a quick recap:
Thursday: Around 5 p.m., protests broke out at the state Capitol building. Around 5:30 p.m., six or seven shots were reportedly fired near 15th Street and Colfax Avenue, sending protesters scattering. There were no reported injuries, but the area near the Capitol was on lockdown for about an hour. After the lockdown was lifted, two groups formed. Protesters began marching, blocking off intersections and eventually stopping traffic on Interstate 25 near the Highland Bridge. A video shared on social media around 7 p.m. showed a female driver hitting a protester on Lincoln between Colfax and 14th Avenues.
As the sun went down, things escalated into chaos, leading to a repeating pattern across the following three nights. Chanting protesters gathered on the south side of the Capitol building and clashed with police and SWAT units. Activists hurled taunts and insults inches away from officers. Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen reported that protesters threw rocks, prompting police to fire tear gas and pepper balls at 9:15 p.m. The crowd dispersed. Protesters vandalized police and sheriff vehicles in response. Most streets reopened by 11 p.m., except 13th and Logan Streets, where police monitored smaller groups of protesters. However, around 12:30 a.m., a second round of tear gas was fired when protesters reportedly threw fireworks at police. Soon, it was announced that Colorado’s state legislature would not meet Friday or Saturday due to safety concerns. In total, 13 people were arrested for crimes such as burglary and assault. Three officers were reportedly injured. Pazen confirmed one officer was taken to Denver Health for a head injury caused by a rock thrown by a protester.
Friday: Protests began peacefully. Many families with children were in attendance. Despite no formal leader, Denver School Board Director Tay Anderson took charge of the protest with his own megaphone, imploring protesters to remain peaceful and avoid agitating police. As nightfall approached, Anderson urged demonstrators to return home, however, many did not heed his calls. The vigil that was meant to be held in front of the Denver City and County building or Denver City Hall at 7 p.m. was cut short at 7:30 p.m. for safety concerns after the use of tear gas and pepper bullets the night prior. Around 8 p.m. protesters instigated a clash with police, encroaching on the line officers formed. Officers fired tear gas, pepper balls and flashbangs at protesters occupying both Civic Center Park and areas around the Capitol building at Colfax Avenue and Lincoln Street.
After an hour, most protesters congregated on the lawn of the Capitol. Police and SWAT flooded the area with tear gas and pepper balls, sending protesters running south on Lincoln. Crowds mostly dispersed by 10 p.m., though someone lit the contents of a dumpster on fire in Liberty Park, across the street from the Capitol building. Ground floor windows at the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center, the location of the Colorado Supreme Court, were smashed around 11 p.m. After midnight, windows at the Denver Public Library were also broken. Police reportedly arrested 19 people for arson, burglary and menacing with a deadly weapon. Three assault rifles were also confiscated during the protests.
The four Minneapolis police officers who were involved in George Floyd’s death were fired the day after the incident, on May 26. Derek Chauvin, the officer who held his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck, was arrested on Friday for third-degree murder and manslaughter.
Saturday: The protests again started peacefully on Saturday, with Tay Anderson making a return to the Capitol steps to condemn the rioting. The crowd on Saturday was the biggest of the protests so far, estimated to be in the thousands. Reps. Leslie Herod and James Coleman were both in attendance. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock instated an 8 p.m. emergency curfew through Sunday night and Gov. Jared Polis authorized the use of the Colorado National Guard. After these announcements, the mood shifted quickly from calm to agitated and conflict between protesters and police started much earlier, with the first tear gas used at 4 p.m.
Things settled temporarily until around 5 p.m., when police in riot gear began forming a line on Lincoln Street in front of Civic Center Station. The National Guard and SWAT from Denver and Aurora were nearby to assist. For two hours, police fired tear gas, pepper balls, flashbangs and foam batons in an effort to clear protesters from the area. After being warned of the 8 p.m. curfew, protesters barricaded themselves from the police in the middle of Lincoln Street using a fence and construction street signs. The 8 p.m. curfew came and went, with hundreds of protesters still in the streets. Police advanced into the crowd, knocking through the barricade. The protest broke off into small groups that moved around town. Police continued using tear gas, pepper balls and foam batons to disperse them as fires broke out across the city, mostly in dumpsters that had been moved from alleyways to streets.
More than 80 people were arrested for violating curfew. Some also face charges for throwing missiles, damaging property and possession of prohibited weapons. Police also arrested a person accused of smashing their car into a Denver police vehicle, injuring three officers.
Sunday: The fourth day of protests followed a similar trend, with peaceful demonstrations during the day and clashes between police and protesters after dark. However, several protesters left the Capitol after the 8 p.m. curfew went into effect, in contrast to the night before. Around 8:30 p.m., police deployed tear gas against protesters who remained in the streets near Colfax Avenue and Washington Street. More store windows were shattered and fires lit in dumpsters. Protesters congregated again at the Capitol building, where they were dispersed by a flood of tear gas and other projectiles.
Police made 170 arrests Sunday, mostly for violation of curfew. In total, Denver police made 284 arrests over four days of protesting.
Monday: The planned Mobilization for George Floyd rally organized by current and former students of the University of Northern Colorado took place in the evening without any interference from police. Earlier in the day, Chief Pazen marched arm-in-arm with protesters and spoke with several individuals to hear their complaints. Although Mayor Hancock extended the curfew throughout the week, the mayor also pushed curfew back an hour later to 9 p.m. Pazen later told 9News that as long as protests remained peaceful, officers would not step in, even past curfew. Despite staying peaceful with the occasional car donut, noise and fireworks, Denver police did arrest 54 people on Monday night.