Demonstrators out again in Denver on Sunday after turbulent night

David Zalubowski and Brady McCombs
Associated Press
Police officers outside the State Capitol in Denver are approached by a woman Saturday, May 30, 2020, during a protest over the death of George Floyd who died in Minneapolis police custody on May 25. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER (AP) — Demonstrators filled the streets of downtown Denver again on Sunday, marching peacefully and chanting “Don’t shoot” as they walked past boarded-up businesses that had been vandalized the night before.

For the second consecutive day, people at one point laid on the ground on their stomachs with their hands behind their backs and chanted “I can’t breathe” for several minutes. At a protest that drew several hundred people in Colorado Springs, the same symbolic act played out in reference to what happened before George Floyd died in Minneapolis.

The protests over Floyd’s death came after three consecutive nights of turbulent protests that led to the arrest of 83 people Saturday night, most for breaking a curfew and some others for damaging property or having prohibited weapons, Denver police said. People brought crowbars, bats and rifles to the demonstration, Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said.

In an attempt to prevent another night of violence, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock ordered a curfew that begins at 8 p.m. and said it will be enforced by officers who will respond to maintain people’s safety and protect themselves and property. He had already called in the Colorado National Guard to help enforce it.

He called the behavior of unruly protesters “reckless, inexcusable and unacceptable” and blamed “outside instigators” for hijacking the important message of peaceful protesters who are rightfully decrying what happened to Floyd.

“What justice is served by breaking windows at the library or city hall?” Hancock said. “Whose life are you honoring when you loot businesses in our city, businesses already struggling to survive in one of the toughest times imaginable? What change do you inspire by setting a car on fire, throwing rocks at police officers or vandalizing people’s property?”

The longtime mayor added: “The person who brought a crowbar last night wasn’t thinking about George Floyd. Neither were the people who brought assault rifles and handguns and explosive bombs. They weren’t thinking about George Floyd.”

Floyd, a black man, died after a white Minneapolis officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck even after he stopped moving and pleading for air, leading to the protests in Denver and cities across the U.S. and Europe.

Pazen and Hancock commended the peaceful demonstrators and urged them to keep away and subdue those who become violent.

Enforcing a Saturday night curfew, officers dressed in riot gear knocked down a barricade of fencing and road signs built by protesters next to the Colorado state Capitol and fired tear gas. Some protesters threw the gas canisters back at police, and hundreds of people scattered amid the smoke.

Three police officers and another person were injured when a car crashed into a police cruiser. The three officers are all expected to recover, Pazen said. The condition of the other person was unknown. Pazen said they had found the driver and the car and that the case was under investigation.

Esther Okanlawon was among the demonstrators Sunday afternoon when things remained calm. She said brought her 6-year-old daughter to the protest to show her how to make change. She’s talked to her daughter about racism, the Denver Post reported.

“We tell her that unfortunately people are going to treat her differently because of the color of her skin,” Okanlawon said.

Amanda Sendero and Garrett Teal were among the volunteers helping cleanup the city. Sendero and Teal participated in the protest Saturday night and came back Sunday wearing masks and latex gloves as they put trash into bags saying it was a way to show they care about the city where they live.

“I do not want people to see all this destruction and junk and think this is the way,” said Teal, who recently moved to Denver from Florida.

They picked up trash near a brick war memorial that was covered in black spray paint that read, “Death 2 America. They didn’t die for this.”

Many of the businesses in downtown Denver boarded up their storefronts, with some covered in graffiti such as “I can’t breathe” and “Kill Cops!” At the top of the Capitol’s West Steps, graffiti on the windows above the three entrances read “Stop Killing Us.”