Denver police Chief Paul Pazen linked arms with two black men Monday evening and walked past the City-County Building as demonstrators began the fifth day of protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis.
Chiefs and police officers in other cities have mingled with protesters but this is Pazen’s first time meeting face-to-face with demonstrators. The images of the chief in his regular uniform and only wearing a cloth mask to protect him from the novel coronavirus provided a contrast to images of Denver police officers in riot gearing firing tear gas at people during previous protests.
As on the previous days, Monday’s demonstrations began peacefully. With people walking and chanting through the heart of downtown.
Lucas Simonis went on Facebook and asked people to bring flowers to place along police barricades. He figured only a few close friends would participate but hundreds latched onto the idea.
“This is meant to be a way to keep things positive and calm and to make sure everyone knows we’re unified in a goal of nonviolence and earnest desire for change,” Simonis said.
Protests over George Floyd’s death began Thursday night in Denver and have brought days of unrest as people chant and march over the deaths of black people at the hands of law enforcement. But the demonstrations also have erupted into violence with police officers firing tear gas and foam bullets at protesters as people vandalized businesses and government buildings, including setting fires. Some protesters have lobbed rocks and bottles toward police, and Mayor Michael Hancock said during a Monday morning interview on Colorado Public Radio that officers have confiscated weapons, including assault rifles.
Hancock on Monday extended an emergency curfew order through the week, telling residents they must be off the streets by 9 p.m. The first curfew was put in place on Saturday, but protesters have ignored the order and remained on the state Capitol grounds well past their deadline to leave.
Since protests began on Thursday, Denver police have arrested 284 people, including 170 who were cited on Sunday. Violations have ranged from assault on a peace officer to burglary and arson to a curfew violations.
Many organizers have urged fellow protesters to remain peaceful, and volunteers have cleaned graffiti off monuments and buildings even as others were shouting and marching.
Taroya Hawthorne brought her 11-year-old and 7-year-old to the Capitol Monday morning to get a sense of the mood and to listen to others. She’s married to a veteran police officer in Alabama. She understands why people are mad and even though she does not condone violence, said, “It’s been going on for too long. When you do it peacefully, it’s like you’re not getting heard.”
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