BALTIMORE SOLIDARITY SPREADS: Denver police use pepper spray on downtown protesters; 11 arrested – The Denver Post
A protest in downtown Denver on Wednesday evening turned violent and police used force and pepper spray on demonstrators.
Eleven adults were arrested, police said: Eight men and three women.
Two of the arrests were felonies for assault on police and robbery. The rest of the arrests were on misdemeanors of resisting police, disobedience of lawful orders, obstructing roadways, and interference, police said on Twitter.
The confrontation began shortly after 7 p.m. About 100 people were protesting police officers’ use of force in incidents around the country. The protest rounded the corner along Colfax Avenue and turned south on Broadway on the edge of Civic Center.
A line of police officers on motorcycles shadowed the protesters as they neared Broadway. Officials say police employed force only after one of the protestors assaulted one of the officers in the escort, knocking him off of his motorcycle as people moved down Broadway.
“An officer got knocked of his motorcycle as he was basically patrolling and that was lead to the assault charge arrest,” Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson said. “That is what stirred up a lot of things at that point.”
At least five protesters — including one with a bloody face — were taken into custody on the scene as police in riot gear with military style weapons, sticks and pepper spray cans flooded Broadway, shutting it down.
“It was peaceful protest until they got into the park,” said Laura Wooldridge, a 49-year-old Denver activist who saw the confrontation take place. “The next thing I knew pepper spray was being sprayed into the audience. It’s loud voices but it’s been loud voices. It’s an aggressive group but it should be an aggressive group because this is unacceptable, it is heinous.”
Some among the protesters said they saw the incident where the officer was knocked from his bike.
“Somebody jumped on a cop and knocked him off his motorcycle,” a masked protestor who gave his name only as Ryan said. “Then the guys in green, about five of them, jumped on him…
“That’s when they started hitting everyone in the face with pepper spray. My face is burning. I’m all for the protest but you can’t do that. That’s just stupid,” Ryan said.
Another protestor, who identified himself as Chuck Comfort disputed that the crowd took any action to provoke the police.
“There was no violence on the part of the protestors,” Comfort said, his clothes still stinking of pepper spray.
“I’m out here because I’m from Baltimore. I’m representing the Freddie Gray protestors. We stand in solidarity with them. Things like this aren’t going to stand in America anymore. Our generation is going to see to that.”
Following the clash some chanted “This is a peaceful protest, no weapons allowed!” But some in the crowd grew hostile as the arrests took place with dozens yelling expletives and making verbal threats.
One man yelled, “You all picked the wrong side. War’s coming!” as officers in riot gear stood in a line facing the crowd in Civic Center park.
At about 7:40 p.m., Broadway was reopened to traffic. Meanwhile, the remaining marchers regrouped and headed west on the 16th Street Mall.
Chants by the protesters of “Out of the bars and into the streets” were met by some cheers but also by some obscene hand signals. There were a few verbal spats between onlookers and the protestors.
At one point the crowd, which has been walking through every traffic signal without stopping, parted to make way for a van carrying woman who was apparently in labor.
Dozens of police followed behind the march, and continued to follow as the group turned south on Arapahoe Street, then circled back up toward 15th Street.
At about 8:35 p.m., police said on Twitter that the protests appeared to be ending.
Protestors began to break up and go their separate ways just as one man was taken into custody near the corner of 16th Street and Court Place. That person was taken into custody for stealing a cellphone from a onlooker who was standing on the mall, Jackson said.
One woman, who was standing nearby during the arrest but refused to be identified said she wanted Denver Mayor Michael Hancock to answer for what she deemed was an overzealous police response to a peaceful gathering.
“Ask Mayor Hancock why he sent police in riot gear when we came in peace,” she said. “We don’t have weapons. We weren’t throwing bottles.”
The demonstration started at the county jail downtown with protesters holding signs in support of demonstrators in Baltimore and wearing T-shirts emblazoned with “Black Lives Matter.”
Sam Coodley was part of the protest from the beginning. He said it was clear police were trying to keep the march from reaching the state capitol building by cutting them off on Broadway just before the conflict got physical.
“I think they were always going to come down on this movement at some point,” he said. “We could see them gathering around us.”
Jackson said officers did their best to respect the First Amendment rights of protestors while keeping people safe during the protest.
“We had protests last night without incident. Tonight we had a different group of people. I don’t know if it was different temperament in the crowd or what, but they got physical with an officer,” Jackson said.