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VIDEO: Tear Gas Punctuates Otherwise Peaceful Night Of Post-Curfew Protests In Denver

Rae Solomon/KUNC
Demonstrators lying face down on the street in front of the state capitol in Denver simulate the dying position of George Floyd.

Protests remained peaceful in Denver until about midnight, when the arrival of armored police at the state’s Capitol stoked tensions among the small group of protesters still present despite the city’s 9 p.m. curfew. Clashes broke out as a few individuals lobbed glass and fireworks at encroaching police vehicles, which, in return, sent tear gas flying at the crowd.

8:15 p.m.: The protesters began a peaceful march from Civic Center Park up Broadway. The occasional boom of fireworks punctuated the chanting, creating an almost celebratory atmosphere for this fifth night of protests in Downtown Denver.

Credit Rae Solomon/KUNC
Protesters festoon a statue of a civil war cavalryman with flowers in front of the state capitol on Monday night.

This was after a separate contingent of protesters in front of the capitol decided it was time to go home and leave the day's events to be remembered as peaceful.

9:30 p.m.: Things took a turn when the marchers returned to the Capitol. The fireworks became more frequent and immediate, often being lit from within the crowd. A motorist turning donuts in the middle of the intersection at Lincoln Street and Colfax Avenue churned the smell of burning rubber into the air.

The crowds at this point were significantly smaller than the throngs of protesters who could be seen throughout the day and the weekend before. Apart from the fireworks and a group of motorcyclists burning rubber up and down Colfax, things were calm and quiet. Many sat around and chatted with one another, while others demonstrated by doing things like lying face down on the ground in tribute to the way George Floyd was killed while being arrested by Minneapolis police.

Some protesters, many of whom declined to give their names, told KUNC reporters they were staying past curfew to ensure that their voices were heard in an act of peaceful civil disobedience.

Credit Rae Solomon/KUNC
Two protesters lay prone on Lincoln Street, simulating the death of George Floyd at the June 1st Denver protests.

The police issued orders for the crowd to disperse at regular intervals throughout the night. And some people who appeared to be leaders among the protesters begged people to comply. “We made our point tonight. Please go home,” one man repeated through a megaphone. Many took the opportunity to clear the area, but a core group of determined demonstrators remained on the block of Lincoln directly in front of the capitol building.

Credit Rae Solomon/KUNC
A protester waves a flag at the march in downtown Denver on June 1st.

11 p.m.: There was a palpable sense of relief - and pride - among demonstrators for having kept the night peaceful, while making their voices heard. “We didn't burn anything. We didn't break windows," one protester, Kingsley Lawson, reflected, "Denver set the standard tonight."

Self-organized groups of medics provided water, snacks and first aid to the crowd. One described Monday night as “the best night so far.” He said that medical needs in the peaceful crowd were minimal compared to previous nights.

11:15 p.m.: Police vehicles could be seen skirting the edges of the crowd in front of the capitol, but they remained at a distance. Twice, protesters approached distant police vehicles, hands raised. But at each approach, law enforcement declined to engage. They reversed their vehicles and left the scene.

"Everyone take a knee. Tonight has been a victory. Tonight has been peaceful," a protester told the crowd with a megaphone as police backed away. That was followed by chants of "black lives bring peace."

11:30 p.m.: Police could be seen grouping up in riot gear on multiple parts of Colfax Ave. near the capitol. An individual did aim fireworks at the officers, but no clashes were set off by this action.

11:50 p.m.: Riot police then began moving onto the hill directly in front of the capitol building, creating a line of barely visible silhouettes. Protesters yelled, “Why are you in riot gear, I don’t see no riot here,” and other chants while forming a line of linked arms on the street below. Bob Marley’s “One Love” played from a vehicle in the crowd.

But there was discord within the crowd. Some protesters insisted that everyone remain peaceful - take a knee or go home. A handful of others disagreed, saying that behaving passively would give police the opportunity to hurt them.

12 a.m.: As midnight approached, so too did a group of armored police vehicles down Lincoln St. Commands to leave were given over a speaker and ear-piercing sirens drowned out the crowd. Protesters tried to link arms and form a circle, but that was largely unsuccessful. At least one object, which seemed to be a glass bottle, was then flung at the encroaching vehicles from the crowd and tear gas was sent in return. Protesters began running down 13th Avenue where some tried to pour milk in each other’s eyes to relieve the burning.

Credit Rae Solomon/KUNC
Tear gas disperses protesters in front of the state capitol late Monday night.

12:40 a.m.: According to a tweet from 9News reporter Marc Sallinger, at around 12:40 a.m. police “chased” a few remaining protesters into a Capitol Hill neighborhood in SWAT vehicles.

This post was updated to reflect that the final events happened at 12:40 a.m. not p.m.

As KUNC’s rural and small communities reporter, I help further the newsroom’s efforts to ensure that all of Northern Colorado’s communities are heard.
I am the Rural and Small Communities Reporter at KUNC. That means my focus is building relationships and telling stories from under-covered pockets of Colorado.
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