Demonstrators began gathering at Colorado’s Capitol late Sunday morning, the start of a fourth day of protests in Denver against law enforcement in the wake of George Floyd‘s death in Minneapolis, a killing by police that has sparked a national conflagration.
A little after noon, about 200 people stood outside the Capitol building and began chanting “Don’t shoot!” and “I can’t breathe!” — echoing the words of both Floyd and Eric Garner, who died after a New York City police officer put him in a choke hold in 2014.
Esther Okanlawon said she brought her 6-year-old daughter to today’s protest to show her how to make change. She’s talked to her daughter about racism.
“We tell her that unfortunately people are going to treat her differently because of the color of her skin,” Okanlawon said.
Chauncey Session, 30, said she has never been to a protest before, but wanted to be a part of this one.
“It’s history,” she said. “Kids get shot for no reason by the police and it’s been going on for years.”
Around the Capitol, people could be seen picking up trash from earlier protests while city crews tried to scrub off graffiti. Spray-painted messages including “All pigs go to hell” were still visible on the outer walls of the building. Drivers honked while passing by.
Around 12:30 p.m., the first police arrived, in an armored SWAT vehicle and a marked van. They were met by shouting protesters, and soon left the Capitol.
An hour later, crowds began moving into Civic Center Park, as well, and demonstrators began preparing to march.
City crews spent Sunday morning scrubbing graffiti off buildings and cleaning streets in a scene playing out across the country after protests turned turbulent and destructive.
Amanda Sendero and Garrett Teal were among the volunteers helping with the cleanup. They 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.
On Saturday night, Denver police officers in riot gear fired tear gas, flash-bangs, pepper balls and sponge bullets at hundreds of protesters who ignored the city’s 8 p.m. emergency curfew, announced by the mayor earlier in the day after two prior nights of protest and violence.
Gov. Jared Polis called in the Colorado National Guard to help enforce the curfew. National Guard officials said about 100 troops had been requested at nine sites in Denver.
Police arrested 83 people on charges they violated the curfew, which is in effect again from 8 p.m. Sunday to 5 a.m. Monday.
Police have not yet publicly identified the dozens of people arrested for violating curfew, but city officials continue to allege the violence largely is being spurred by outside agitators — though they have not provided specific evidence.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, in an appearance on CNN on Sunday morning, said police have “intercepted, quite frankly, groups that are coming into Denver. We have confiscated weapons including assault weapons that were headed to the demonstrations.”
“You don’t show up at peaceful demonstrations with assault weapons, handguns, baseball bats, golf (clubs) and flash-bang bottles with the intent of being peaceful,” Hancock said during the interview.
The mayor said some of the peaceful demonstrators who’d gathered earlier in the day stuck around and were “caught up in the crossfire, the provocation of law enforcement.”
As elsewhere around the country, the protests in Denver were spurred by the death of Floyd on Monday after a Minneapolis police officer placed his knee on Floyd’s neck and pinned him to the ground for several minutes while the man pleaded that he could not breathe.
That officer has been charged with third-degree murder.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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