Aurora Police are requesting the public’s help in identifying individuals they are calling persons of interest whom they believe were involved in switching flags outside an immigration detention center in Aurora last week with a Mexican flag, an upside-down U.S. flag and another flag using an expletive.
A post on the department’s Facebook page on Tuesday said police are offering up to $4,000 for information about the individuals. The post includes photos of the people they say they’re looking for.
Last Friday, thousands gathered in front of the private immigration detention center in Aurora to protest the treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers. The demonstration coincided with anticipated and widely reported ICE enforcement activity expected that weekend across the country, including in Denver.
During the protest, a group removed flags outside the facility and replaced them with a Mexican flag, an upside down U.S. flag and a flag that read “fuck cops.”
U.S. Rep. Jason Crow has been a vocal critic of the facility in Aurora and said earlier this month he wanted his office to make weekly visits to the detention center. Crow, a combat veteran, issued a statement to Denverite on Tuesday in response to questions about the incident.
“I condemn the desecration of the American flag,” Crow said in a statement. “I fought to defend our flag and the values it represents. To deny the dignity and decency of people in detention is an affront to those values. I support the peaceful protesters who were there to raise awareness of conditions at immigration detention centers and thank the Aurora police for their professionalism at the event.”
Crow, whose district includes Aurora, had been criticized by conservatives for not immediately condemning last week’s flag incident, including national groups like the National Republican Congressional Committee and local groups in Colorado.
“The illegal and disgusting acts of the vandalizers at the Aurora detention facility should be condemned,” said Lindsey Singer, spokesperson for the conservative opposition research firm Colorado Rising Action, on Monday. “It’s not right that Crow has been silent on the disrespect to our country and law enforcement that occurred under his watch and in his district.”
Activists on Tuesday said they were upset last week’s incident became the focal point of an event meant to call attention to issues at the detention center.
Activist Jeanette Vizguerra led the Tuesday press conference organized by the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition outside First Unitarian Society of Denver. She said organizers were upset that the event, which started as a vigil, turned into something else.
Vizguerra said the coalition has held vigils outside the detention center in the past. They’re usually peaceful, and she said allies hoping support immigrant advocates in the future should do so peacefully. She called for unity and asked Gov. Jared Polis to provide a plan to ensure more accountability for privately run detention centers.
Organizers were especially upset that the flag incident drew attention away from the original intent of the event, which was to call attention to issues at the detention center.
“The reality is yes, I’m upset about that,” Vizguerra said in Spanish. “More than anything, I’m upset with the press because I think around the country, every state had similar events to put the conditions of these detention center in the public eye … I don’t think they should have focused so much on this incident.”
CIRC spokesperson Cristian Solan-Cordova said one of their employees, Victor Galvan, suggested someone who he said assaulted one of his colleagues should be prosecuted. Solan-Cordova apologized on Galvan’s behalf; Galvan was not present during Tuesday’s press conference.
Vizguerra said they aren’t totally sure what group the persons who changed the flag were affiliated with. She said she’s reached out to other groups to discuss what happened.
When asked if those responsible for the flag incident should face criminal charges, Vizguerra said they don’t want more people in the immigrant community criminalized. She added that when questions like these are asked, she wants to know who will keep institutions accountable.
“We’re not OK with the police being involved in our actions, but we do understand that sometimes emotions get the best of people,” Vizguerra said. “But like I said, every person is responsible for their own actions.”