Police use tear gas on protesters after Denver curfew passes Sunday night

3 min. read
People rest beneath the gold dome of the Capitol building. Sunday’s protests started before noon and were peaceful as curfew approached.
John Daley/CPR News

On the second day of an 8 p.m. citywide curfew, city officials, police and business owners appeared to be bracing for another night of conflict. They shut streets and blocked off some areas, hours after a peaceful protest began at the state Capitol before noon on Sunday.

Denver's City and County Building was fenced in, many downtown windows were boarded up, and police had blocked off Broadway between Colfax and 18th avenues by 3 p.m. Police had also closed off Lincoln to northbound cars at 13th Avenue. RTD didn't run buses or trains in and out of downtown, for the third day running.

Saturday night's protest saw more than 80 arrests, Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said earlier in the day, including those for curfew violation, assault, criminal mischief and felony weapons charges. Denver Health reported that 45 people needed medical attention last night, and Pazen said that in addition to those struck by an automobile driver, "dozens" of officers had been injured in the course of the days-long protest.

Saturday's protests saw law enforcement officers and a group of demonstrators in tense, and sometimes violent, confrontations both before and after curfew. On Sunday, though, things seemed calmer, with smaller crowds.

About 30 minutes before curfew, Kate Slifer, a Denver resident, sat in the park across from the Capitol.

"I think that the criminal justice system right now is very unjust," she said. "I don't think this is going to stop until (police) get the message and stop killing innocent black people."

She felt it was important to be there, but had a car and didn't plan to stay if things turned violent.

"I'm not geared up for violence right now," she said.

As curfew fell at 8 p.m., hundreds of people still filled the lawn and street beneath the Capitol. Around 8:20 p.m., a large crowd began to march east on Colfax. Within minutes, confrontations between protesters and police escalated, and police used teargas on protesters. The march splintered into smaller groups that moved around downtown.

Al Fein, a Denver resident, said he was getting ready to go home. He and his wife Jess had joined the protests before curfew at around 6:30 p.m.

"We marched as much as we could but I have to get home now," he said.

One group of protesters faced off with police on Colfax, with some protesters lying down or kneeling in front of police. Police in riot gear eventually used teargas and other chemicals to disperse them.

Meanwhile, a separate group hundreds strong as of 9:30 p.m. continued to march around downtown. They also encountered police officers and split up. Police officers repeatedly played an announcement telling people to go home, since they were breaking curfew. Some protesters regrouped at the Capitol, chanting "Peaceful protest" and "This is what democracy looks like." Others sprayed messages on nearby buildings.

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