Denver school board member Tay Anderson hospitalized after incident with Denver police

Anderson was trying to buy more time for people during a homeless sweep in front of the State Capitol.
4 min. read
A student-led demonstration supporting Black Lives Matter, organized by DSST: College View High School in Denver, marched from Cheeseman Park to the Capitol on Tuesday, June 16, 2020. School Board member Tay Anderson led chants along the route.
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

Denver school board member Tay Anderson said doctors diagnosed him with a concussion Wednesday after he said he was shoved by Denver police officers while trying to mediate a clean up of an encampment near the State Capitol.

Anderson said during a phone interview with Denverite he was getting ready to be discharged from the hospital on Wednesday afternoon and expects to make a full recovery. Despite his injury, Anderson said he wants the focus to stay on people experiencing homelessness and the sweeps in Denver. He said he will be in pain for a few days, though "physically, I will appear fine."

Anderson said he was "disappointed and disgusted" that a Denver police spokesperson told the Denver Post "someone" had lost his footing. Denver police have not responded to a request for comment from Denverite.

"I did not lose my footing. I was pushed," Anderson said.

He added that he's retained counsel and planned to hold a press briefing "to clear the record" at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library.

Anderson said he visited the clean up to serve as a mediator after learning about it from a live-stream and attempted to give people more time to gather their belongings before the area was cleared. Anderson said he texted Gov. Jared Polis about giving people more time to collect their belongings, and Polis said he'd look into it.

Anderson said he and others gathered near an entrance in the fence police set up around the encampment to stop crews from closing the gates and allow residents to enter to gather their belongings. That's when he said he and others were shoved by police.

City workers and officers from the Colorado State Patrol and the Denver Police Department cleared the camp at Lincoln Memorial Park on Wednesday. Some of the officers wore helmets and had less-than-lethal weapons.

Denver Public Safety Executive Director Murphy Robinson said on Wednesday during an online press conference that people camping at the park got a 24-hour notice about the cleanup. Most people were compliant with the cleanup, Robinson said. But he added protesters and advocates "interrupted" the cleanup on Wednesday, including some people who blocked gates. He referred to some of them as "agitators" who stopped the cleanup process.

He said the situation is not a police function, as cops were there to provide security for the staff on-site. Robinson apologized to Anderson and wished him a recovery for his fall but said it was unclear what caused his fall. He said Anderson was part of the large group of people who tried blocking the gates "who were not obeying the lawful order of police" for people to move away from the gate.

A still from the HALO footage showing Tay Anderson, at the center, as he falls after being pushed by police.

"During that time, Mr. Tay Anderson, he fell," Robinson said. "It is unclear so far that, in this large group of people, if he was indeed shoved by a police officer. That is under investigation."

Robinson said there's body camera footage from officers showing the incident as well as footage from HALO cameras, which he said would be released soon. The overhead HALO footage shows Anderson being pushed by several police officers and falling to the ground. Anderson can be seen grabbing his head as he's on the ground.

The body camera footage will be released "as soon as possible, Robinson said." There is other footage of the fall shot by others who were at the scene on Wednesday.

Robinson said two arrests were made on Wednesday. Denver police spokesperson Doug Schepman said in an email a man and a woman were arrested for Obstructing Government Operations.

A Colorado State Patrol spokesman, Trooper Josh Lewis, said he had heard no reports of arrests or violence.

State Rep. Leslie Herod of Denver said she had spoken to Anderson as he was being treated at Denver Health.

Herod said Anderson was helped by a medic at the scene. She reiterated what Anderson said, that he wanted people to keep their focus on the sweeps of people experiencing homelessness. Anderson has been a central figure in the city's protests against racism and police violence.

"We need solutions, not just sweeps," Herod added.

Two witnesses near the Capitol said they saw Anderson being shoved by police officers on Wednesday.

This story has been updated throughout with comments from Anderson and Robinson. 

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