DENVER (CBS4) – During one of the busiest shopping days of the year, traffic outside the Cherry Creek Mall was brought to a standstill at the hands of protesters. A group known as “Extinction Rebellion Colorado” blocked traffic by positioning a sleigh in the middle of East 1st Avenue, and locking people to the sleigh by their necks.
“I’ve never seen 1st Avenue shut down with Santa’s sleigh, and people chained down to it by their necks,” said Kaeleigh Testwuide, a local business owner.
Testwuide, owner of The Diamond Reserve, said her business was just one of more than 300 outside of the Cherry Creek Mall property that would be impacted by the protests. She believed the protesters were trying to send a message to the mall without realizing the traffic issues would also hinder local business sales.
“I get they are trying to make a point. But, they are not understanding that there are small businesses here that are here to make money to put food on their family’s table,” Testwuide told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas. “It is really affecting small businesses in their Christmas sales, and that is a huge part of people’s business success.”
Michael Denslow, a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion, said the protesters were expressing their concerns with many topics including consumerism, immigration enforcement, climate change and more.
“We’re certainly not here to target a certain business, or shame people for shopping. We are just trying to use this as an opportunity to get attention,” Denslow said. “Are we really the people you should be angry at, or should you direct that anger elsewhere?”
The group is Extinction Rebellion.
Fire dept. is dismantling the sleigh to free those who are attached around the neck with bike locks.
— Dillon Thomas (@DillonMThomas) November 29, 2019
Denslow said many people were focused on getting good deals on new items, when the best gift they could give to their loved one for the holiday was a healthy environment for the future.
“Do we need all the things we buy? Many of us have more things than we need. And, how does that consumerism affect the planet?” Denslow said.
“I totally understand that they are passionate about something. I just think it could have been done in a little more constructive of a way that more respected their community, and the people who are working today,” Testwuide said.
The protest blocked traffic for three hours, as police and firefighters worked to safely detach the protesters from the sleigh they were locked to. Instead of cutting the locks around their necks, firefighters sawed off the poles to the sleigh, freeing the protesters from their position.
Four people were arrested and cited for impeding a roadway and disobedience to a lawful officer.