DENVER (CBS4)– The state Legislature cancelled work Friday in anticipation of more protests at the state Capitol. On Thursday night, demonstrations turned violent and protesters caused a lot of damage to the state Capitol and surrounding businesses in downtown Denver.
The session was supposed to be over but was delayed because of the COVID-19 closure. Lawmakers came back to pass a budget but the events Thursday and Friday will change the course of the session, launching racism, discrimination and police accountability to the forefront.
A rally involving a few dozen people on Thursday turned into a march involving hundreds of people after a gunman opened fire on a group of Black Lives Matter demonstrators.
Rep. Leslie Herod was nearly hit by a bullet that pierced a window at the state Capitol. Rioters also wrote graffiti on the building, smashed windows, slashed tires and damaged police vehicles.
Herod says people are reacting to decades of police brutality, “What I know is that people are hurting, people are frustrated and people are angry and that is showing.”
They had come to the state Capitol, she says, to protest peacefully but, after shots were fired, protesters grew angry and violent. Senate President Leroy Garcia was inside as his truck was destroyed outside. Concerned for his safety, Colorado State Patrol lead him out through underground tunnels.
“The truck is important and it’s sad but I think the bigger context of what is going on in this country is what we really need to look at. And the fact that communities are losing trust with law enforcement,” says Garcia. “this isn’t just what’s going on in other states, this is what is happening in our own backyards and a failure to address the root cause, will mean that we see this play out more and more.”
Rep. Jonathan Singer, who was also outside the state Capitol when shots were fired, says no bill will make someone not be racist but there are bills that can hold racists accountable.
Herod says she will bring them in the coming days, “I hope we’re going to say enough is enough but quite frankly, I need my white allies to step up and say, ‘We’re done with this’ and when I talk about my white allies, I mean members of my own caucus as well. I am not asking for anything above and beyond. What I am asking for is for law enforcement officers held to a reasonable standard.”
Thirteen people were arrested in downtown Denver during Thursday night’s protests over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said the charges of those arrested range from burglary to criminal mischief to assault.
Three officers were also injured on Thursday night, and one had to go to the hospital. That officer’s injuries are not life threatening.