BERTHOUD, Colo. (CBS4) – Demonstrators who gathered in Berthoud Sunday morning to show support for law enforcement were met with a small group of counter-protesters. Police said there was a scuffle between the groups early on, but they were separated by Berthoud officers on horseback. This comes after protests over the death of Elijah McClain turned violent Saturday night in Aurora.
The “Back the Blue” walk and rally took place at Fickel Park, on Mountain Ave (Highway 56), between 6th and 7th Streets.
Ryan Armagost organized the rally and said he hoped it would be a “small, low-key community event.”
On Thursday, Armagost wrote on Facebook, “It has grown beyond the span of my control… I organized this and I want to let everyone know that there are a lot of idiots taking this to a level that it doesn’t need to be taken, on all sides. Let’s keep this as what I originally intended for it to be please.”
He added: “…for anyone that is coming to express their political views, stay home. For anyone that is coming with any idea of fighting or confronting anyone who should oppose us, stay home. If you were coming to show force with a firearm or other display of force, stay home. This is a peaceful rally and walk to support our law enforcement.”
“We will be protected by our protectors and we will be peaceful. Let’s back the blue,” Armagost stated.
Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said his office appreciates the support and they will protect peaceful protesters.
“In America, every citizen has the right to not only have an opinion, but just as importantly, to express that opinion without fear of reprisal,” Sheriff Smith wrote on Facebook on Friday.
“After witnessing the violent attacks on citizens who want to publicly demonstrate their support for their police officers, we have to prepare for the possibility of similar acts of violence here,” Smith stated. “We hope those preparations will prove unneeded, but the nature of our business is to prepare for things we hope don’t occur.”
“As a thirty year resident of Larimer County, I don’t believe the violence that we witnessed in place like Denver, Chicago, Seattle, Minneapolis or Portland would be embraced or tolerated by citizens of our communities,” he stated.
“Be re-assured that whether a group wants to express views that support local police, demand changes in local policing or even dissolve police agencies, we will continue to protect the right to peacefully share those views,” Smith wrote. “However, if any group desires to damage or destroy property or incite violence- that behavior will not be tolerated. Events will not be allowed to turn into melees as we’ve witnessed in Denver over the last several weeks.”
Smith said it is “an absolute disgrace” that the Capitol building was damaged and defaced and “little to nothing was done to stop the destruction.”
He said the sheriff’s office will work with local police to protect protesters — “but we will not stand idly by and allow anyone to damage property or threaten the safety of others- including the peace officers of this county.”
“To all the community members who are flooding our agency with support over the last many weeks- please know that your kind actions, gifts and prayers mean the world to our staff,” the sheriff finished. “They love serving this community and your support lifts them up in these challenging times!”