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Dozens drive through Denver to ask for help with rent during pandemic

The protesters taped signs to their cars and honked their horns throughout the city during the socially distant protest.

DENVER — People around Colorado aren’t just worried about getting sick, many without a job now also wonder how they are going to pay rent. Dozens of cars drove around Denver Saturday afternoon honking in protest to demand help from the government.

Most protests don't usually involve sitting in cars with masks on holding signs out the windows, but in a time unlike any other, a sign hanging on from the side of a car speaks to the fears echoed by so many around the state.

"If you can’t work, you can’t pay your rent," said Sage Gilbert, one of the protesters. "I am without a job, my friend is on unemployment, I’ve had to move back in with my parents."

Gilbert was studying and working abroad with a Fullbright grant before the pandemic brought him back home. Now he’s without a job.

"Before that I was working as a barista," said Gilbert. "Obviously I can’t go back to being a barista, a lot of the shops are closed."

Gilbert isn’t alone, dozens of cars drove through the streets of Denver Saturday, each honking a message to state leaders that people need help making rent.

"The fact of the matter is if we can’t work we can’t pay rent," said Russell Ruch, one of the organizers of the Cancel Rent protest. "A lot of people are faced with a Catch-22 situation. Should I prioritize my health and safety or should I go to work and risk getting sick just so I can afford a roof over my head."

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The demonstrators were asking state leaders to cancel rent, use vacant apartments to house the homeless, and release ICE detainees because of COVID-19 fears.  

"We’re out here having a peaceful car rally," said Bruno Tapia, another organizer. "We’re all draining our savings pretty much. We’re all just trying to survive whatever way we can."

Denver City Council has asked Governor Jared Polis to freeze rent, though Polis has said he does not have the power to do that. Polis has asked that the government work with property owners and renters to stop evictions.

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