DENVER — A day after a protest in Denver turned violent, Mayor Michael Hancock and other city leaders said they support and encourage the rights of citizens to protest, but urged them to do so peacefully so that their messages of change don't get lost.
"Like many in our community, I am outraged at the senseless murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. His life matters," Hancock said. "I am proud that many in Denver have wanted to join the chorus of those across the country demanding justice and consequences for his life being taken too early."
Floyd, an unarmed black man, died while in police custody in Minnesota. A video shared widely around the country shows a white officer kneeling on his neck for several minutes while Floyd is heard saying he can't breathe.
Friday morning it was announced that the officer in the video, who had already been fired, was arrested.
"I sat there and watched it [the video]. I had the same reaction. Painful," Hancock said. "They need to be brought to justice. I'm glad an arrest was made. I don't know what more you needed to see that George Floyd was murdered on that street."
Hancock and Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen spoke together Friday, a day after an hours-long protest over the death of Floyd in downtown Denver turned violent. During the protest, 13 people were arrested for a variety of crimes including assault and burglary, according to Pazen. Three officers were injured, including one who went to the hospital for treatment of a laceration after being hit with a rock, he said.
Problems appeared to begin around 5:30 p.m., according to Pazen, when someone fired several gunshots, which caused the large crowd to scatter into smaller groups. No one was hurt and no suspects have been identified.
Sky9 video showed after the shots were fired that protesters split into multiple groups. One of them marched down the 16th Street Mall and toward Interstate 25 via 20th Street, where they ultimately crowded onto the highway and blocked traffic.
The highway was closed at roughly 7 p.m. and reopened about 30 minutes later. Others in the group became violent; during the evening, vehicles were vandalized and parts of the state capitol building were spray painted.
"This was caused primarily by a few agitators within the group that were throwing rocks, setting fires and causing damage to our businesses community," Pazen said. "In response, our officers deployed less lethal means to disperse the crowd."
He said officers showed up to protect the protesters and were initially not wearing riot gear, but were forced to put it on and later used non-lethal in response to the actions of group members.
"The tipping point on this was officers having rocks hurled at them," Pazen said. "We had an officer who was hit in the head with a rock, and [he] was taken to Denver Health Medical Center, where he stayed for several hours."
Pazen said that officer is doing well and that most of the violence was from a small group of bad actors.
"Showing up to a protest with baseball bats and hitting our business sector and engaging in violence with other protesters is not what this is all about," Pazen said. "It devalues the message. It takes away from the loss of life, the tragic loss of life that gathered to have their voices heard."
A video taken near the Capitol showed a driver apparently swerve in an effort to hit a protester who was hanging on the hood of the vehicle.
A cell phone video, which has been shared widely across the country, shows a driver moving through one group walking on Broadway near Colfax Avenue and apparently intentionally hitting a protester.
Pazen said Friday, they have yet to identify the driver or the victim in the video but said they said they have some pretty good leads about the identity of the person in the car.
"We don't have a victim at this time, we're asking the public's health to identify this person so we can ensure they get medical attention," he said.
> In the video below, police launch tear gas while 9NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger reports outside the Capitol Thursday night.
Before wrapping up the briefing, Hancock reminded everyone about the novel coronavirus and said the face covering requirement is still in effect and efforts should be made to social distance.
He fought back tears with his final message, reiterating the need for the protests to remain peaceful.
"For every step we take, let's remind ourselves of his last words, 'I can not breathe, I can't breathe, momma help me,'" Hancock said. "And let's remind ourselves that as a community, we still battle this disease of hatred and racism, and it's going to be us who have to stay united and get through it."
Late Friday afternoon, the County Sheriffs of Colorado and the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police released a statement condemning the actions of the officers who responded to arrest Floyd.
"Our organizations are appalled by the indefensible use of force and lack of intervention by other officers on the scene that led to George Floyd's death. These officers must be held legally accountable for their actions, and inactions, that were inconsistent with any legitimate training and procedures of our profession. Incidents like this undermine efforts of law enforcement everywhere to build community trust with those we have sworn to serve and protect."
The County Sheriffs of Colorado is an association that provides education and professional assistance and promotes unity to enable sheriffs to best serve and protect the people of Colorado.
The Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police is a professional organization committed to serving the law enforcement community and the citizens of Colorado.
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