In the midst of the third day of protests in Denver over the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Minneapolis man who died after being arrested by police there, Mayor Michael Hancock is enacting an 8 p.m. curfew for the city for the next two nights, and also bringing in reinforcements from regional law enforcement agencies and the National Guard.
"What happened in our city last night — a city we all love, a city still working to keep safe from the coronavirus pandemic, to recover economically — what happened was reckless, inexcusable and unacceptable," Hancock said at a May 30 press conference held at 1 p.m. in front of a vandalized City and County Building.
Beginning May 28, protesters have gathered in downtown Denver to demonstrate against the killing of Floyd, whose death has led to the arrest of the Minneapolis police officer who kept his knee on Floyd's neck, despite his saying, "I can't breathe." While those Denver protests have been peaceful at times, they have also been marked by tense confrontations between demonstrators and Denver police, along with vandalism.
During today's press conference, Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said, "Sadly, a few number of agitators are inciting violence and causing destruction in our community." He added that police have arrested individuals involved in protests in recent days for crimes like arson, burglary and damage of property; at least three assault rifles were also brought to the protests.
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With some protesters hurling rocks at police officers, the department has been deploying what it refers to as "less lethal force" to disperse crowds. Police officers have launched tear gas canisters at demonstrators, and also fired pepper-spray balls from paintball guns. They have also shot foam canisters at individuals when a "higher level of force is being used against the officers," Pazen noted.
The Denver curfew will run from 8 p.m. tonight to 5 a.m. tomorrow, and again from 8 p.m. Sunday to 5 a.m. Monday, June 1.
"We cannot destroy our city. The agitators who are vandalizing and looting are sending the wrong message," said Kristin Bronson, the city attorney. This is the first time "in recent memory" that the city has instituted such a curfew, she said. Violations will be punishable by up to 300 days in jail and $999 in fines.
There are some exemptions to the curfew: law enforcement officials, journalists, people traveling to and from work, and people traveling to and from the airport (which will remain open). Those fleeing dangerous situations, those experiencing homelessness, and individuals who need medical care for themselves or their families are also exempt, Bronson added.
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The curfew applies to all public places in the city, including roads, highways, parks and sidewalks, and affects people traveling on foot or using any other mode of transportation.
Colorado National Guard members will be deployed to downtown Denver to assist with enforcement. And local law enforcement agencies will be helping Denver police to enforce the curfew.
"Help us keep this community safe. Don't allow these individual agitators to hijack your message. Don't allow them to scar this beautiful city that the people of Denver have built," Pazen said.
Murphy Robinson, who became the city's executive director of Public Safety, which oversees the police, fire and sheriff's department, announced that he'll be hosting a virtual protest on Zoom tonight that will be accessible through the city website.