A masked protester accosted Denver Republicans preparing to take part in Sunday’s annual PrideFest Parade, yelling obscenities while attempting to remove a banner featuring a Donald Trump quotation from the county party’s parade entry, the party’s chairman told Colorado Politics.
“We were prepared for a lot of hateful rhetoric,” Denver County Republican Chairman Jake Viano said after the incident, which took place Sunday morning in the parade staging area at Cheesman Park. But Viano said he was stunned when a young woman approached the county party’s float, an Audi convertible bedecked with a Trump quotation about “protect[ing] LGBTQ citizens” printed on a rainbow flag background.
“We had just started rolling with the parade and were handing out literature, when all of a sudden this young lady rolls up, all dressed in black and throws her face mask on and starts yelling,” Viano said, quoting a near-constant stream of obscenities, “as three others dressed just like her stood on the periphery. Then she grabbed our lit out of the vehicle, along with a black bag and a glass bottle of juice — she grabbed that and threw it on the ground, breaking the glass.”
Viano said bystanders helped retrieve the county party’s fliers, which reproduced the same Trump quotation depicted on the banners: “‘As president, I will do everything in my power to protect LGBTQ citizens from attacks from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.’ Donald Trump, July 21, 2016, at the RNC.”
The woman tried to rip one of the banners from the side of the car but was unsuccessful, he said.
People accompanying a neighboring parade float pulled aside a couple of the women, Viano said, and told them to “stop this nonsense.”
Soon the women — “your typical Antifas,” Viano said, describing them as white women in their early 20s with short-cropped hair, clad all in blank with bandanas covering their faces — started heading south, away from the parade route. Viano said he had a 911 dispatcher on the phone for roughly 15 minutes as he followed the women while attempting to describe his location but later returned to the parade when the police never showed up.
“We appreciate the police and the job that they do, but we really would have appreciated a response,” Viano said. “We didn’t see anyone on foot or on bicycle, and they never called me back.”
Viano said he plans to file a police report.
“They were trying their best to quash our First Amendment rights, while we were using our First Amendment rights to show that we do not hate them,” Viano said.
The Denver Police Department’s on-call public information officer didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry from Colorado Politics on Sunday afternoon.
Viano said the Denver Republicans’ float was received well on the parade route, which traveled along East Colfax Avenue to the state Capitol.
“We had a warm welcome,” he said. “There were a couple sneers and jeers, but overall there were a lot of dropped jaws – ‘Wow, the Republicans don’t hate gays!’”
Colorado Republican Party Chairman Jeff Hays was quick to condemn the incident.
“This thug represents what we oppose: those who would resort to physical violence to take away our God-given freedoms, stifle our expression and rob us of our rights without having the moral courage to show who they really are,” Hays said in a statement.
Viano said he the altercation saddened him as much as anything.
“It’s sad the degree of polarization we’ve reached in this country politically,” he told Colorado Politics. “Ultimately, Democrats and Republicans equally love their country just as much. We just have different philosophies. I would like to see the American people come together to work in conjunction to move this country forward in a positive way.”
He added that the Denver Republicans will continue participating in future parades.
“They’re not scaring me off,” he said, noting that he was handing out fliers along the parade route and at the PrideFest for hours.