Colorado Springs police arrested four protesters Saturday who were participating in a Colorado Springs Housing for All Coalition march from Dorchester Park to the city’s 150th anniversary celebration downtown.
Specialized units, including detectives and tactical officers, were on scene, said Colorado Springs Police Sgt. Jim Jeffcoat.
Protesters were “given several warnings” before they were arrested, he said.
The demonstrators received citations for alleged obstruction and interference, according to police.
Jonathan Christiansen, an organizer and one of the four arrested, said Sunday they plan to plead not guilty when they appear in municipal court.
“The police talked to us earlier at Dorchester Park and said they didn’t want to make any arrests as long as we didn’t enter the secure perimeter around the festival,” he said, “which we did not do.”
The arrests came before the marchers protesting the city’s lack of affordable housing — a group that Christiansen said numbered 60 to 75 participants — reached the downtown core, where a parade and street festival to honor the city's founding was under way.
Some were pushing shopping carts full of food, water, tents and other items they planned to distribute to the homeless.
Christiansen said a lack of sidewalks on South Tejon Street and South Nevada Avenue forced marchers to use portions of streets to walk, but they were not blocking traffic, as police indicated in their ticketing.
“They had a line of riot police set up just beyond the railroad bridge on Tejon Street and on Nevada Avenue, where all the cars had stopped, and we thought we could go,” Christiansen said.
“It seemed like they targeted some marchers,” he said, adding, “it was a series of pretty violent arrests.”
Those arrested had to be checked out by first responders, Christiansen said.
As to police giving warnings, Christiansen said it was hard to hear because police in riot gear were “so far away” and a hand-held bullhorn didn’t carry their words far enough.
“It felt like they put us in an impossible situation — we couldn’t go up Tejon or Nevada on the sidewalks,” he said. “It felt like they planned this so we wouldn’t get anywhere near the celebration.”
After the arrests, what Christiansen called “a standoff” between protesters and police occurred, and police told marchers if they stayed on the sidewalks, they could continue with their demonstration, he said.
Some did, he said, and reached a rally spot where they held banners and spoke about the city’s housing situation.
City spokeswoman Jamie Fabos said Christiansen, who is with the Chinook Center, a hub for progressive political activist groups, spent four hours with city officials last week at an affordable housing summit, with “full access to council members and city staff to discuss solutions in affordable housing.”
“I think it’s worthwhile pointing out that the Chinook Center’s planned disruption on Saturday is based on the false pretense that the city does not provide access to share ideas or dedicate significant funding toward affordable housing, which is clearly disingenuous,” she said in an email.
The city is on track to exceed its goal of adding 1,000 affordable housing units to the local market this year, officials said.