Denver Mayor Michael Hancock addresses protests

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Chief of Police Paul Pazen took to the City Hall steps Sunday afternoon to ask protesters to make their voices heard peacefully, then go home after 8 p.m. tonight. 

Denver will mandate a curfew for a second night, following three nights of increasing unrest and violence, with demonstrations in opposition to police brutality during the day turning into clashes between police and demonstrators who have vandalized Denver’s capitol area. 

The violence peaked late Saturday night, after the first 8 p.m. curfew, when a motorist ran down three police officers and a bystander.

“If you are coming down to be a part of a demonstration today, we invite you to go home at 8 p.m., if not sooner so you’re off the streets at 8 p.m.,” Mayor Hancock said. “Let’s not have another night like we’ve had the last few nights.”

The curfew will remain in effect until 5 a.m. Monday.

Mayor Hancock thanked the demonstrators who have raised “the issues that we also care deeply about,” notably the pursuit of justice for George Floyd, an African American man killed by a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck for nine minutes, as other officers watched. 

Hancock distinguished between the peaceful protests that took place during the day, and those who “simply wanted to cause problems.”

A total of five officers were injured Saturday night, Hancock said, after the curfew went into effect Saturday.

Police Chief Pazen said there is an investigation into the hit-and-run motorist, and they are looking for a particular vehicle. The incident sent three officers to the hospital. Two officers have been released and the third is expected to recover. 

“We see you, we hear you and want to work with you for meaningful change,” Pazen said. “We are outraged and disgusted by the death of George Floyd, however, when the behavior of a few agitators impacts the safety of others, we must do what we can to keep everyone safe.” 

Asked about reports of unprovoked or unwarranted police force, specifically tear gas, Chief Pazen said the department’s use of force policy is clear and was created with community input.

“Active aggression is that threshold to use tear gas,” Pazen said. “This is the community’s use of force policy, with input from activists and allies in order to design a very strong and progressive use of force policy, and we will hold all of the members of our department to that policy.”

Pazen said more than 80 people were arrested Saturday night for curfew violations, assault, destruction of property, criminal mischief and felony weapons violations. 

Mayor Hancock thanked all the police officers who supported the city’s efforts, as well as the National Guard troops who have been deployed to help. 

Hancock thanked the hundreds of volunteers who showed up Sunday morning unsolicited to help clean up the damage, trash and graffiti left behind by the protests. He said others have reached out and offered to do the same. He invited anyone who wants to help clean the area to come Monday morning at 8 a.m. 

Hancock and Pazen’s comments had to compete with the rumble of another large group of protesters rallied across Bannock Street at Civic Center Park, as well as with a small group of protesters who shouted over them from behind a fenced perimeter surrounding City Hall.

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