On Memorial Day, something happened in Minneapolis that would change that city—and the country: George Floyd was killed. During a police arrest, an officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes as Floyd repeatedly said that he couldn’t breathe. The officers involved in Floyd’s death were fired, and charges against the police officer who’d knelt on Floyd’s neck (seen in a widely circulated video) were filed on Friday. By then parts of Minneapolis were burning and demonstrations had spread across the country.
In Denver, protests began on Thursday, when thousands of demonstrators took to the streets near the state Capitol and clashed with police forces. On the first night of violence, a car ran over a protester, police deployed tear gas and rubber bullets, and 13 people were arrested. As protests grew in size and energy throughout the weekend, the city declared a state of emergency, RTD shut down bus and light rail service to downtown, and many businesses and restaurants reduced hours or closed.
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By Saturday, Mayor Michael Hancock had implemented a city-wide curfew that has been extended through Friday (for more information on the city’s curfew, click here), and Gov. Jared Polis authorized the use of the Colorado National Guard to control demonstrations.
On Monday, the city reported that 284 people had been arrested—174 on Sunday alone—in connection with the protests.
“We’re determined to continue to support peaceful demonstrations so people’s calls for change and justice can be heard,” Hancock said in a press release on May 31. “But if anyone attempts to hijack these protests to incite violence and vandalism, we will do everything we can to stop it.” Beyond tear gas and rubber bullets, police officers are increasingly resembling SWAT units with armored vehicles and full body armor.
Violence has dominated the headlines, but organizers including a Black Lives Matter member known as “Q” and Denver School Board director Tay Anderson have worked to keep protests peaceful—even at the expense of their own safety. On Saturday, hundreds of protestors laid face down in front of the Capitol, chanting “I can’t breathe,” during a demonstration that drew national attention.
And while Floyd’s death inspired these recent conversations and protests, it is not where the story of law enforcement violence and racial inequality begins. Denver, specifically, has a long history. Names like Jessie Hernandez, Paul Childs, and Marvin Booker have not been forgotten by Denverites.
Keep Reading: All of 5280‘s protest-related coverage can be found here.