Denver protest 052920

Protesters blocked the intersection at 14th and Lincoln streets on Friday, May 29, 2020, in the second day of protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The protests of justice in Denver are not just a fight over how George Floyd died in Minneapolis, but the looming boiling point over how people are treated by the system.

That feeling of anguish and discontent is right at home in the Mile High City, where black men and women have been the victims of police brutality, and officials have had to put back together the public trust.

Protesters paused on a march through the capital city's downtown Friday long enough to chant, "Shame on you!" at the City and County Building, as the second day of unrest unfolded in Colorado, after the death of the Minnesota man sparked violent protests across the country. In a tweet early Friday, the president threatened to order police to shoot looters.

The crowd in Denver was divided up from those seeking justice and those seeking to cause trouble. 

The state Capitol lay in wake of the violence and outrage, where some protesters on Thursday became vandals, smashing windows, spray-painting graffiti and damaging vehicles, including a state patrol car and the personal pickup truck of Senate President Leroy Garcia, a Marine who served in Iraq and a paramedic in Pueblo, besides his part-time service in the legislature.

Garcia wondered Friday how he would pay for the damage that neither his personal insurance or the Capitol's would cover.

Denver's mayor and public safety director expressed empathy with protesters and urged calm.

Murphy Robinson, said he was outraged by what officers did in Minneapolis, and "I stand in solidarity with all who are demanding justice."

Mayor Michael Hancock called Floyd's death "senseless and tragic" on Twitter this week.

“Nothing short of murder charges for all involved will bring any element of justice to this situation,” Hancock said.

The state legislature reconvened only Tuesday from its pause for the pandemic, enacted in mid-March. They went on break again Friday and called off a Saturday session because of the protests.

In a statehouse deeply divided over policies and pandemics, there was some agreement about the nature and scale of this moment in racial justice — although one preceded by so many other names and moments.

"What happened to George Floyd was awful and horrendous," House Republican leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock told Colorado Politics on Friday. "I am glad President Trump has ordered the FBI to expedite its investigation. However, criminal violence in Denver was not the right response. I hope both are fully prosecuted."

Lawmakers under the gold dome already were facing monumental tasks: helping Colorado through the massive health crisis that's taken 1,168 lives here and infected 25,121 Coloradans as of Thursday afternoon, as well as a state budget that has to be cut by one-quarter of the state operating funds, because of the subsequent economic collapse.

"This has been a session unlike any other,' said House Speaker KC Becker, a Democrat from Boulder, trying to hold together the pieces of state government. "From an unprecedented global health emergency to the chaotic flashpoint of a centuries-long struggle for justice, we’ve had everything but business as usual at the General Assembly this year.

"But being a democratically elected representative means governing through whatever may come our way, and that’s exactly what we’ll keep on doing. We’ve been forced to pause and delay our schedule, but our work has gone on. I’m committed to taking responsible steps to ensure Colorado gets back on track and back on its feet, all while putting health and safety first and taking into consideration the needs and demands of the people who elected us to office."

The Regional Transportation District on Friday suspended bus and rail service into and out of downtown until further notice because of the protests.

The transit agency said in a statement Friday, predicting protests would draw at least 2,000 people Friday and perhaps 10,000 on Saturday.

"RTD has made these decisions to ensure the safety of our staff and our riders," the agency said in a statement Friday.

U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, a Democrat from Aurora and an Army combat veteran, said communities were in pain Friday for the victims of racial violence.

"They hurt for George Floyd, for Breonna Taylor, for Ahmaud Arbery, and for so many men and women of color who have been deemed lesser by our society," he said. "We see this pain on full display as protests occur in Denver and cities across the U.S.

“This is bigger than the officers in Minneapolis or our criminal justice system, it is about the systemic racism that is embedded in our society. And while our country’s history is larger than any president sitting in the Oval Office, President Trump’s words matter. They matter because instead of healing our country, he seeks to divide it. By suggesting violence be taken on protestors who decry our country’s unequal system while supporting those protesting stay-at-home orders, the President’s tweets show who he thinks does and doesn’t matter in America. We can and must be better than that.”

The Colorado Democratic Party released statements from leaders Friday afternoon.

“We grieve for the family and loved ones of George Floyd and stand in solidarity with those calling for justice here in Colorado and across the country," party chair Morgan Carroll said in a statement. "Make no mistake, George Floyd was murdered. While many across our state may want or wish for things to just ‘settle down’ and ‘get back to normal’ — we have to recognize that for millions of people born and raised in the United States, this justified fear of violence from law enforcement is their normal. Our country must act to ensure this never happens again. We must change the status quo.”

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