In response to George Floyd protests growing increasingly violent, Denver Mayor Hancock announced additional steps the city will be taking to protect the public, police, and public and private property amid the demonstrations.
The death of Floyd, a black male, at the hands of white Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day has sparked outrage across the country and in Denver, where two nights of protests have devolved into chaotic riots met with tear gas and pepper bullets from police.
“We’ve had enough,” Hancock, the city's second black mayor, said during a press conference Saturday in front of the City and County Building, whose windows have been covered with wooden boards after being shattered during the protests.
"We hoped we would not have to take these steps," he said, "but the aggressive actions taken by some has made it necessary."
A citywide curfew will go into effect Saturday from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., and remain in place until Monday, he said. The curfew will be enforced, and violators face up to a $999 fine or 300 days in jail, city attorney Kristin Bronson said during the press conference. Limited enforcement exceptions will be made for a small group of people, including those who are homeless, traveling to work or fleeing danger.
“Once 8 p.m. hits, our message is very simple," Hancock said. "Go home.”
The mayor said Gov. Jared Polis has also called in the Colorado National Guard to provide extra support.
"Mayor Hancock has requested the support of the National Guard to help keep people safe and prevent further destruction and I have granted that request,” Polis said in a statement Saturday.
"Today is a new day and it is my hope and the hope of all Coloradans that any future demonstrations remain peaceful," he said. "To those peacefully protesting at a safe social distance, know that I see you and I am listening."
Additionally, the city will be activating its Emergency Operations Center to respond specifically to the protest activity, bringing in backup from surrounding police agencies, and installing additional fencing around multiple facilities as well as boarding up multiple broken windows.
Hancock said Saturday that he signed an emergency declaration that will free up more resources to "deal with these challenges."
His actions, he said, have been guided in part by conversations he had last night and this morning with mayors from across the country, from Los Angeles to Louisville, Kentucky, many of whom are "doing exactly what we've had to do."
"We are all thinking about how we keep our people safe," he said. "And unfortunately, at a time when we're all trying to navigate the impacts of COVID-19, we have to take these type of very difficult, challenging steps to protect our people and to protect our law enforcement and to protect property."
Denver public safety director Murphy Robinson, who is also black, announced during the press conference that he would be hosting a virtual protest meeting via Zoom to bring people together and "have conversations about what we're seeing."
The meeting can be accessed this evening on the Denver government website, he said.
According to Sonny Jackson, a spokesman for the police department, 32 arrests were made during protests the past two nights. On Friday night, there were 19 arrests.
A total of 10 firearms have been seized, Jackson said, including three assault rifles.
Hancock and Pazen both acknowledged that the violence and vandalism are being carried out by a small group of individuals who are "hijacking" Floyd's death to advance a violent agenda.
"Attempting to capitalize on this tragic killing of Mr. George Floyd to cause widespread damage in our city in nearly as inexcusable as the horrific killing itself," Pazen said.
As a result, there is "significant damage," not only to city and state property, Pazen said, "but unfortunately to our private businesses that are already struggling as a result of the pandemic that has caused an economic crisis, and that it is very harmful to the people of Denver who believe in helping rebuild after this terrible virus that has caused such great harm and loss of life to our community."
Hancock asked reporters to "accept the challenge" of documenting damage to some of the city's most iconic buildings, including the McNichols Civic Center Building, Carnegie Library, Greek Amphitheatre, Denver Post and Wellington E. Webb Municipal Office buildings.
In closing, Hancock said, all precautions being taken this weekend are about safety.
"This is about making sure that we keep the people of Denver safe and that we continue to elevate and illuminate the message around George Floyd," he said, "and the reason why these demonstrations are taking place in our city as well."