Portland and Seattle, meet Denver and Aurora.
For the sixth consecutive year, supporters of Colorado’s law enforcement gathered in Civic Center Park on the third Sunday in July for the permitted, Pro-Police Rally Colorado. Unlike in past years, 2020’s Law Enforcement Appreciation Day event on July 19 was no family-friendly affair. Rather, it was marred by violence and chaos.
Extremists within Black Lives swarmed the amphitheater, disrupted the gathering and shut down the festivities. Police officers entered at about the same time, maybe hoping to prevent things from getting out of hand even as they hadn’t prevented the “protesters” from crossing into the park and then the amphitheater.
Rallygoers barely enjoyed one song when disrupters banging pots and pans, sounding sirens and blowing bubbles entered the area. After the Pledge of Allegiance and invocation, the band resumed its next song for maybe a minute before it became impossible to play. Fights immediately broke out. Denver police did virtually nothing, breaking up a few scuffles, arresting a single individual and using two or three pepper balls after most of the rallygoers had gone.
Police took a similar hands-off approach in Aurora this past Saturday when roughly 150 “protesters” remained after several hundred marched earlier.
Predictably, things got violent as extremists set fire to the Aurora Municipal Court, pulled plywood boards off buildings and shattered dozens of windows with sledgehammers and two-by-fours. They used the plywood as shields, set off fireworks and destroyed a fence outside police headquarters. They took over intersections, forbade cars from driving forward and forced them to take U-turns for over an hour. There were no arrests at the time; no force whatsoever was used.
In both Denver and Aurora, vandals and assailants got away with it. The notable exception is the arrest and charging Tuesday of Samuel Young. Mr. Young stands accused of attempted murder when he fired a weapon six times at a jeep as it crossed through Saturday’s protest on I-225. He shot two other marchers.
I am wondering if the driver of the jeep was fleeing an experience similar to others who reported being blocked, accosted and terrorized at Alameda and 225. Accounts from that unlawful “checkpoint” are genuinely horrific, with families reportedly being held captive in their cars and threatened by “protesters.”
What we are seeing in both cities is a growing example of the chaos and mayhem sweeping the nation, enveloping big cities like Portland, Seattle and Chicago. Now, it’s here at home.
The brazenness of these extremists to assault a peaceful and permitted assembly in Denver, decimate a courthouse in Aurora, threaten and attack families and vandalize and intimidate with abandon shows how emboldened they are. They know they will almost never face consequences. And somehow, they keep showing up at protest after protest — and get violent whether police react or not.
In an interview for my webshow Tuesday, Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman put it right: “Weakness invites aggression. In other words, if you portray yourself as weak, you merely increase the chances of being attacked...We have to demonstrate strength and resolve.”
Coffman suggested “perhaps” Saturday’s inaction by Aurora police was an “overreaction” due to the strife that overtook a massive protest on June 27, when the police strategy “didn’t work very well.”
No “perhaps” necessary. The incidents in Denver and Aurora are unquestionably an overcorrection for wrongs inflicted by police in both cities before. But while change in policing is needed, inaction in the face of violent onslaughts is literally destructive and harmful. As Coffman put it, “Our police have made mistakes, and we’re working through that, moving forward, making reforms. But we can never compromise public safety in moving forward.”
While most Black Lives Matter advocates sincerely desire change — a call I have broadly supported — violent elements have taken control. Peaceful BLM supporters with genuine goals have been rendered irrelevant. Sadly, the more this mayhem goes on and sucks out all the air from the discussion, the more it will suffocate calls for reasonable and needed reform.
The more these incidents go unabated, the more common they will become. Gov. Polis, Mayors Hancock and Coffman, the Denver and Aurora city councils and police chiefs Pazen and Wilson must take resolute action. Anything less is an affront to the people they serve. If our officials keep failing to do their jobs, more harm and even death will come.