The Colorado legislature will not be in session on Friday or Saturday as planned after destructive protests in downtown Denver on Thursday night in response to the death of a black man during a confrontation with police in Minnesota.
House Speaker KC Becker, D-Boulder, and Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, confirmed the decision to The Colorado Sun late Thursday.
“It’s best to let there be space and time for the protests to play out,” Becker said in an interview.
During the demonstration, the Capitol building was defaced by graffiti and vehicles around its perimeter were damaged, including a pickup truck belonging to Senate President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo. A vehicle that appeared to belong to the Colorado State Patrol was also heavily damaged.
Gunfire erupted during the protest, as well, apparently aimed in the direction of the Capitol. No one was injured.
Several lawmakers were observing the protest when the shots rang out.
Becker said she was under a shelter-in-place order for hours because of the shooting. She said she was on a call with the governor and heard the shots.
The legislature returned on Tuesday after a pause of more than two months because of the coronavirus crisis. Lawmakers were planning on using Friday and Saturday to tackle the state’s budget, which has been crippled by the economic affects of the pandemic.
The Colorado General Assembly was only planning on being in session for about three weeks to limit legislators’ risk of exposure to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The delay in response to the protest could elongate the lawmaking term.
Becker said it’s possible lawmakers could extend their return to the Capitol because of the delay prompted by the protests. But, she said, “we don’t want to keep dragging out the session.”
Colorado leaders expressed dismay at the destruction caused by protesters.
“Tonight is a very sad night for our state,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement in response to the demonstration. “Coloradans are better than this.”
The state’s court system also announced that the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center, which houses the Colorado Supreme Court, the Colorado Court of Appeals and the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, will be closed until Monday as a result of the demonstrations.
The protest was in response to the death of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis on Monday after an officer knelt on his neck. A video recording of the encounter showed Floyd saying that he couldn’t breath and asking for help.
The Denver demonstrators were met with what appeared to be tear gas. One protester was hit by a car whose driver fled the scene, a video posted to Twitter showed.