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Denver police form a line on Lincoln Street before launching tear gas canisters and pepper balls into the crowd of protesters on May 30, 2020. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)

Police arrested 83 people who they say violated Denver’s 8 p.m. curfew Saturday night, a rule put in place in attempt to keep protesters from causing more damage and clashing with officers.

Denver police say they recovered a gun and a baseball bat from demonstrators as well. Those arrested also face charges for damaging property, illegal weapons possession and “throwing missiles,” authorities said.

The 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, announced Saturday by Mayor Michael Hancock, is in place until Monday morning.

Saturday was the third night of destructive protests in Denver in response to the death last week of a black man in Minneapolis at the hands of police. George Floyd died after an officer kneeled on his neck for about nine minutes.

Protests in Denver, which have been centered around the Colorado Capitol, have stayed relatively peaceful until around nightfall. The past three nights, protesters have clashed with officers after dark. Police have fired less-lethal projectiles and tear gas at demonstrators.

Stores and government buildings have been damaged and there have been reports of looting in the downtown Denver area. On Saturday night, fires were set in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Demonstrators clashed with police at the Colorado Capitol on Saturday, May 30, 2020, in a third day of response to George Floyd’s death at the hands of police in Minnesota. (Joe Mahoney, Special to The Colorado Sun

During a press conference Sunday afternoon, Hancock reiterated that he will not tolerate property being damaged.

“What happened in our city last night, a city we all love, the city still working to keep safe from the coronavirus pandemic, and to recover economically … was reckless, inexcusable and unacceptable,” he said. 

Hancock also said he wants to make it clear that those who took part in the demonstrations near the Capital and marching through the streets of the city on Saturday were not the same people who participated in the nighttime mayhem.

“We had three successful demonstrations yesterday, where people expressed their outrage over the death of George Floyd, without any violence or destructive acts,” Hancock said.

He added that he is not going to wait for the incidents to escalate further. The city has activated its Emergency Operation Center to support and monitor the public safety response any protests planned over the next several days. He’s also calling in regional law enforcement partners.

“We’ve asked them to assist us with additional resources, and they have agreed, and they are deploying resources to the city of Denver,” said Hancock.

He also said he has signed an emergency declaration that frees up city resources to “deal with the effects of these challenges brought on by these awful and violent protests.”

Demonstrators responding to the killing of George Floyd at the hand of four Minnesota police officers earlier in the week flooded downtown Denver to protest on Saturday, May 30, 2020. It was the third day of protests in Denver. (Joe Mahoney, Special to The Colorado Sun)

The Colorado National Guard will be deployed again Sunday night to maintain public safety and “protect infrastructure and property in the downtown area,” Hancock said.

Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen condemned the four officers in Minneapolis involved in the killing of George Floyd. 

“The vile actions of four officers in Minneapolis has caused great harm to this profession,” he said. “And we stand with our arm extended and our hands open to work with this community, to do better.”

But he said the vandalism and damage done to downtown was unacceptable.

“A few agitators and instigators, again, chose to throw rocks, bottles, large fireworks at our officers,” Pazen said. “They showed up to what were intended to be peaceful protests with items that you don’t protest with. Crowbars are not part of a peaceful protest. Baseball bats are not part of a peaceful protest. And, certainly, bringing handguns, assault rifles and ammunition are not part of a peaceful protest.”

Pazan said during the news conference that investigators have located the “vehicle of interest” police say struck and injured three officers and a civilian Saturday night on Logan Street near East Colfax Avenue.

Two of the three injured officers have been released from a hospital. The third remained hospitalized on Sunday morning but is expected to make a full recovery.

Police did not release information on the condition of the civilian.

Colorado Supreme Court closed

The Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center, where the Colorado Supreme Court, Colorado Court of Appeals and Colorado Attorney General’s Office is housed, is closed because of damage sustained over the past few days.

Windows on the first floor of the building were smashed and graffiti was sprayed on the building’s exterior.

Rob McCallum, a spokesman for the state’s judicial system, said the building is closed until further notice.

A spray-painted statue with a sign in front of the Colorado State Capitol building in Denver during the third day of protests against police brutality on May 30, 2020. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)

The Colorado Capitol has also sustained significant damage during the demonstrations. It, too, has had windows smashed out and graffiti sprayed on its exterior.

The legislature cancelled plans for a weekend lawmaking session as a result of the demonstrations.

Demonstrators gather Sunday, clean up

Protesters began gathering at the Capitol again on Sunday at midday. Many were in the area to clean up debris left from Saturday’s events.

“Activists are working really hard to ensure people know these protesters care about our communities,” tweeted Michal Rose, who joined the cleanup efforts.

A worker cleans up graffiti in Denver’s Civic Center Park on May 31, 2020, following a night of protests against racism and police violence. (John Ingold, The Colorado Sun)

Hays Nash, a 21-year-old student at Metropolitan State University of Denver, said he watched Saturday’s protests from his apartment in student housing downtown.

Nash said he thought the protests during the day were amazing and said he supports their aim. But he said he was disgusted to see the property damage caused by some in the crowd Saturday night.

Waking up Sunday morning, he decided to grab a broom and a dustpan and head out to clean up trash. By mid-morning, he was on Sherman Street south of the state Capitol, picking up rocks to keep them from being thrown in further protests.

“If they can destroy our city, we can clean it up,” he said.

By nightfall, as the curfew went into effect, police and protesters were clashing again in the area around downtown. Officers deployed pepper spray and less-lethal projectiles to try and disperse demonstrators.

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....