DENVER (KDVR) — Protesters gathered in downtown Denver Saturday to demand charges be dropped against five people accused of barricading people inside an Aurora Police Department station in July.
Watch the protest live in the video player above.
The demonstration is taking place outside the Colorado State Capitol. It was organized by the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL).
On Thursday, the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office announced five people were each charged with at least three counts related to events that occurred on July 3 and 4.
According to the DA’s office, the night of July 3, about 600 protesters surrounded the APD District One station at 13347 E. Montview Blvd. Organizers described the event as an “occupation,” the DA’s office said.
They blocked off streets around the police station with vehicles and items from a nearby construction site, the DA’s office said.
“They prevented 18 officers inside from leaving the building by barricading entrances and securing doors with wires, ropes, boards, picnic tables and sandbags. Some members of the group carried handguns and rifles and wore military or tactical clothing,” the DA’s office said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon.
The leaders of the group were demanding two Aurora officers be fired and that no one would be allowed in or out of the building until their demands were met, according to the DA’s office.
“The officers were imprisoned inside the building for seven hours until they were dispersed by APD’s Emergency Response Team at about 3 a.m. on July 4,” the DA’s office said.
In a press release issued Friday afternoon, PSL described Thursday’s arrests as “an obvious frame-up aimed at stopping the movement for justice for Elijah McClain.”
McClain, 23, died in August 2019 after three APD officers confronted him and paramedics injected him with ketamine. He was not committing a crime and was unarmed when police approached him.
According to PSL, four of the five people arrested Thursday are members of its organization.
Two of the people arrested face one charge each of attempt to commit first-degree kidnapping. PSL described that as “bizarre and ludicrous.”
The organization said the arrests are a major political attack and that it will start a mass campaign to “defeat these phony charges and win their freedom.”
“This attack on the Denver anti-racist movement and the PSL is part of a concerted national assault on the Black Lives Matter movement, an attack driven directly from the White House, from Governor’s mansions, and from local police chiefs and police departments around the country,” PSL said in its statement. “We know that every social movement in the past has faced such repression and we will stand up to face it again. We will fight, and we will win.”
Eighteenth Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler said, “People need to be held accountable and we are in the early stages of that process. What I do know is the First Amendment does not protect you from committing crimes. That is what is being alleged here. This went way beyond anything related to a protest. I think for people out there that think law enforcement has turned a blind eye on lawless behavior we have seen too often on television, they are mistaken.”
Marc Sears, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 49, Aurora Chapter said he was pleased with the charges.
“I am proud of the command staff and Chief Wilson for taking the time to go back and utilize some of the most top-notch detectives that we have that took the time to go through all the video and identify individuals who were clearly committing crimes, some felonies,” he said.
Sears said it took some time, but he is relieved people will be held accountable for the crimes they allegedly committed.
“Once it’s all said and done, we slow down, we start looking all the video footage we have. It takes time from just a picture to be able to positively identify who these subjects are who committed these crimes. I think it’s a sigh of relief for them. For a long time, these officers were thinking, ‘You just left us out there to hang. You left us out there to dry and you didn’t do anything about it,’ but ultimately when the district attorney comes back and says, ‘No, we are going to file these charges.’ Thank you,” Sears said.
He added that he is concerned about continuing anti-police rhetoric, even from City Council members like Juan Marcano, who sent a tweet saying, “Replying to @TayAndersonCO
@leslieherod and @WoodrowForCO Tagging in. This is nothing more than the police being used as a form of social control and is exactly why me, @CoombsForAurora, @Murillo4Aurora, @JeffBridges and others have been present to bear witness. Scuffed McCarthyism rearing its ugly head once again.”
Sears said, “Just to hear some of the responses from council members and people in the community trying to almost rationalize these activists committing felonies should not be charged. It’s infuriating, just shows the lack of education they hold. I take it he is saying he is a communist, if that is in fact what he is intending to do. I think it’s disgusting someone supports the communist government when he is an elected official. It’s clear, though, he does not support the police and it’s clear he absolutely, 100% supports people who are involved in felonious activity. I really urge the citizens of Aurora to recognize you have a council member who is actively supporting somebody involved in felonious activity.”
Sears said that is causing officers to leave the force at a record pace.
“It’s caused a tremendous amount of our guys to look for other options. They are leaving in drastic rate and it’s very concerning. These are the great ones, officers of 15-20 years. You get to 15-25 years as a cop, you know what you’re doing. Those are the ones you want to keep on the street and handling calls for service. These statements council members make push them away,” he said.