DENVER, CO — Hundreds of people continued to protest in Denver Saturday night even after a citywide curfew went into effect at 8 p.m. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced an emergency declaration Saturday afternoon amid violent protests in the city, which have left many city and private buildings vandalized.
The Colorado National Guard and police officers were able to create a blockade and keep most protesters away from the Capitol Saturday night, but hundreds of people continued to march on Denver's downtown streets. Video footage and photos posted on social media show dumpster fires, fireworks and broken windows.
The driver of a Jeep tried to run over protesters near Grant Street and East 13th Avenue, according to multiple reports.
Officers were able to clear most crowds from the downtown area by 10 p.m., but many protesters moved into surrounding neighborhoods.
Three Denver officers and a civilian were severely injured in a hit-and-run in the city's Uptown neighborhood, but it's unclear whether the crash is connected with the protests.
The mayor announced the curfew would be in effect between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Several hours after the announcement, hundreds of protesters were seen marching in downtown Denver and chanting "F*** the curfew, we want justice!"
Those who defy the curfew could be fined up to $999 or face jail time. Exemptions for the curfew include emergency personnel, people who need to travel to and from work or the airport, the media, those who are homeless and people who are seeking medical care, city officials said.
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The mayor and Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen held a news conference Saturday afternoon to address the ongoing protests in the city.
“What happened in our city last night – a city we love, a city we are still working to keep safe from a pandemic – was reckless, inexcusable and unacceptable,” the mayor said. “We cannot and we will not continue to put the lives of residents, peaceful protesters and law enforcement at risk. We are taking additional steps to help keep people safe and protect public and private property in Denver.
"What does this mindless destruction achieve? Whose life are you honoring when you loot businesses in our city — businesses struggling to survive?"
The people who brought crowbars, assault rifles, baseball bats and homemade explosives "were not thinking about George Floyd," Hancock said. He applauded the peaceful protesters and said he understands that many who attended the demonstrations were not violent and destructive.
More than 1,000 protesters lay on their stomachs for 9 minutes outside the Capitol Saturday afternoon and chanted, "I can't breathe."
Some protesters threw Molotov cocktails at city and private buildings Friday night, Hancock said. Many city buildings are covered in graffiti and some windows were broken.
Protesters marched to Denver Justice Center Friday evening, and tear gas was deployed at protesters after they were seen throwing bottles and rocks at police and the Capitol. Many protesters face arson, assault, weapons and burglary charges, Pazen said.
Later Friday night, witnesses reported seeing protesters trying to break windows at Colorado Supreme Court, and early Saturday morning, some protesters reportedly set a car on fire. At least 19 people were arrested overnight, the city said.
Many government operations and meetings in downtown Denver have been postponed after the protests became destructive Thursday night. The Regional Transportation District suspended all bus and rail service in and out of the city over the weekend to "ensure the safety of staff/riders," transit officials said in a public notice.
Aerial footage and reports Thursday night in Denver showed several protesters smashing the windows out of at least two vehicles parked outside the Capitol, and others spray-painted graffiti on the Capitol steps. Other photos show bullet holes in several Capitol building windows.
Denver police officers made 13 arrests Thursday for burglary, criminal mischief and assault, city officials said. Three police officers received non-life-threatening injuries and are recovering. Denver police are also trying to find the driver of a vehicle that hit a pedestrian during the protest, the city said.
Floyd was identified in a video that showed him gasping for breath while a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on his neck for almost eight minutes. In footage recorded by a bystander, Floyd pleads that he cannot breathe until he slowly stops talking and moving.
The video quickly went viral, sparking nationwide protests calling for police reform and demanding justice for Floyd.
Chauvin and three other officers involved in the fatal incident were fired Tuesday, and Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in Hennepin County Friday.
"This is by far the fastest we've ever charged a police officer," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced at a news conference on Friday.
The Colorado legislature won't be in session Friday and Saturday due to concerns over the destruction, but the legislature is scheduled to convene Monday.
The Ralph L. Carr Judicial Center will also be closed until Monday due to demonstrations in Denver, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced Friday.
Hancock and leaders with Denver Public Schools were scheduled to honor graduating seniors Friday afternoon, but the event has been canceled.
The protests Friday afternoon began peacefully — more than 1,000 people held a moment of silence for Floyd at Civic Center Park.