Denver officials on Saturday night fires, vandalism: 'It was anarchy'

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Posted at 1:02 PM, Aug 23, 2020

DENVER — City officials on Sunday strongly rebuked the people who vandalized buildings and set fires in downtown Denver on Saturday night, calling them anarchists and rioters and saying their actions had nothing to do with calls for social justice.

"What we experienced last night was not a protest. It was anarchy," Denver Director of Public Safety Murphy Robinson said. "I want these anarchists to hear me clearly and loudly that this will not be tolerated in our city. You are not welcome here. If you choose to come back to Denver, Colorado, to incite anarchy, destruction and violence, I can assure you — you will be met with every tool in our disposal, from law and policy, that we can use to stop [it]."

Robinson, who is Black and grew up in Denver, said the people in downtown Saturday night weren't there to call for justice for Black people.

"You do not represent us," Robinson said. "Stop using the color of my skin as an excuse to tear my city. These countless acts are not helpful. They do not represent what Black lives are about, or this city that Black lives helped build for generations. We ask you to stay home. If you are not going to protest peacefully ... then you need too stay home. Don't come out. You will be dealt with."

Police Chief Paul Pazen said 12 people were arrested from the incidents Saturday night. Seven are from Denver and two are from Boulder County. It was unknown where the remaining three reside, Pazen said.

The people arrested were: Jordan White, 19, of Denver (criminal mischief); Bailey Yntema, 23, of Denver (throwing missiles); Jacob Anikow, 20, of Boulder (obstructional equipment); Miriam Schwarz, 20, unknown residence (obstructional equipment); Aaron Jones, 21, unknown residence (obstructional equipment); Isabelle Bullock, 18, of Denver (obstructional equipment); Devlin Baker, 27, of Boulder (obstructional equipment); Stephen Merida, 20, of Denver (obstructional equipment); Timothy Wempen, 22, of Denver (aggravated assault); Tigran Manukyan, 29, of Denver (dangerous weapons); Jill Hunsaker, 29, unknown residence (obstructional equipment); and Marianne Byrne, 20, unknown residence (obstructional equipment).

One officer was injured, suffering a concussion and third-degree burns, Pazen said, as people set fires and shot fireworks near the Denver Police Department headquarters.

“Fortunately, we believe the officer will make a full recovery, but it speaks to the types of explosives that were used against our officers and really the intent with the damage and destruction this group was seeking,” Pazan said.

Robinson on Sunday said he is lifting the order he issued in March capping the population at the Denver County Jail, a move that was designed to limit jail population amid COVID-19.

"I want you to know that if you harm our city in any way ... you will be arrested and you will be a resident of the Denver County Jail," Robinson said.

The incidents Saturday night unfolded shortly after dark.

A group had organized a protest to start at 8 p.m. in response to an incident earlier this week when police and others clashed as the city removed people experiencing homelessness from a camp near 29th and Glenarm. A flier told people to “bring your gear.”

Sometime before 9 p.m., a van arrived to provide some of the people with shields. As the people marched toward the Denver police headquarters, Denver7 reporters witnessed people with a bat and an ax.

The group expressed various motives: defunding or abolishing the police, ending homeless sweeps, stopping racism, justice for Elijah McClain and more, including several who said they were there for vandalism and were done with peaceful protesting, according to crews at the scene.

But McClain's mother earlier this week disavowed rallies like the one Saturday night, and she and others held a peaceful rally in memory of her son earlier in the day.