Denver officials denounce “rioters,” “anarchists” who damaged property, set fires during anti-police demonstration

City and state officials on Sunday decried the actions of about 75 people who started fires, broke windows, injured one police officer and damaged property Saturday night during an “Abolish the Police” protest at the Denver Police Department’s headquarters.

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The group members were not protesters but rioters and anarchists, city officials said at a Sunday news conference, vowing to bring down the full force of the law against the demonstrators and to stop any similar future actions.

“What we experienced last night was not a protest, it was anarchy,” Denver Director of Safety Murphy Robinson said. “The people who showed up last night — the anarchists who showed up last night — brought weapons to the table. They had guns, they brought explosives, axes, machetes. And they had one intent purpose, to harm our officers.”

In a tweet, Gov. Jared Polis called the demonstrators’ actions — and in particular windows broken at a Quiznos restaurant during the demonstration — “criminal terrorism.”

“Just as we all condemn inexcusable acts of terror against a family-owned restaurant, acts of criminal terrorism are just as wrong against corporate chains and public buildings,” Polis said. “An attack against any of our lives and property is an attack against all of our lives and property.”

Police arrested 12 people and cited another person, police Chief Paul Pazen said.

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Those arrested and their charges: Jordan White, 19, criminal mischief; Bailey Yntema, 23, throwing missiles; Tigran Manukyan, 29, possession of a dangerous weapon. Eight people were charged with obstruction:  Jacob Anikow, 20; Miriam Schwarz, 20; Aaron Jones, 21; Isabelle Bullock, 18; Devlin Baker, 27; Stephen Merida, 20, Jill Hunsaker, 29, and Marianne Byrne, 19. Gabriel Hernandez, 32, was cited for interference but not physically arrested.

Pazen said additional charges are expected. One officer suffered third-degree burns and a concussion during the clash, but is expected to make a full recovery, Pazen said.

Of those arrested, seven live in Denver, two in Boulder County and police do not know the addresses of the remaining people.

Police used less-lethal weapons on the group Saturday night and some demonstrators threw fireworks at police officers, according to Denver7 reporters at the scene. The protesters told Denver7 that they had a variety of motivations for taking to the streets, including defunding the police, ending homeless sweeps, stopping racism and seeking justice for Elijah McClain, who died about a year ago after he was violently stopped by Aurora police.

“Unfortunately we had people who decided that the best way for them to get their point across is to try to inflict violence or engage our police officers in a violent clash,” Mayor Michael Hancock said Sunday. “We are not going to stand for it. We are not going to stand for their anarchy, their chaos or their mindless destruction in our city.”

Hancock said the city will seek to force those who caused property damage to pay for repairs, whether through the criminal cases or through civil action.

The city has not yet linked Saturday night’s demonstration to any one group or organization, Hancock said, but he also suggested the gathering in Denver is part of a larger effort across the country.

“We know there is a coordinated effort to inflict these kind of riotous activities in cities,” he said. “We saw some of it last night in Chicago and other cities. Other cities are picking up intel that they may be next.”

He said mayors across the country are sharing information and suggested that demonstrators could face federal charges.

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