COLORADO SPRINGS — Editor's note: Social media videos featured in this article are from live events amid protesters using strong language. Viewer discretion is advised.
Protests continue across the U.S. in response to the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died Monday in Minneapolis while in police custody. His death has sparked unrest nationwide about police brutality.
Protests began in Denver on Thursday and carried through Friday and Saturday. Protests began Saturday in Colorado Springs as well. News 5 will continue to follow the protest locally and provide the latest information here.
Monday, June 1
The crowd that gathered near the Police Operations Center in Colorado Springs dispersed early Monday morning after witnesses tell News 5 that officers fired smoke bombs and rubber bullets.
The gathering was largely peaceful until shortly after midnight when someone fired off a firework and then someone else fired a gun. Witnesses tell News 5 they believe the gun was fired by someone in the crowd.
According to those witnesses, officers announced on a loudspeaker that the gunfire was not coming from CSPD, and that the crowd needed to disperse for their safety. It was a short time later that we're told smoke and rubber bullets were used to push the crowd back.
As of 12:50 a.m., a small number of protesters were gathered near City Hall, but the majority appeared to have gone home.
Sunday, May 31
Despite CSPD declaring the gathering as an "unlawful assembly", protesters continue their sit-in across from police. The large group is mostly peaceful, with a very small number of people antagonizing officers by throwing objects, and earlier fireworks.
Occasionally, protesters are approaching officers in ones and twos in an attempt to have a dialogue.
Protesters continue to ask for "just one officer" to "take a knee" as a symbolic gesture in response to their protest.
Some are calling for a reopening of the investigation into the De'Von Bailey shooting in 2019. The Colorado Springs Police officers involved in that fatal shooting were determined to be "legally justified" by the El Paso County grand jury. Read more: Grand Jury finds Colorado Springs Police officers "legally justified" in fatal shooting of De'Von Bailey (November 2019)
Officers have moved back towards the entrance to the Police Operations Center. They continue to form a line on Nevada to block foot traffic and in front of the building entrance.
There was a man standing in between officers and protesters as he argued for the group to leave. Officers detained the man and took him inside for unstated reasons. Protesters cheered at the police officers' decision to remove the man.
As of 10:00 p.m. Sunday, there's a large crowd gathered outside the Colorado Springs Police Operations Center as officers in riot gear protect the building surrounded by crime scene tape to maintain a perimeter.
An officer came out to deliver a message from Police Chief Vince Niski that reads as follows:
"Over the past few days, I have thought deeply about what I can say as your City’s Chief of Police that would make a difference following the events that transpired in Minneapolis. As I reflected, I came to understand that there are no words that could fully provide stability after the video has caused so much strife, pain, anger, and a negative perception of law enforcement across our entire nation. Instead, I want to give you my honest outlook.
I am not in a position to sit in judgment of another law enforcement organization or their employees. From what I have seen and what I know about use of force procedures the actions of the police in Minneapolis were questionable and tragic. In being transparent with everyone, I am saddened. I am saddened by Mr. Floyd’s death, as every life is precious. I am saddened watching videos of communities being burned in protest, as violence is never the answer. And lastly, I am saddened to see trust in law enforcement diminish, as the actions of a few do not represent us all." - Chief Vince Niski
As an officer finished speaking with protesters, it appears someone threw a firework or some type of noisemaker at officers. Immediately afterwards, a lieutenant got on a loudspeaker to announce "this is an unlawful assembly" and ordered everyone to disperse.
A few minutes later, a large firework was thrown and exploded right in front of officers lined up with riot shields. Other protesters on site were yelling for agitators to stop throwing objects.
Protesters have initiated a sit-down event facing off with officers in riot gear not too far away, in case there is a confrontation. Last night, protesters that came this close to the building were pushed back using "chemical irritants" as police attempted to close all downtown streets. CSPD and the El Paso County Sheriff's Office arrested at least 38 people Saturday night.
(Viewer discretion is advised as this content may contain profanity from protesters.)
Sunday morning began on a quiet note in Colorado Springs. Around the Police Operations Center evidence could still be seen from Saturday's protest.
Late Sunday morning, protesters began gathering on Wahsatch Ave. near the U.S. District Court building. News 5 Reporter Jessica Barreto, who is covering the protest Sunday, said protesters held a moment of silence for "anyone who has experienced injustice." By noon the crowd protesters had increased and began chants of "Hands up, don't shoot" and "Say his name, George Floyd."
As the day continued on, protesters at times moved from the U.S. District Court building to City Hall. Around 2 p.m. several hundred gathered around City Hall, according to a News 5 crew at the scene.
The News 5 crew downtown reported around 2:30 p.m. that protesters spray painted "Love Wins" on one of the stair columns of City Hall.
Late Sunday afternoon, News 5 Reporter Colette Bordelon confirmed that between the El Paso County Sheriff's Office and Colorado Springs Police, 38 arrests were made Saturday night related to the protest.
Sunday evening, protesters have made their way to the Police Operations Center.
Colorado Springs Police tweeted that protesters have blocked the intersection of S. Nevada Ave. and E. Rio Grande. Drivers are asked to avoid the area and use alternate routes.
Around 8 p.m. News 5 crews report that the group of protesters outside of the Police Operations Center has thinned dramatically and it appears protesters are moving back in the direction of City Hall.
News 5 Photojournalist is live at the scene of the protest. We are live streaming his camera below.
WARNING: Live stream may contain profanity.
Saturday, May 30
Hundreds of protesters gathered in downtown Colorado Springs Saturday to speak out against the death of George Floyd.
Local demonstrators met at city hall and marched to Colorado Springs Police Department headquarters, then up to Acacia Park. Later on in the evening, around 6 or 7 p.m., a News 5 photojournalist witnessed officers deploy what they referred to as "chemical irritants" when protesters did not follow orders to clear the area near the Police Operations Center in downtown Colorado Springs.
An automated message could be heard playing in the area several times, declaring that the gathering was an "unlawful assembly, and in the name of the people of the State of Colorado, I command you to immediately disperse."
As of midnight Sunday, Colorado Springs Police still have access to the Police Operations Center blocked off as groups of people continue to approach the area shouting obscenities at officers. Social media videos show people throwing rocks towards officers.
"The police, I think, acted appropriately. It was non-lethal means - tear gas and other things - to eventually disperse the crowd and, quite frankly, we suffered a very minimal level of damage: couple broken windows," Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said.
Colorado Springs Police characterized the end of the gathering as "unlawful and violent." A group of males were seen shouting and kicking the canisters of irritants back at police who were wearing riot gear and backed up by at least one armored vehicle.
A tweet from CSPD's Public Information Officer account reads, "Unfortunately, during tonight's protest in front of the Police Operations Center, several protesters engaged in criminal activity. Please avoid the downtown area as officers work to safely bring the protest back to a peaceful state."
In a follow up tweet, "To provide clarity for our community, the criminal activity consists of damage to property & acts of violence (throwing rocks, bottles, etc). We support everyone's right to peacefully protest, and ask that everyone avoid the area until we can bring this to a peaceful conclusion."
While it is easy to get caught up in how the protests ended, it is important to remember this did start out as a peaceful event late Saturday afternoon. News5 spoke with two mother and son duos who were marching together about what it means to them. "Being black in America, it should not be a death sentence," said Seth LaWalker, a 16-year-old participating in the march.
LaWalker's mother, Jacqueline, was also a part of the protests. She recalled what it was like to first have a discussion about race with her young son. She said it happened when he was only seven or eight years old. "He had come home one day and someone had said the 'n word' to him, and he didn't understand it... Had to explain to him that just because your skin is a different color than most of your friends, you're the same, but people will treat you differently just because of your skin color... And I tried to explain to him that someday, skin color won't matter, and it shouldn't matter now, but it still does," said Jacqueline LaWalker.
Jacqueline LaWalker also said she did see a sign of hope coming from the protest. "To come out here and it's multi-racial, that it's just not black people, it's just not Hispanic, but it's everybody, it makes me feel like maybe in Colorado, we've moved further than the rest of the country has," said LaWalker.
The Petersens also talked to News5 about how the video showing what happened to George Floyd has impacted their lives. Sherri Petersen said it scares her when her only son does not return her phone calls while he is out, and her mind races to the worst possible scenarios. That's one of the reasons she marched on Saturday. "All lives matter, but black lives are the ones being targeted, and it needs to stop," said Sherri Petersen.
Meanwhile, her son Jordan had a message for any white counterparts also at the protest. "Keep fighting for us, keep standing for us, because we really do appreciate it. It's not our problem now, it's everyone's problem," said Jordan Petersen.
News5 also spoke with a local faith leader about the history behind protests like these, and learned more about the reasons why people are taking to the streets. We will have that story for you tomorrow.