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Thousands protest for George Floyd in Denver in night of powerful moments, less tension

Thousands converge on the State Capitol in Denver for a fifth night of protests
Thousands converge on the State Capitol in Denver for a fifth night of protests
Posted at 12:13 PM, Jun 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-02 14:13:03-04

DENVER — Nightfall came, and the protesters didn't go home, even with a citywide curfew in place.

But Monday was different on the streets of downtown Denver — instead of tear gas and pepper balls and mounting tension between protesters and police, the night played out mostly peaceful, with powerful moments of unity and silence.

Thousands gathered on the grounds of the State Capitol for a fifth straight evening and knelt for George Floyd, the Minnesota black man who died after a police officer knelt on his neck.

The crowds then marched along North Broadway in Denver, stopping at one point for a nine-minute sitdown in silence — about the same amount of time the Minneapolis officer knelt on Floyd.

Protesters returned to the Capitol grounds later in the night. While crowds dissipated, dozens more stayed gathered in the area.

Unlike previous nights, police were not deploying tear gas and pepper balls, even past curfew. The crowds stayed peaceful, firing the occasional firework and blocking the streets along Civic Center Park, but remaining calm.

Watch the silent sitdown for Floyd:

Protesters hold moment of silence for George Floyd on Broadway and Welton Street in downtown Denver

Denver's citywide curfew went into effect at 9 p.m. and runs until 5 a.m., an order that police enforced over the weekend when hundreds of protesters remained outside.

Officers deployed tear gas and pepper balls at protesters on Saturday and Sunday nights, when tensions grew after dark.

But early Monday, there was at least a sign of the police and protesters coming together: Police Chief Paul Pazen was seen walking arm-in-arm with protesters in the afternoon, along with other officers.

Photos courtesy of D’Artagnan Rasberry. pic.twitter.com/plTKe7l3Py

— Denver7 News (@DenverChannel) June 2, 2020

Into the evening Monday, the sprawling crowds continued to grow in front of the State Capitol and across Lincoln Street into Civic Center Park.

In a powerful moment around 7 p.m., the thousands of protesters knelt in silence for George Floyd, raising their fists in the air.

A large group of those protesters then started heading north on Broadway past the 16th St. Mall, but some protesters remained on the west steps of the Capitol.

Those protesters then turned right on Champa Street and headed toward Five Points where they turned south on Welton just minutes before the citywide curfew went into effect.

During the protests Monday, Gov. Jared Polis and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock pushed back on President Trump's earlier threat on Monday to deploy United States military unless states halt violent protests.

Polis and Hancock, in a joint statement, acknowledged the "long hours under difficult conditions" that law enforcement and the Colorado National Guard have worked during the last five days of protests in Denver.

"But there is no need for the deployment of US troops to maintain order in our city," their statement said. "The President's threat to deploy federal troops is counterproductive and will only stoke the potential for worse violence and destruction. Denver is not Little Rock in 1957, and Donald Trump is not President Eisenhower. This is a time for healing, for bringing people together, and the best way to protect civil rights is to move away from escalating violence.”