Denver’s #J20 Protests: A Day of Unity, Militance, and Confrontation

Denver, CO – On January 20, 2017, community members organized multiple protests in Denver to protest the inauguration of Donald Trump as President. Unicorn Riot was live throughout the day.

Around 8 AM, two separately organized protests gathered at the Colorado State Capitol and Civic Center Park. At the same time, hundreds of students from East High School staged a walkout and marched down Colfax Ave towards the Capitol where all three groups eventually converged.

After listening to speakers, a crowd of around 600 took to the street, led by the students of East High School flanked on one side by a black bloc that seemed to be protecting the march. Some of the organizers attempted to move protesters on the sidewalk, but eventually gave up due to both logistical problems and safety concerns about keeping so many people on a sidewalk that was not big enough to contain a large protest. The march was moving through downtown Denver as a pro-Trump, anti-Islam motorcycle gang showed up to antagonize the march.  The Bikers were wearing rockers that said “Bikers Against Radical Islam.”

Although a few of the march marshals were quick to confront the bikers, it seemed that many others realized they were not prepared to confront a white nationalist motorcycle gang in the streets. Some marshals asked people in the black bloc to help them in dealing with the bikers and some black bloc participants agreed. Quickly the bikers were surrounded by both those in black and the march marshals, there was pushing and yelling from both sides.

One man dressed as Uncle Sam who was with the bikers had a handful of miniature American flags that were taken by someone who handed them out to other people who then burned them or threw them on the ground. After the majority of the anti-Trump march had passed by,  the Denver Police Department (DPD) asked the bikers to leave, so they moved to Civic Center Park on the Corner of Colfax and Broadway where they continued to yell at anti-Trump marchers.

At one point the bikers assaulted an indigenous woman who was participating in the anti-Trump march, who anonymously shared with us her account of what happened that day:

“What a day it was, hundreds from the city showing up to express their anger, displeasure with Trump being elected by taking to the streets in protest. The diverse crowd was in sync with each other, as the spirit of the day carried the energy through the streets of downtown Denver. Imagine our surprise then, when a call went out through the crowd that security was needed in the back, bikers had shown up and were harassing folks in the back of the march.

Many in the front, which included black bloc participants, went back on down the line to assess the threat these buffoons were causing. As we get to the back where the group of bikers were, a formation was around them immediately, as some from our group engaged with them in heated discussions about why they showed up. They told us they were expressing their 1st Amendment. We told them they could go do that somewhere else, as out march had no room for hate, their hateful stance or their most offensive patches.

As they started getting pushy, our people surrounded them tighter and escorted them away from the march participants. A few bikers circled back, and started walking alongside our march. I was asking one, who seemed to be a hateful ol’ chap, if you don’t like our thinking, ideas…us, why come here to antagonize? We had a convo back and forth, he mostly throwing ugly epitaphs out at me… I asked him what made him, as a white man who isn’t indigenous to these lands, think it was up to people like him to decide who can & can’t be in a land that isn’t even their’s to begin with. I pointed out this was MY people’s homelands, and if he wanted to be with just white like minded people, maybe he should go back to his homeland.

I guess I got to him! This smelly, grungy biker elbowed me, while saying “Get Away From Me CUNT”…the man who invaded OUR space, OUR march…dares touch my being, my sacred being! Big whoops! In one fell swoop, my black flag of resistance came flying upside the underside of his jawline, smacking it upwards as he proceeded to do his best bobble head imitation to the crowds delight. As my flag came away from the impact, I decided to liberate his buddy’s box of flags, which was shared with the crowd, everyone sharing in the immediate joy & satisfaction of burning some so called ameriKKKan flags, while also relieving some of our mutual anger.

We celebrated that our trolls felt neutralized, as at this point, they gathered their ranks and went down a different street. Alas, we were mistaken, when we rounded our way back to the capital, they were again bunched up like little roaches, attempting to verbally assault people of color and women being vocal about how shitty of humans slime they are. But the swine that is DPD gave these racists the upper hand but protecting them and forcing us to move along, while attempting to trap comrades in a line between their cop cars and bikes and the curb. When this wouldn’t happen, they made a line in front of the white supremacists and started grabbing our folks and physically pushing us into the street and threatening to arrest us if we tried to come back around to face these hatemongers.

When they saw the numbers of our crowd coming to stand [the bikers] down despite the pigs protection, they all turned tail and scurried away, acting as if they accomplished anything other than being shown Denver is a city that has no tolerance for the message of hate they want to spread. All in all, it was empowering day for everyone, and just the start of much work we have to do in the coming weeks, months, years.

Around 11:30 AM a smaller group marched down to Skyline Park for “The March of The People” to Senator Cory Gardener’s office in Downtown Denver, 17th Street and Arapahoe. Gardener’s offices and Chase Bank share a lobby, and the action started off with an indigenous man being told by building security and DPD that he could not pray in the lobby while another protester closed his account with Chase Bank as part of a larger movement calling for people to divest from banks that are funding the Dakota Access Pipeline. A list of demands regarding protections for LGBTQ rights were presented to one of Gardener’s proxies. The march then went to Senator Bennett’s office and issued a list of demands there as well, eventually dispersing afterwards.

Around 6 PM, an additional evening march called by the Denver Autonomous Action Network assembled at Civic Center Park.

The group grew to about 200 people and the crowd, mostly masked and wearing black, took the streets and marched out of Civic Center Park, against traffic down Speer Boulevard.

After passing two Auraria police officers who attempted to stop them, the crowd cut through the Auraria college campus, burning an American flag as they went.

The march outmaneuvered police to reach the Colfax bridge in an attempt to block the highway.  The march was eventually stopped by mobile unit of riot police who were pointing less-lethal weapons at the crowd.

The police declared the march to be an unlawful assembly and ordered people to clear the bridge.  Eventually a line of riot police with batons pushed the crowd off the bridge back onto Colfax, where the march continued back towards the 16th street mall.

As the march neared downtown, DPD SWAT officers riding on the outside of RDVs (Rapid Deployment Vehicles) drove close to the crowd, at several points disembarking on foot and ordering protesters on the sidewalk.

At one point DPD SWAT threatened journalist Esteban Fernandez of Met Media with arrest as he briefly stepped into the street to take a picture of people marching on the sidewalk.

As the crowd approached the 16th Street mall, officers grabbed and arrested one man who was wearing a Guy Fawkes mask.  This was the only arrest that took place.

After taking the streets for around two hours, the march dispersed on 16th street without any additional arrests.  Members of the crowd broke off and splintered into smaller groups, at which point windows were broken at a Starbuck’s location on Colfax.

Damaged windows at Starbucks Coffee on Colfax Avenue in Denver

 An anonymous posting taking credit for the property destruction appeared on the anarchist website It’s Going Down:

On the night of January 20th we took action, like so many others did that day, both in DC and around the world, to show our discontent with Trump and the world he represents!

We smashed out almost every window and all the glass doors of a Starbucks on East Colfax before disappearing back into the warm winter night.

We did this also as a show of solidarity and love with all the brave people who took to the streets against Trump and his world earlier in the day and all those who took their own autonomous actions of resistance as well as all those who were arrested and are now facing charges and incarceration on J20 for stand up and fighting against oppression and exploitation.

In solidarity and in struggle!

“some anarchist in Denver”, Denver: Starbucks Attacked for J20

UPDATE (3/20/17): Through a public records request to the Denver Police Department, Unicorn Riot has acquired a partially redacted copy of DPD’s After-Action Report from January 20.  You can read the document below:

Inauguration Protests AAR 1-20-17_Redacted

Download PDF – Denver Police After-Action Report 1/20/17 (redacted)

We also filed a records request for DPD’s Operations Plan for January 20 anti-Trump protests.  You can read it below, although most of the document has been redacted by the police department.

January 20-21 OPLAN 2017_Redacted

Download PDF – Denver Police Operations Plan, Trump Inauguration Protests, January 20-21 2017 

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