DENVER (KDVR) — Gov. Jared Polis spoke in a press conference Tuesday about the protests and his views on the demonstrations taking place since the in-custody death of George Floyd.
Denver has seen peaceful protests during the daytime hours. The demonstrations started Thursday and have continued every day. However, even after a mandatory curfew was implemented, peace broke after dark. Rioters vandalized buildings with graffiti, broke windows, looted businesses and damaged a number of vehicles.
“It’s heartbreaking to see small businesses already struggling from COVID-19 to have to spend savings to fix damage in their establishments,” Polis said. “Fortunately, spray paint can be power washed. I commend those who peacefully joined in the protests and helped clean up the next morning.”
“That property can be cleaned but the black lives that are taken cannot be replaced or brought back. And the pain and injustice and fear that many Coloradans of color fear takes a long time to repair and overcome.”
The governor joined Denver Mayor Michael Hancock for an interview and statement in response to President Donald Trump’s comments on Monday. They agreed that the president’s threat is counterproductive.
Polis continued in his press conference Tuesday, “It’s also divisive and sad to hear some call for a more violent crackdown against peaceful demonstrators exercising their First Amendment rights and our Constitution. Some even advocating militarized action against our own people. This is not China. This is not Tiananmen Square. And that’s not leadership. That’s just creating more of the very division that we need to prevent and heal from and bridge.”
Polis was not quick to address the protests and riots, saying he has really been focused on listening.
“Part of leadership is knowing when to and how to listen,” Polis said. “Over the past few days I’ve been listening to members of the faith community, community leaders, members of the Black Caucus. Listening to those who have fought these fights for years and and have a comprehensive understanding of where we are and where we need to be.”
In relation to the protests, Polis addressed the increased possibility of spreading the coronavirus from so many people gathering in one place.
“Health experts tell me it could result in hundreds of new cases, untold pain, death and suffering just as we were making progress,” Polis said. “At least I was glad to see many protestors, hopefully most, wearing masks to protect themselves and those around them from coronavirus.”
Numerous leaders handed out masks to protestors who were not covered up to help contain the spread and try to protect everyone that was peacefully protesting.
“Exercising our First Amendment rights of speech, of gathering as a constitutionally protected right and we want to make sure that everybody doing it is as safe as possible,” Polis said.
He also said the number of coronavirus cases have leveled off, not decreasing and not increasing, seven of the last 14 days.
Polis said pools and playgrounds have reopened at limited capacity and there is currently draft guidance allowing up to 25 people to participate in organized youth and adult sports.
Houses of worship capacity may go up to 50 people with 10 or less in a single room, according to Polis. The draft guidance closes tomorrow and changes would go into effect this weekend.
In addition, Polis announced a new partnership with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which will mobilize more than 800 AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members to support the state’s COVID-19 response through contact tracing and other associated work.
“With hundreds on contract tracers working in the state, we will have a much better response to the virus and we will be to address outbreaks more quickly which will reduce infections save lives and allow us to be more open with our interactions,” the governor said.