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DENVER — A protest against recent Denver police shootings turned ugly on Saturday.

Police arrested two protesters who defaced a memorial to fallen officers as the march stopped in front of police headquarters.

The paint has since been washed away and those responsible have been charged with criminal mischief, but officers say they feel disrespected and protesters aren’t about to apologize.

A familiar rallying cry of “Hands up. Don’t shoot.” echoed through the streets of Denver on Saturday as about 150 protesters carried signs and blocked traffic on Colfax Avenue.

Dozens of officers, some in full riot gear, directed traffic and stood watch until an incident near the end of the demonstration.

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“We’re defending their right to protest, even us (officers),” said Denver Police Lt. Matt Murray. “There’s a limit though. There’s a limit to what you can do.”

Murray says two protesters crossed the line when they defaced Denver’s memorial to fallen officers and several other areas around police headquarters using stickers, red paint and messages like f*** the police.

“What happened at the police administrative building was a lot of bottled up rage that finally exploded,” said Dave Strano a protest organizer with Denver Community Defense Committee.

Strano says the rage and the protest are the result of four officer involved shootings in the past seven months, which all involved unarmed people in cars.

Several of the families connected to those shooting turned out for the protest, including the family of Jessie Hernandez, a teenager who was shot and killed by officers in January.

“We came here to just represent all those people who have been suffering through deaths from the police,” said Laura Hernandez, Jessie Hernandez’s 12 year old sister.

According to police, officers opened fire because Jessie Hernandez and the others drove at them or otherwise used their vehicles as weapons. An independent monitor is currently looking into the DPD’s policies and practices related to shooting at moving vehicles.

“We’re demanding justice and if we can’t get justice from the DA or the city we’re going to find justice in the streets,” Strano said. “This isn’t a threat, I’m not threatening anything, but there’s a reason why situations like Ferguson pop off the way they do.”

On Saturday afternoon police officers and firefighters came together to clean the memorial but the memory of what happened won’t be fading for anyone involved.

“They’re going to show the pictures of that red paint all over that memorial and they’re going to say that we were horrible people,” Strano said. “But we didn’t kill anyone today. We didn’t take anyone away from their families today.”

Officers don’t see what that has to do with disrespecting officers who were victims themselves.

“Some of these people are my friends. I knew these people,” Lt. Murray said. “Some of them I was there the night they died, and that is incredibly disrespectful.”

Although there were several officers on hand and watching as the protesters defaced the memorial, Lt. Murray says they were commanded not to step in until after the march had cleared out.

“Our posture in protests, especially first amendment protests, is not to engage or create a situation that might create conflict,” Murray said.

Later that evening, a Denver man urged others to show support of city police by lighting a candle at officer memorial.

See the story unfold on twitter and see pictures below:

  • Defaced fallen DPD Officers' memorial. (Photo: Paul Makarushka)
  • Defaced fallen DPD Officers' memorial. (Photo: Paul Makarushka)
  • Officers cleaning defaced fallen DPD Officers' memorial. (Photo: Paul Makarushka)(
  • Denver man urging others to show support of city/police by lighting candle at officer memorial. (Photo: Greg Nieto/ FOX31 Denver)