Aurora Police show more ‘hands-off’ approach during weekend protest

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AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — Last month, the Aurora Police Department came under fire for their use of force during an Elijah McClain protest at the Municipal Center.

Demonstration for Elijah McClain began peaceful, ended as ‘unlawful protest’

But over the weekend, Mayor Mike Coffman publicly questioned why they didn’t do more to protect the city buildings that were damaged during another protest, Saturday night.

“I get that you’re making decisions, anticipating what the other side is going to do.  I really have to listen to what the police—what their explanation is, to how this part was left undefended and why we didn’t use some of these non-lethal tools as far as pushing these people who came for the purpose of violence,” Coffman told FOX31.

Aurora City Council passes resolution for independent investigation of Elijah McClain incident

The protest, which began just after 5 p.m., outside of APD Headquarters, started off peaceful.

But, things turned violent after a jeep drove through protestors, who were blocking I-225.

Police say a protestor fired in response shortly after that, hitting at least two other people.

Protestors get behind the wheel to demand justice for Elijah McClain

Officers appeared to have a more “hands off” approach later that night, even after agitators returned to the Municipal Center and smashed windows, tore down part of a metal fence, and briefly set a fire in one of the buildings.

Some marchers returned to grass, in front of the Municipal Center—smashing windows, tearing down part of a metal fence, and even setting a fire inside one of the buildings.

“The police really didn’t seem to be engaged at all,” said Paul Taylor, Assistant Professor with CU-Denver’s School of Public Affairs.

“I think we’re seeing more and more of that across the country—where police are really not engaging with crowds at all.  In fact, in some cases, they’re being encouraged by the municipalities not to engage,” Taylor added.

Taylor says many police departments across the country are trying to find a better balance, when it comes to enforcing protests.

“I do think it’s a balancing act.  For instance—in Chicago, for police officers to be completely surrounded and multiple officers to be injured by a violent crowd—that’s probably not the direction we should be going,” said Taylor. 

“On the other hand, should police in riot gear be engaging peaceful protests where people are exercising their 1st Amendment rights?  Absolutely not,” he added.

APD says they haven’t changed their protocol, when it comes to the department’s response to protests—but also told Fox31 on Saturday, prior to the protest, that they intentionally going to try and stay more out of sight.

A spokesperson for APD says police were ready to respond Saturday night to protestors who returned to headquarters, but only if protestors injured officers—or one another—which they said wasn’t the case.

Mayor Coffman says he’s concerned this isn’t the last time city buildings will be vandalized in a protest.

“If they realize that they can come and do this and that we’re to going to use the tools that we have to restrain them—the non-lethal methods—that there’s just going to be more again and again and again, until they destroy this courthouse.”

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