DENVER — Colorado Senate Democrats say they are standing “in solidarity with those protesting police violence,” but not addressing the violence and vandalism coming from those protestors at the Capitol on Thursday night.
While Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock agreed with the need to show support for the family of George Floyd, the Minneapolis man whose death at the hands of police apparently sparked the Denver protests, and spoke out against police brutality, both leaders explicitly condemned the violence that resulted in the destruction of cars belonging to the Colorado State Patrol and state legislators, and broken windows and graffiti on the state capitol building, among other things.
Additionally, House Majority Leader Rep. Alec Garnett, D-Denver, said through a statement Thursday night that he hoped everyone’s grief would turn into peaceful action, rather than vandalism and violence.
However, a statement released by the Senate Democrat caucus Friday morning said: “we are shocked and heartbroken by the violence that erupted in our city last night and stand in solidarity with those calling for justice.”
The statement went on to say the work of the senators would be suspended until Monday to “respect the gravity of this moment.”
“Therefore, in deference to the demands for police accountability, we will be suspending all legislative work,” the statement read.
Sen. Joann Ginal reinforced that sentiment in a tweet that said: “The Senate will not be in session at the Capitol today or tomorrow in solidarity with those protesting police violence.”
Senate Majority Leader Stephen Fenberg, D-Boulder, did not return a request from Complete Colorado seeking comment on the caucus’ stance on the violence that took place in Denver, or if suspending legislative work was done to show solidarity with the protestors..
House Minority Caucus Chair Lori Saine, R-Dacono was upset by the idea that elected officials would not publicly condemn the actions that resulted in hundreds of law enforcement officials descending on downtown, and firing tear gas and other objects into the crowd.
“Unlike the Senate, the House is not in solidarity with the protestors and their violence and destruction of Colorado patrol cars last night,” Saine said on her Facebook page. “There should be swift justice for the senseless death of Mr. Floyd, but senseless violence against our Colorado law enforcement is not the answer, and the Colorado Senate should condemn it.”
Senate Republicans did just that. Assistant Minority Leader John Cooke, R-Greeley said he was infuriated with his colleagues on the other side of aisle.
“What happened was a tragedy,” said Cooke, who spent his career in law enforcement including 12 years as sheriff of Weld County before being elected to the state legislature, adding that he hopes the officer involved will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. “When you see that, it makes law enforcement cringe. I didn’t want that from my deputies, and I wouldn’t tolerate it.”
However, Cooke said Senate Democrats’ statement was “a gross misrepresentation” of the situation.
“We do not stand in solidarity whatsoever with the anarchists and protestors that destroyed property yesterday.” Cooke said, adding the session being canceled until next week was at the request of the Colorado State Patrol who felt it was unsafe for lawmakers to be in the building, not as a show of support.
“It’s their job to protect us,” Cooke said. “If we are there, they not only have to protect the property but us as well. With us gone, they only have to protect the property.”
Cooke said the Senate Democrats statement was abhorrent and reprehensible.