DENVER (AP) — Shots were fired and protesters blocked traffic and smashed car windows during a demonstration in downtown Denver to protest the death of a handcuffed black man during a confrontation with a white police officer in Minnesota, authorities said. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
Gary Cutler, a spokesman for the Colorado State Patrol, said the shooting happened in a park across the street from the Capitol. Most of the protesters already had left the area and were marching downtown.
Cutler said the Capitol building was locked down, and everyone inside was safe.
State Rep. Leslie Herod, who was at the Capitol, tweeted, “We just got shot at.”
Police said they don’t know if the protesters were being targeted.
“We do believe that the shots were towards the Capitol, but we do not at this point have any correlation to the protest or the protesters,” police spokesman Kurt Barnes told The Denver Post.
He said about six or seven shots were fired, and no one has been arrested.
“I want to plead to everyone, let’s demonstrate but let’s demonstrate peacefully,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said in a video posted on Twitter. “Leave the weapons at home.”
Several hundred protesters had gathered to call for justice following the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis on Monday after an officer knelt on his neck for almost eight minutes. In footage recorded by a bystander, Floyd pleaded that he couldn’t breathe.
Some among the Denver protesters carried signs reading “Black Lives Matter” and chanted, “Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Racist police got to go.”
They marched through downtown Denver, snarling traffic. Aerial footage showed protesters briefly blocking traffic from moving on Interstate 25 in both directions before swarming back through the downtown streets outside the Capitol. Police fired tear gas to get them to move off of the interstate, The Denver Post reported.
Aerial footage showed several protesters smashing the windows out of at least two vehicles parked outside the Capitol, and others spray-painted graffiti on the Capitol steps.
As the protest started, The Denver Police Department tweeted a message from Chief Paul Pazen sending condolences to Floyd’s family and saying the city’s officers do not use the tactics employed by the Minneapolis officers.
He called that type of force “inexcusable.”
Four Minneapolis police officers have been fired, and the mayor has called for the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck to be criminally charged.
The death has led to violent protests in Minneapolis and demonstrations in other cities, including Los Angeles.