AURORA | Aurora police are investigating what occurred during an at-times testy protest in a southeast Aurora neighborhood Sunday afternoon, a department spokesman confirmed to The Sentinel Tuesday.
A bevy of local activist groups, including Abolish ICE Denver, the Denver Communists and the Colorado People’s Alliance, gathered in the Tollgate Crossing neighborhood May 3 to protest in front of the home of Johnny Choate, warden of a north Aurora immigration detention center operated by the GEO Group Inc. on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The gathering, staged largely from personal vehicles in an effort to maintain social distancing protocols, came nearly eight months after hundreds of people affiliated with the same groups demonstrated in the same suburban neighborhood and called for officials to cease detaining immigrants. Three people were arrested on disorderly conduct and obstruction charges at the original Sept. 19 protest, and police officers patrolling the event earned more than $22,000 in overtime.
No arrests were made during the recent May 3 investigation, according to Officer Matt Longshore, spokesman for Aurora police. However, Longshore confirmed police are actively investigating the event and encouraged anyone who believes they may have been the victim of a crime at the protest to contact Sgt. Matt Brukbacher at [email protected]
Organizers from Abolish ICE Denver have condemned the actions of apparent counter protesters in social media posts following the event.
“The Tollgate Crossing ‘community’ stole our signs, broke car mirrors, keyed cars, broke someone’s door, intimidated children, smashed a phone, tried to steal a megaphone and ripped the shirt of a driver they also assaulted,” organizers wrote on Facebook May 3. “ … Shame on Aurora PD and shame on Tollgate Crossing.”
In a video released May 6, anti-ICE advocates allege counter protestors, some reportedly affiliated with the neo-fascist group The Proud Boys, assaulted an attendee. In the video, bystanders can be seen hitting car windows with their hands while hurling obscenities at drivers.
“Get the f*** out of my neighborhood,” one man can be heard shouting. “We don’t want you here. We don’t care about you.”
Multiple ICE protests last summer sowed frequent disagreement among local politicos and resulted in dramatic political showdowns in city council chambers.
The recent protest became a point of conversation for Aurora City Council members Monday evening. Ward 6 Councilmember Francoise Bergan, who represents the Tollgate Crossing neighborhood, said the neighborhood protests go too far, as they are targeting a specific person. She sponsored a targeted picketing ordinance last year before ultimately dropping it.
In a statement issued Tuesday morning, Mayor Mike Coffman also condemned the protestors, urging them to pursue legislative change instead of targeting individuals.
“These organizations should be putting their energies behind changing the laws that they view as unjust instead of harassing those, and their families, who are entrusted to help enforce our laws,” Coffman wrote in a Facebook post.
Sentinel Staff Writer Kara Mason contributed to this report.