DENVER | Colorado lawmakers returned to work on Monday in a Capitol building with windows smashed and boarded up and graffiti being cleaned from its granite walls after four days of protests. Protesters planned to march again at the Capitol starting at 5 p.m.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock thanked dozens of volunteers who lined up to help city workers clean up from the demonstrations, collecting trash and power-spraying graffiti-strewn walls, monuments and signs in Civic Center Park.
Several lawmakers had been trapped inside the building when the first of Denver’s riots turned violent Thursday night and tear gas wafted into the building. Friday’s session was canceled because of the unrest.
Lawmakers had reconvened last Tuesday after a 10-week hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Legislators in the Democrat-led House called for unity Monday after a weekend in which House Republicans in a statement accused Democrats of hypocrisy for allegedly remaining “silent on the riots in our streets” and excusing “militant criminals who engage in violence” rather than focusing on George Floyd’s death.
Colorado’s Democratic Party, in turn, in a statement condemned what it called state Republicans’ refusal to reject President Donald Trump’s confrontational tweets about violent protesters.
While the statement from the Democrats did not address the violence, Democratic Senate President Leroy Garcia said that “those seeking only to destruct and destroy should not be associated with those asking for change.”
Democratic Rep. James Coleman of Denver asked for a moment of silence to begin Monday’s session. Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Kevin Van Winkle, a Republican from Highlands Ranch, urged members to work together so that they could “go home and work for peace.”
“I’m very angry that George Floyd and his family have to pay the price” for the actions of the Minneapolis policeman who pinned him by the neck, Van Winkle said. He added he also was angry at those “who would take advantage of the situation.”
“In the midst of all this chaos, we are here, together. We are here,” Van Winkle said.
GOP Rep. Richard Champion, a U.S. Army veteran, said he was tear gassed many times while he was in the military and offered advice to other lawmakers.
“Absolutely do not rub your eyes” if tear-gassed, he said.