Hyoung Chang, Associated Press, July 14, 2019
Police say they will be reviewing any available video to help them identity protesters who trespassed and pulled down the American flag in front of an immigration detention center in suburban Denver, tried to burn it and replaced it with a Mexican flag.
Friday night’s protest in Aurora, one of many coordinated across the country, drew about 2,000 people and was mostly peaceful. However, police said Saturday that a few people passed a makeshift barrier outside the center run by the GEO Group [a prison company] and crossed a vehicle bridge, causing hundreds to follow. Some removed three flags — the U.S., Colorado and GEO flags. The two other flags were replaced with ones with anti-police messages.
Claudia Castillo, a 22-year military intelligence major in the U.S. Army and the coalition’s legal services coordinator, said she pleaded with the group of about 25 that pulling down the flag wasn’t part of the plan. She said that rather than pull back, members of the group spit on her, shoved her, and cursed at her.
In a statement on Facebook, Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz said police decided not to intervene when the flags were being removed to protect the safety of the majority of protesters who were acting peacefully as well as that of officers but they would have acted had there been violence or damage to the property.
He said GEO representatives wanted to step in after the U.S. flag was removed but police asked them not to so they could talk to the official protest organizer, who then encouraged people to disperse. Metz said that de-escalated the situation and there was no need for police intervention after that.