As dozens of protesters covered their faces and marched against traffic in downtown Denver on Saturday night, only 7NEWS was with Denver Police as they monitored the anti-police protest.
"We want them to self express. We want to protect their First Amendment right to do so. We just don't want them to get themselves hurt or hurt innocent people in the area," Commander Tony Lopez told 7NEWS an hour before the 7 p.m. protest was supposed to start.
The group known as "Anonymous," promoted their "F*** The Police" protest with social media and handouts along the 16th Street Mall.
Denver Police were aware of the planned protest and had more than 100 officers ready to deploy.
"We're just concerned that we may have people in the group that have nefarious intentions in mind and may commit criminal acts," said Lopez. "You'll only see us start to ramp things up if we start to see acts of violence or behavior we believe is going to endanger the public."
Protesters Marched Against Traffic, Lit Fireworks, Tagged Cars
At about 7:30 p.m. Saturday night, the protesters who gathered near the D&F Tower at 16th and Arapahoe Streets began marching in the oncoming lane of the free mall ride.
Many of the protesters had bandanas over their faces, while some wore the distinctive white mask that doubles as the logo of "Anonymous."
Police in unmarked vehicles and on bicycle immediately followed the protesters. Other police stayed ahead, blocking off lanes to keep the protesters safe from traffic.
7NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger was embedded with police monitoring the protest. He saw protesters lighting fireworks and tagging cars with the anarchist logo, a circle "A."
"They had tagged a bus, they tagged a couple of cars and a police car," police chief Robert White told 7NEWS on the 16th Street Mall. "They actually spray-painted one of the windshields of one of our cruisers."
7NEWS wanted to know why the protesters doing the tagging and lighting fireworks were not immediately arrested.
"Strategically, we were able to identify the individuals who actually did the tagging. We let them move on and when it was a good time to take that person out without it being a confrontation, they moved in and made the arrest," said White. "You sort of have to measure the violations versus making the arrest versus the consequences of doing that."
White told 7NEWS that five people caught tagging were arrested on mischief charges.
"The group did not try to close in on the police officers, as a matter of fact, as we made the arrests, for the most part they scattered and let us make the arrest," said White.
7NEWS Granted Exclusive Access To Incident Command
As the protesters marched throughout downtown streets, 7NEWS asked for exclusive access to the incident command area where police monitored city surveillance, known as HALO cameras.
While in the HALO observation room, 7NEWS saw officers making the first arrests at Colfax Avenue and Grant Street. A HALO operator kept the camera on the arrest to document the activity.
On other HALO cameras, protesters could be seen marching against traffic. The information was relayed to officers on the ground to help block traffic as protesters marched through the streets.
"We try to get in front of where we think they're going to go and close off traffic, so we can protect their safety as well as protect ongoing traffic," said White.
Marchers Protested Against Police Violence
One of the protesters could be heard on his bullhorn referring to two officers who had been disciplined over improper force.
"Kevin Devine and Ricky Nixon need to resign or be fired; possibly incarcerated themselves," said the protester.
Nixon and Devine were fired in April 2011 by then-Manager of Safety Charles Garcia, who decided the officers had used inappropriate force and then lied in their reports about what happened on the night of July 12, 2009, outside the Denver Diner.
The chaotic scene was caught by one of the city's HALO cameras.
Nixon was working off-duty in his police uniform as security for the diner that night, according to a police report. Devine was on duty and arrived to assist Nixon with the disturbance involving several women who were dressed in skirts and high heels.
The video, obtained by 7NEWS, showed an officer pulling a woman by her arm from the diner entrance onto the sidewalk.
As another woman in a long, flowing dress tried to intervene, the video showed the officer using his police baton to shove her to the ground with such force her feet flew up in the air.
That woman, Kelly Boren, 27, of Lone Tree, told 7NEWS she and some friends had just arrived at the diner in a pedicab and were not involved in whatever disturbance that drew police.
On Jan. 13, the Civil Service Commission overturned the firing of Devine, saying the evidence failed to sustain allegations that the officer used inappropriate force or that he committed a "deceptive act" by lying about his actions. The hearing officers sustained a finding that Devine failed in his "responsibility to serve the public," but reduced his fine of three days pay to one day.
Otherwise, Devine was reinstated to his job with all back pay, seniority and other benefits from the date of termination, the panel's order said.
As for Nixon, the panel overturned the safety manager's decision that he had committed deceptive acts. But the hearing officers sustained a finding that Nixon had used inappropriate force and discourtesy and upheld his 35-day suspension without pay for those violations.
Otherwise, Nixon was reinstated to his job with all back pay, seniority and other benefits from the date of termination.
"The terminations were overturned, not by me and certainly not by the (safety) manager, and now we're in the process of appealing those decisions to overturn that," said White. "Currently, we don't have any control over that other than appealing the decision to bring the officers back, which is being done."
The protest ended after 90 minutes at about 9 p.m. with five total arrests.
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