Two people were arrested during a third straight Saturday of protests in Boulder, in a continuing campaign to raise awareness over concerns about police brutality, and show solidarity for hundreds of thousands doing the same across the nation.
The reasons for their arrests of the two men — Joe Harris, a black man from Boulder, and Jorge Chavez, a Hispanic male from Denver — were not immediately known. Police on scene would not comment, and Boulder Police Department spokeswoman Kim Kobel did not return calls as of 6 p.m.
Harris and Chavez were arrested in the parking lot just north of the Boulder Running Company, 2775 Pearl St., just after 3 p.m. In a march that at times swelled to more than 100 people, Harris and Chavez were among about a dozen people of color participating.
Harris has been among the Boulder movement’s most vocal leaders since protests began several weeks ago, in the wake of a St. Louis County grand jury’s decision not to indict the white police officer who shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo.
Chavez has been an active participant in Denver protests, and has worked there as a street medic, offering first aid to fellow protesters who have either been injured or sprayed with chemical disablers such as tear gas and pepper spray.
Reina Fujita, a Naropa University student who identified herself as Harris’ girlfriend, said that she and several other protesters had been told by police on scene that Chavez was arrested for outstanding charges unrelated to Saturday’s events.
Fujita herself was briefly detained while rushing to the defense of Chavez, and she said Harris was arrested after “trying to stop the police from taking Jorge.”
“Conversation heated up, and the police put him down on the ground. By the time I got there, I grabbed Joe to try to protect him, and they twisted my arm and put their thumb on my neck. Basically, they were just choking me. They were pushing really hard and it stills hurts, my arm and my neck,” she said roughly 90 minutes after the incident.
Chavez, meanwhile, was released less than 30 minutes after arriving at the Boulder County Jail, 3200 Airport Road. He claims his arrest was wrongful, and resulted from police confusing him with another man who authorities want in connection with possible domestic violence charges.
“They weren’t able to prove the person they were looking for,” Chavez said. “They told me they were looking for a Caucasian male, same height, same hair color, same eye color, same weight. They literally tried saying it was me. Nobody even fingerprinted me. They just called the DPD in Denver and they figured out who I was.
“They literally walked up to me, and lied to my face about me having a domestic violence warrant against my name.”
‘They don’t like that people are treated differently’
Fujita and about 40 other protesters gathered at the Boulder County Jail, to support their arrested comrades.
Prior to the arrests, Saturday’s protests resembled those of the previous two weeks, though their numbers were much smaller than the Dec. 6 crowd of about 500. Protesters started, as before, at 12:30 p.m. at Broadway and Canyon Boulevard, with plans to head toward the Pearl Street Mall. Early estimates put the crowd at slightly over 100, including more than a dozen children under the age of 10.
Some parents were carrying toddlers, while older children marched alongside their parents.
Elicia Arwen, a Boulder woman who brought her three children to the event, said, “I want my kids to understand the importance of using their voices and speaking up.
“They know there’s an issue, to the extent that they’re 3 and 7 and 14, and they don’t like that people are treated differently because of the color of their skin.”
Keith Percy, 29, of Boulder, spoke to the group before they embarked on their actions.
“Know this is about institutional racism. It is about ‘black lives matter,’ it is about our solidarity and allyship,” Percy said.
“We know these things are really in Boulder, because five times the people of color are arrested in Boulder as compared to white people, whereas white people are in the high 80s percentage-wise (in population), and people of color are less than 1 percent. Stay on that.”
Percy also said, “If we weren’t confronting institutional racism in Boulder, we would have a whole lot more people of color and we would raise the economic and social conditions that keep them away. So black lives matter. They’re dying. They’re dying expediently fast.
“Let’s show that we are allies, so they know that we have solidarity and that black lives matter.”
As the group marched, participants chanted “Black lives matter,” “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and “No justice, no peace. No racist police.”
Seeking change through ‘disruption’
Roughly an hour into their action, demonstrators staged an 11-minute die-in, in front of the Boulder County Courthouse at 13th and Pearl streets, representing the 11 times that Eric Garner stated that he could not breathe, while a Staten Island, N.Y., police officer had him in a choke hold. Garner died, in that incident.
Protesters met with some resistance from a number of motorists during today’s march, resulting in a few shouting matches. Activists were seen photographing the license plates of those drivers.
Gary Roland, one of the early organizers of Occupy Wall Street, as well as a leader of the recent Boulder protests, said motorists upset with the marches may misunderstand their purpose.
“The way that social justice movements make change is through disruption,” he said. “If there’s a demand, but no actual economic disruption, such as shutting down traffic or bus boycotts or stuff like that, the powers that be don’t have a reason to comply to the demand.
“So it might be inconvenient to sit in traffic for 15 minutes, but our movement is about people who have been inconvenienced their entire lives and so as much as it is an inconvenience, it’s also important to allow these sort of manifestations to occur, and these are actually what pushes our society forward.”
For most of the day, police were keeping a distance from the marchers, until they reached Pearl and 26th streets, at which point they blocked off eastbound Pearl, as more tension developed between protesters and some drivers.
Close to 3 p.m., another 11-minute die in was being staged at the intersection of Pearl and 28th streets. In Saturday’s die-ins, roughly 15 participants of color were the ones actually lying down, while white demonstrators, identifying themselves as “allies,” stood with linked arms in a circle around them.
From 28th and Pearl, and following the two arrests, protesters got into cars, about 45 of them heading for the Boulder County Jail.
The previous two weeks of protests also saw the activists perform die-ins at key intersections in the city, as well as the Apple store at the Twenty Ninth Street Mall, on Dec. 6. At this past Monday evening’s rush hour, their actions also briefly closed down U.S. 36, near Baseline Road.
The protests had been peaceful, with Boulder police prioritizing the activists’ safety, and making no arrests, prior to today.
Alex Burness: 303-473-1389, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/alex_burness