Mayor Suthers orders curfew in Colorado Springs

In response to late-night vandalism and confrontations between protesters and police, Mayor John Suthers has ordered Colorado Springs residents to stay at home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. starting June 3.

Protests in Colorado Springs against police brutality — following the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Minneapolis security guard — began May 30 and have been mostly peaceful.

Also this week, two Southeast Colorado Springs civic leaders spoke out in response to Floyd’s death and what they characterized as a system of racial inequities. 

Protests kicked off nationally when Officer Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis Police Department pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Three other officers also pinned down Floyd. The entire incident was captured on video, sparking national outrage at police brutality against black people.

Colorado Springs has not escaped the unrest.
 
“Particularly during the daylight hours, folks have been organized, have been very peaceful, have been cooperative with the police trying to get them through intersections and things like that,” Suthers said at a news conference June 3. “I’m very complimentary of the police exercising appropriate discretion to assist them in the process of exercising their First Amendment rights.”

The city has incurred tens of thousands of property damage from smashed windows and other vandalism, Suthers said. Protesters have thrown rocks, bottles, bricks and firecrackers at police officers.

Police have in some instances used 40mm rubber rounds and tear gas against protesters, and a video circulating on social media appears to show officers hitting a man who is pinned on the ground.
 
Under Suthers’ new order, residents must be off of public streets and out of public places between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Travel for activities necessary for health and safety is permitted; and employees who need to travel to and from work, emergency responders and credentialed members of the media are exempt. Exemptions are also in place for those heading to and from the Colorado Springs Airport or federal installations, those fleeing dangerous circumstances and the homeless.  
 
“We are not doing this to discourage protests,” the mayor said said, explaining that most of the unlawful activity has been occurring after 10 p.m.
After that time, if people are still congregated, officers will “disperse the crowd,” Suthers said.
 
“I’m hoping that we’ll have compliance, but we’re not naive about it,” he said. “We believe some people will probably violate the curfew.”

In regards to the video showing officers hitting a person on the ground, Suthers, like Colorado Springs Police Chief Vince Niski, was hesitant to criticize the officers’ use of force.

“I would encourage folks to wait and see what the whole situation is and actually what the officers are trying to accomplish,” Suthers said “If a person is tightening up into a ball and is …being resistant to the police, they may be applying, they may be hitting certain muscles in the leg that cause you, by training, to unleash your body tension.”

Suthers says “particular incidents where [citizens] thought the police were using inappropriate force” will “absolutely be reviewed.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Colorado Springs City Council member Yolanda Avila, whose fourth district encompasses Southeast Colorado Springs, took to the steps at City Hall and told a crowd of peaceful demonstrators that “I do think we can make things change, but it does not happen in a vacuum.”

“In my district, young kids will die before the rest of the city,” she said. “In my district, it’s six to eight degrees hotter than the rest of the city. In my district, there are health disparities that we are feeling with this COVID-19 pandemic.

“In my district, they keep taking and keep taking. And what happens? This happens!”

On Tuesday, June 2, Colorado Springs School District 11 Superintendent Michael Thomas released an impassioned statement to the community that both spoke to the unjust death of an unarmed black man at the hands of police and reiterated the district’s commitment to educating and empowering all students “to profoundly impact our world.”

“As a black man in this country, I am reminded every day about my value in society,” Thomas wrote in his communique. “No matter how many degrees or letters [are] behind my name, my social value as a black man is always susceptible to question.”

Thomas took the reins at District 11 after serving as chief of schools for Minneapolis Public Schools. He recalled a time when he was subject to uncomfortable questioning following an unprovoked traffic stop, and cited the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., when he wrote: “As long as America postpones justice, we stand in the positions of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”

“I live my life every day to be an example for others,” Thomas wrote, “and hope my shoulders are strong enough and broad enough to be a lift to my daughters and any other person in our community who is destined to make a difference.”

For her part, Avila called on her constituents to make sure their voices are heard in all ways. She pointed to both the ongoing 2020 Census and the upcoming election cycle as ways to make sure every citizen’s voice counts.

“I, as an elected official, need to be held accountable,” she said to cheers. “But there’s something you can do. You’re doing it now, being out here. It matters. You all matter. Black lives matter.

“Get people out there who represent your needs and what you want to see. Get out there and be counted. … And finally, the call to action, go vote.”

Southeast Express Editor Regan Foster contributed to this report.

Reporter

Faith Miller is a Colorado Springs native and a 2018 graduate of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. Miller’s past experience includes a multiplatform editing internship at the Los Angeles Times.