Last Saturday, two protests occurred in Colorado: a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Aurora, and a Defend the Police protest in Eaton.
A near tragedy occurred at both protests in the form of a driver almost running over protesters–but one of them has received a lot less sympathy from Colorado conservatives.
The incident in Aurora began when a peaceful protest calling for accountability in the death of Elijah McClain moved to I-225 in order to stop traffic. A Jeep on the highway drove towards the protesters at a high speed; the protesters managed to move to the sides of the road in time to avoid being hit, but one woman broke her leg when she was forced to jump off the highway embankment. The Jeep’s speed and direction led another driver to attempt to block it with his truck, resulting in a collision. The Jeep drove on, leading another the protesters to draw his revolver and shoot at the vehicle, striking and injuring two fellow protesters in the process.
Samuel Young, the protester who fired shots, was later taken into custody. According to 9News, “Aurora Police have not filed a case against the driver of the Jeep but have acknowledged they are investigating the incident.”
Some conservatives took to social media to make fun of the protesters that were almost hit.
Former Denver GOP Chair Jake Viano wrote on Facebook, “Each time a protester gets whacked by a car on the interstate, it sounds like someone yelled the president’s name. It’s beautiful.”
When asked to comment on the Facebook post made, Viano told the Colorado Times Recorder:
“My feeling on the protesters on the interstate is that I support their right to free speech, but they need to do so in a safe manner. And crowding around vehicles with baseball bats, explosives, and projectiles on the interstate is not safe,” said Viano. “Nor is it smart. And lacks any and all common sense. If one is stupid enough to literally play in traffic while protesting, and they get hit by a car, that’s their own fault. It comes down to personal responsibility.”
Jason Williamson, former lead organizer for the Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis group, posted a cartoon to the group depicting protesters being hit by the Jeep, with the words “nobody cares about your protest.” Williamson posted the picture along with the caption, “Block the highway and this is what you have coming! Just saying!”
Other Facebook groups shared information regarding the incident in Aurora, but chose to frame the Jeep driver’s actions as innocent and peaceful, instead shifting the blame to the protesters.
Colorado Constitutional Conservatives, for example, shared a KDVR video of the Jeep driving through protesters, with the caption: “Apparently the Jeep hit NO ONE and hurt NO ONE, and protesters fired on the Jeep and hit their own people. Also ‘peaceful protesters’ are shooting fireworks at the courthouse, blocking highways, and starting fires. Yet Fox reports on them as ‘peaceful.'”
The same Facebook page shared articles about a similar incident in Eaton, in which a man drove across the grass near where a Defend the Police protest was taking place, purposefully almost running over several protesters and families.
That driver, likewise, did not hit or hurt any people.
Take Action Colorado, a conservative Facebook page dedicated to “taking a stand against Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and his unconstitutional agenda,” shared a video of the event in Aurora seemingly mocking coverage of the incident by using the word “peaceful” repeatedly, while also downplaying the Jeep driver’s actions, stating that the Jeep was driving “in an open lane on I-225 and did not hit any of the human road debris or peaceful protestors blocking the highway.”
Ken Clark, former conservative radio talk show host, also took to Facebook to infuse his opinion, writing, “OK, they are now shooting. Time to play cowboys and protesters.”
Former Congressman Tom Tancredo, a Republican from Colorado, also recently posted a meme “that celebrated the photoshopped image of a truck running over protesters and having blood splattered over the front of the vehicle,” according to Media Matters for America.
Despite the jokiness directed towards the Aurora occurrence, many conservatives have been vocal in their support for protesters targeted during the rally in Eaton.
One Colorado State House candidate–Tonya Van Beber, who is running for House District 48 in Weld County–took to Facebook to share her sadness over the episode in Eaton, which also happens to be her hometown.
In the post, Van Beber writes: “It is NOT peaceful to block highways. It is NOT peaceful to drive into a crowd of people who are peacefully assembled, regardless of which political ideology you adhere to.”
Van Beber would not provide an official comment about her views of the incident in Aurora, stating that she needed more information about the event first.
“My post, I think, speaks for itself,” Van Beber told the Colorado Times Recorder.
Aurora Police say that the Jeep driver alleged that his car had been surrounded by menacing protesters, and was then struck by a white truck, causing him to drive through the protesters to get away. The department has asked for any witness video that can disprove the driver’s claims.
Late last month the Denver District Attorney charged a woman who was captured on video running down a protester from behind after he and other had blocked her vehicle during a May protest over the death of George Floyd.
The driver of the white truck told the Sentinel that he saw the Jeep speeding towards the protesters, and maneuvered his truck in front of the Jeep to stop it. His account was supported by several eyewitnesses.