DENVER – The opening prayer and Pledge of Allegiance at the Colorado House of Representatives on Friday were punctuated by chants of “not my president.”
As soon as the meeting adjourned, several representatives scrambled onto a ledge overlooking the western steps of the state Capitol to observe the crowd numbering in the hundreds that caused the interruption as they protested the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
The gathering was greeted by representatives Leslie Herod and Joesph Salazar, both Democrats from Denver, who thanked those assembled for expressing their concerns and frustrations.
“You’re telling not only your elected officials here at the state Capitol, but around the state and around the nation that you’re not going to tolerate division and hatred,” Salazar said.
For Herod, the peaceful assembly holds special importance because her mother and brother serve in the armed forces, she said. “They fight for our freedom and we must honor that by showing up and by making sure that our government respects what we want it to (be).”
Herod and Salazar told the crowd that they would keep the best interests of Coloradans in mind and not allow the rhetoric of the campaign trail to influence decisions in the coming years of the Trump administration.
“We are here to fight for you, young people matter, regardless of what is happening in Washington right now. We are the resistance, we will fight back,” Herod said.
In the House, Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, echoed the sentiment.
“I think people out here are mad about being hated or being encouraged to hate or living with people who are hated,” McLachlan said.
After the speeches, the crowd, which included a mosaic of ethnicities and ages from the elderly to elementary children, proceeded into the heart of downtown Denver, chanting such things as “the people, united, will never be divided,” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go,”
Carol Carpenter, a former Durango resident, said the inclusion of young people in the protest was particularly important to her as a former educator.
“We all need to be involved, and I love it that the young people are here,” Carpenter said.
For Arthur Kunkel and Anna Fiorenza, who moved from Durango to Denver just over a year ago, watching from the sidewalk was overwhelming.
“I think it’s extremely powerful that this many people joined together and understand what we’ve got going on as a country is not what we’re about, and it makes me honestly tear up that people actually care enough to do something like this,” Kunkel said.
Noah Hayden and Anna Perez of Denver said Friday’s protest gave them an opportunity to peacefully vent their frustrations with the views of the incoming administration.
“I just wanted to come out and show support for everybody that’s feeling like their rights and freedoms might be under attack,” Hayden said.
Later, Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, released this statement: “We respect the rights of all Americans to peacefully protest on this or any other occasion, even if we believe the fears they express will prove unfounded over time.”
Some protester used Friday’s gathering to test the boundaries of civility and single out Trump supporters such as Stacey Edwardson of Denver.
While traveling alongside the gathering and handing out American flags to counter protesters Edwardson, who is a member of a group called Bikers Against Radical Islam, and his companions were surrounded by protesters wearing all black with masks over their faces.
The black-garbed marchers called Edwardson and his companions “fascist” and “Nazis,” he said.
While words were exchanged, no physical violence occurred.
“We have video just in case someone tries to blame us, trying to walk through and being prohibited from doing a legal action,” Edwardson said.