DENVER | High school students chanted “hit him again” and cheered after four officers on bikes were hit by a car Wednesday during a protest march against the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson, Missouri, according to the Denver police union.
The Denver Police Protective Association released a statement Thursday saying that the union “has learned that immediately after the horrible accident yesterday injuring four Denver Police Officers, several parties in the protesting group cheered and chanted ‘hit him again.’”
Police say the driver of a black Mercedes veered out of control after suffering a medical condition at about noon and struck the officers, who were engaged in crowd and traffic control after students at East High School staged the walk-out at about 10 a.m.
Three of the officers were treated at a local hospital and released, but the fourth, Officer John Adsit, underwent surgeries Wednesday and Thursday at Denver Health Medical Center after being dragged several dozen yards under the car.
In its statement, the union pointed out that the students had broken Denver Public Schools rules, as well as city and county regulations, by walking out of school and holding a protest march without a permit.
“These actions are not only reprehensible but quite possibly the most disturbing thing this Association has ever heard,” said the DPPA statement. “This group of high school students not only broke DPS rules by leaving school without authorization, but broke laws of the City and County of Denver and State of Colorado regarding traffic regulations and the right to assemble with a permit.”
The march swelled at one point to as many as 1,000 participants, who walked down Colfax Avenue to the state capitol escorted by police. Several students held a black banner that said, “We Are Ferguson.”
“The DPPA recognizes citizens’ rights to assemble lawfully,” said the statement. “This, however, was not a lawful assembly, which ultimately cost four Denver Police Officers a trip to the hospital. One of which is in critical condition.”
Denver city councilman Albus Brooks said Thursday in a post on Twitter that six students who led the East High School march brought flowers to the injured officer and his family at the hospital.
“Reconciliation happening,” Mr. Brooks said.
Denver Police Chief Robert White and other civic leaders met Thursday at East High School to discuss improving relationships between police and students. The Denver police department issued a statement Thursday to 9News saying that it could not confirm that students had chanted or cheered after the officers were struck.
“If in fact there were inappropriate actions taken by a few students, Chief White does not believe this reflects the opinions of the vast majority of protesters from East High School,” the statement said.
Hundreds of students from Lincoln High School in Denver staged a similar walk-out Thursday. Denver Public Schools released a statement Wednesday wishing the officers “a full recovery.” “About 500 Denver students engaged in a peaceful walk-out to the Capitol as a statement of solidarity in response to the situation in Ferguson, Missouri,” the statement said. “DPS Safety and Security and Denver police were present to help ensure students were safe as they crossed streets and walked to and from the Capitol. As they were returning to school, several Denver police officers were struck by a vehicle and injured. Our thoughts and prayers are with the officers, and we wish them a full recovery.”
The student were protesting the decision by a St. Louis County grand jury not to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed. The Nov. 24 announcement touched off rioting and looting in Ferguson and demonstrations nationwide.