DENVER — Old Glory was back atop the flagpole Saturday at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Aurora, Colorado, but Republicans were hardly ready to forget the protesters who took down the stars-and-stripes and replaced it with the Mexican flag.
Colorado Republicans called on state Democrats, who control the governor’s office and both houses of the legislature, to condemn the Friday night flag switch at the detention facility during the Lights of Liberty protest.
“Last evening’s protest at the Aurora ICE facility was a disgrace to the state of Colorado and our entire nation. Every single Colorado Democrat should condemn this heinous anti-American display,” said Kyle Kohli, Colorado spokesman for the Republican National Committee, in a statement.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis became the first prominent Democrat to comment on the incident Saturday afternoon, tweeting, “Of course I condemn the desecration of our flag, who wouldn’t?”
“Now will you condemn the ongoing and even more serious offense to our flag and values of putting children in cages and tearing families apart?” he tweeted.
The incident saw activists take down three flags and replace them with the Mexican flag, a spray-painted “USA Thin Blue Line” flag, and a flag that said “F*** the Cops,” according to Aurora police.
Some activists also tried to burn the American flag, but officers declined to intervene, citing the need to protect the safety of officers and the “large majority who were acting peacefully” at the rally, which drew as many as 2,000.
“Beyond the removal, attempted destruction of the US flag, replacement of the flags, and some signs and poles being put on the main doors and windows, the protesters did not engage in behavior that warranted immediate intervention,” said Aurora Chief of Police Nick Metz in a Saturday statement.
Chief Metz also faulted ICE and the GEO Group, which runs the detention facility, for failing to heed the department’s advice to secure the bridge leading to the facility with water barrels to prevent pedestrians and vehicles from entering.
Instead, he said, ICE/GEO put up traffic cones, a plastic chain, and a sign in English and Spanish that said, “Private property, No trespassing.”
“You can imagine this did nothing to prevent and/or stop even one person from entering,” said Chief Metz.
At least one Democrat, Aurora city councilmember Nicole Johnston, said in a tweet that she attended the rally and thanked Aurora police for “keeping us safe and respecting our first amendment rights.”
Westword reporter Conor McCormick-Cavanaugh tweeted that he spotted a half-dozen other state and local Democratic and progressive officials and candidates at the rally.
Aurora District Attorney George Brauchler blasted what he described as “[c]owards wearing masks defacing our flag,” and said the conduct should be condemned by “every area elected official. Let’s see who stays silent.”
More than a dozen protests against the Trump administration’s immigration policies and reported plans to round up illegal aliens facing deportation orders took place Friday at a host of U.S. locations under the banner, “Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Concentration Camps.”
Lights for Liberty, whose sponsors include immigration groups, labor unions and the Texas ACLU, had no immediate public comment on the Mexican flag-raising, but thanked supporters in a Saturday post.
“We are so grateful to all who stood up last night for #Lights4Liberty. We on the national organizing team are speechless,” said the group on Facebook.
Rep. Ken Buck, who chairs the Colorado GOP, said that “condemning the hostile raising of a foreign flag over a law enforcement facility should not be controversial.”
“The desecration of our American flag by extreme anti-ICE protesters should outrage every patriotic American, regardless of party,” Mr. Buck said in a statement. “Every single Democrat, including those running for president, should immediately denounce this deeply anti-American act.”