- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 16, 2019

DENVER (AP) - Police are asking for the public’s help identifying people they believe were involved in the removal of an American flag during a protest at an immigration detention center in suburban Denver.

Aurora police on Tuesday released photos of several people from Friday’s demonstration at the privately-run detention center.

A vigil and march drew an estimated 2,000 people outside the center. Police say hundreds of them ended up crossing a makeshift barrier to trespass onto the center’s property and then some pulled down the American flag and two others, replacing the American flag with a Mexican one.

The action at the GEO Group center has been widely condemned by many immigration rights activists as well as lawmakers but defended by at least some demonstration participants.

The vigil portion of the event was one many held around the world by Lights for Liberty, which denounced the flag removal along with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. A march to the vigil was organized by the Coalition to Close Concentration Camps.

The Colorado Immigration Rights Coalition, which is comprised of over 90 organizations around the state, said the action by what it called “rogue protesters” put undocumented families attending the vigil at risk and caused harm to the immigration rights movement.

“As a result, the attention has shifted away from how for-profit corporations make billions in profit from the increased criminalization of our communities and militarization of our borders,” the coalition said in a statement over the weekend.

However, Frankie Donez, a University of Colorado student and a member of Contra ICE who helped organize the coalition’s march, said he supports those who removed the flag. He said he understands the outrage that prompted the removal of the flag, which he said is an oppressive symbol for some of the people who are most directly impacted by immigration policies.

“For people who have experienced ICE and border issues, migration issues their whole life, they get angry, they can get sad and those are emotions they can express,” he said.

Donez, who said he was speaking for himself and not Contra ICE, said he thought flag protest would encourage other people to become involved in fighting to close detention centers because of all the attention it has received.

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