Why Denver Protesters Blocked Traffic (And Got Arrested) For The Climate

September 23, 2019
190923 EXTINCTION REBELLION190923 EXTINCTION REBELLIONHart Van Denburg/CPR News
A small band of Extinction Rebellion protesters marched and chanted along Speer Boulevard and Broadway in Denver, at times disrupting traffic.

Denver commuters faced an additional obstacle Monday. Beside the regular congestion and construction projects, drivers also had to contend with climate protesters. 

The blockades were organized by Extinction Rebellion — a nonviolent climate movement born in the United Kingdom. The Denver chapter held dual events to coincide with the morning and afternoon rush hour. A group of about 50 demonstrators marched around Central Denver in both instances, periodically blocking busy boulevards like Speer and Broadway. 

The marches are part of a week of so-called "escalated actions" Colorado groups have organized in the wake of Friday's youth climate strikes. They also coincided with a larger event in Washington, D.C., where a coalition of activists blocked a handful of busy intersections during the morning commute.   

190920 Climate Strike DenverHart Van Denburg/CPR News
Denver police made at least three arrests Monday evening as a small band of Extinction Rebellion protesters marched and chanted along Speer Boulevard and Broadway in Denver, at times disrupting traffic.

Before the event in Denver, demonstrators told police they intended to block intersections for a single green-light cycle. Christina LaFon, a demonstrator who joined Extinction Rebellion in the morning, said the idea was to delay drivers just long enough to get their message across.  

"Our politicians have failed us. Our leaders have failed us. Future generations are at risk," she said. "And if we don't take serious action, which goes much further than blocking traffic for a minute, we're all in serious peril." 

But Denver police did not allow any laws to be broken.  Whenever demonstrators blocked an intersection, officers would shout a stern warning over a loudspeaker. 

“This assembly’s in violation of 38-86, obstructing roadways,” one said. “You must disperse! Failure to disperse will result in arrest!”

190923 EXTINCTION REBELLIONHart Van Denburg/CPR News
Activist Ron Booth of Westminster shouts at Denver police Monday evening as a small band of Extinction Rebellion protesters marched and chanted along Speer Boulevard and Broadway in Denver, at times disrupting traffic. Police made at least three arrests

A Denver police spokesman confirmed the arrest of five activists during the morning action. Another three were arrested in the afternoon including a photographer who was attempting to move out of the roadway.

Dave Robinson, an Extinction Rebellion organizer, called the police tactics "brutal." He also promised more disruptive action in Denver on Oct. 7, when Extinction Rebellion plans to shut down at least five major cities across the world. 

"We're not going to stop," he said. "The Earth's not waiting. It's just heating up. And it's on fire"