Around a hundred demonstrators from the Black Lives Matters movement and other progressive and organizations on the left rallied at the state capitol after Biden’s inauguration Wednesday afternoon.
Speakers talked to the crowd about the importance of taking back political power and having each other’s backs. The tone was distinctly more positive than at some points earlier in the day.
“Your voice matters and you have a gift,” one speaker called out.
The rally was the largest event of a day that saw supporters and opponents of president Biden ebb through the state’s political center. The state legislature is temporarily paused because of the pandemic and the Colorado State Patrol closed the building so no one was working inside on Wednesday.
A few hours before the BLM-led event, several dozen protesters marched to the Capitol from a nearby park in Denver. The group, which came dressed in black and carrying communist flags, chanted anti-Trump and anti-Biden slogans. They identified themselves as anti-fascists.
Gathered on the west side of the building, they burned a large American flag and a Trump flag. Law enforcement rushed in to try to put out the fires, but eventually allowed them to burn as the group stood around.
The demonstrators also got into confrontations with a local freelance photojournalist and with an anti-abortion preacher from Kansas who had established himself on the capitol stairs.
Officers stayed near the edges of the demonstration, with more staged around the corner of the building.
Even earlier in the day, as Biden was being sworn into office in Washington, about a dozen of his supporters gathered to mark the occasion.
For Biden voter Rick Bryant there’s a great sense of relief that former president Trump is no longer in office.
“We at least have somebody that listens to common sense in the White House now," he said.
Bryant is a retired forklift driver in his 60s. He said he lives a few blocks away from the Capitol and arrived after watching the inauguration on television. He said he’s been terrified for the past four years, but especially the last two weeks, after the deadly siege at the U.S Capitol.
“It's time to put that behind us ... you know, this is a new beginning, a new day."
At one point, what appeared to be a lone Trump supporter in attendance got into a heated verbal exchange with several people over mask-wearing and Trump’s handling of the pandemic. Drew McDaniel of Arizona said he was visiting his sister in Denver.
McDaniel said he absolutely believes there was widespread election fraud, something the former president and his lawyers have failed to provide evidence of, and that Trump won in a landslide.
“The media has destroyed the minds and blatantly lied to the people and they've focused on trying to get him out,” McDaniel said. He railed against “all sorts of different corruption that is very significantly destroying America.”
71-year-old cab driver John Maes came to the Capitol to voice his support for the incoming administration. He said he was expecting to see a lot more Trump supporters in the crowd but was pleasantly surprised when that wasn't the case.
He said he’s struggled with the fact that millions of Americans hold the same view as McDaniel, that there was widespread election fraud.
“I hope they realize that they finally lost and go ahead with our country peacefully," he said. “I hope it gets back to everybody being more aware of the problems of the world and the racism and that type of thing.”
Claude Baud of Boulder said he would like people to give President Biden a chance to try to unify the country.
“I don't know what it takes to convince these 75 million people [who voted for Trump] that they were lied to,” Baud said. “It blows me away that they still believe that the vote was rigged.”
The small crowd at the capitol included one super hero — Captain Colorado. Matt Gnojek of Denver is known for wearing his Captain America outfit to visit children in pediatric cancer units. But on Wednesday he had it on to wave at cars driving by. He said he came out to urge Americans to come together and to believe in democracy.
“I just decided that a little more love, a little more smiles might be useful to more than just the kids, but maybe to some of the adults out there facing hardship as well,” he said.
Gnojek said he thinks American democracy is thriving, not failing.
“But we have to trust it. You have to trust each other. The claims of widespread voter fraud, it’s a big beast to tackle," he said. "But if I had to venture a guess, I would say that the reason that they feel the way that they do about voter fraud is because their love for country, their love for each other was in fact manipulated by forces that wanted to see us divided.”
But Captain America’s message of unity did not reach one man who drove by. Mistaking the gathering for Trump supporters, he slowed down his car, rolled down his window and shouted out “Biden is President you [expletives].”
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