Boulder and University of Colorado police are reviewing body camera footage and social media images to identify people involved in a large street party that became violent over the weekend.
As many as 800 people flooded the streets Saturday night and refused to disperse, the Daily Camera reported. City police say three officers were injured, and vehicles parked in the neighborhood known as the Hill were damaged. At least one police car was flipped over during the confrontation.
The disturbance began around 5 p.m. Saturday, when a crowd started to swell on 10th Street between Pennsylvania and College avenues. Responding officers were pelted with glass bottles, according to a timeline provided by the Boulder Police Department. Hours later, around 8:20 p.m., the police sent in SWAT vehicles.
As police told the crowd to leave the scene, people surrounded the armored rescue truck. According to Boulder police, the crowd pelted officers and the vehicle with rocks and bottles. At least three SWAT officers were struck with rocks, some of them approximately the size of a softball. The injuries are reportedly minor.
The crowd finally dispersed around 9 p.m. Saturday after the police deployed one canister of tear gas and two canisters of smoke.
On Sunday, authorities across the city and county condemned the mass gathering not only for the violence but also for the disregard of health safety measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The videos from the party last night are shocking and disturbing, especially considering Gov. (Jared) Polis had just mourned the nearly 6,000 people that died in the last year with COVID in Colorado,” said Jeff Zayach, the executive director of Boulder County Public Health.
Zayach said people were not wearing masks or maintaining a safe social distance in a crowd that was clearly in violation of state orders about social gatherings.
Boulder County District Attorney said he will seek criminal charges against participants and took issue with calling the crowd “a party.”
“I don't regard people flipping over a car as a party. I don't regard people throwing bottles and rocks at firefighters and police officers as a party. Those are criminal acts and will be treated as such,” Dougherty said.
As of Sunday evening, no arrests had been made.
Boulder police Chief Maris Herold said that officers didn’t attempt to arrest anyone on Saturday because it wasn’t safe to send them into the crowd.
“It would not be considered a best practice to send officers into this crowd,” she said. “I was on scene myself. It's much better to videotape this type of behavior and make arrests after. But believe me, we have excellent body-worn camera videos. The community is sending us video. There will be arrests.”
As law enforcement and public health officials condemned the actions, CU Chancellor Philip DiStefano issued a strong rebuke.
“To the students who participated in the incident last night: you have embarrassed yourselves and the entire University of Colorado Boulder. Your actions violated university and community standards at every level,” he said in a written statement.
DiStefano said that any student found responsible for acts of violence or other acts connected to the crowd, including property damage and not dispersing while ordered by the police, will face penalties with the possibility of being expelled. Those students may also face criminal and civil charges from the city.
“Those who demonstrate through their conduct that they cannot meet our expectations are not welcome at our university,” he said.
The university is also advising anyone who attended the Hill gathering to quarantine immediately and complete a COVID-19 monitoring test later this week.
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