Monday, June 8, 2020

Heavily armed contingent shows up at Colorado Springs downtown protests

Posted By on Mon, Jun 8, 2020 at 1:11 PM

click to enlarge Armed men showed up in downtown Colorado Springs saying they wanted to protect protesters against police. - MICHAEL CHAUSSEE
  • Michael Chaussee
  • Armed men showed up in downtown Colorado Springs saying they wanted to protect protesters against police.
Not much is known about the identities of a group of people who showed up on Saturday, June 6, at the Black Lives Matter protests in downtown Colorado Springs. They toted some pretty serious firepower.

Though one of the roughly 15 to 25 armed people claimed they attended at the request of the Colorado Springs Police Department, CSPD Lt. Jim Sokolik says that's not true.

Stephany Rose Spaulding, a professor at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs who's run for Congress, spoke to protesters June 7 and referenced the armed contingent.

"So yesterday, there were some folks who came out, as people will do to co-opt anybody’s movement, who came out in full military gear, walked across the street and said, 'I’m here to protect Black Lives Matter.' In full military gear," she said. "We can never be deceived by wolves in sheep’s clothing."

Michael Chaussee of Colorado Springs attended the protests June 6 and spoke with several of the armed men, none of whom would disclose their names or say much about why they were there, other than to assert they wanted to protect protesters from police. (No police were on hand during the June 6 protests.)
click to enlarge One armed man had a dog with him. - MICHAEL CHAUSSEE
  • Michael Chaussee
  • One armed man had a dog with him.
"They were in full military get-up and carrying backup rounds," Chaussee tells the Indy. "One guy told me, I don’t know if it’s true, that he had 100 ... backup rounds of military-grade ammunition.

"They also had pouches of explosives of different types, including grenades," he reports. "When I interviewed them, one of them told me if the police were to try to use force on the demonstrators, he would potentially fire on them. Other ones told me they were there to defend the protest marchers, and that was the message they were trying to convey. Two told me they were authorized by the police."

Chaussee says the armed men argued with protesters and that many protesters asked them to leave, telling them they were unnecessary, leading to arguments. One man identified himself as ex-law enforcement and ex-military and that he had information that 1,000 protesters from Denver were headed to Colorado Springs. When Chaussee asked the name of his source, the man declined to disclose it.

"These guys tried to convince people they were there to protect them in case violence broke out," he says. "A number of people left the protest because they didn’t feel safe."
click to enlarge The armed people wore yellow stripes on their shoulders, which they said designated they had been approved to be there by the police. CSPD said it gave no such permission or made a request for help. - COURTESY OF A PROTESTER
  • Courtesy of a protester
  • The armed people wore yellow stripes on their shoulders, which they said designated they had been approved to be there by the police. CSPD said it gave no such permission or made a request for help.
When Chaussee went to the Police Operations Center south of downtown to report what he'd learned, he found it locked.

John Tiegen, a four-year Marine Corps veteran, was among those who helped organize what he considers a peacekeeping mission during the protests in downtown Colorado Springs June 6.

The showing of some 20 to 25 armed men, he said, was a response to a rumor that 300 Antifa agitators were headed for the protest, and the goal was to assure no rioting broke out, property got damaged or people were injured, he tells the Indy.

"I just put the word out" through social media, Tiegen says, "and a bunch of us showed up.
"We're just locals who live in the city and don’t want to see businesses destroyed. So we went down there to make a presence. We support them [the protesters]. The police need to be held accountable. They need better training. It was just to watch for any kind of rioting and looting."

He further explained the response was designed to quell any violence before it got started. "It wasn’t designed to intimidate the protesters," he says. "They kept coming up to us and asking us questions and trying to agitate. We stayed in the median, for the most part, across the street.
They’re not used to seeing what they saw. I get it."

He said the armed people who showed up, many of whom he didn't know, aren't white supremacists or with specific groups, like the Boogaloo Bois. "We’re not a militia. We're not an organized group at all. We're civilian, veterans, medics, all walks of life," he says. "The guns are mainly just a show of force. It is intimidation." But he adds that the group wouldn't "kill somebody over painting a wall."

Some speculate the group is somehow connected with the Boogaloo Bois, a loose-knit white supremacy group that has shown up in other cities during the protests over the May 25 death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer who since has been charged with second-degree murder. Three other cops on hand for the incident also have been charged.

Another possibility, those attending the protest said, is the III%ers (Three Percenters), a group formed in 2008. Read more here.

Lt. Sokolik tells the Indy by phone he has no information about either group. "There's a number of groups out there, to protect protesters from police, protect police, protect protesters from Antifa," he says. "There's a lot of guns out there."

He says the guns described by Chaussee are legal to carry in Colorado Springs, including in city parks. He says explosive devices, though, such as grenades, are not legal to carry.

Asked why there were no police on hand on June 6, he says, "We respond to criminal acts and to calls for service."

He says he doesn't know if police had received any complaints about the armed interlopers. "We've had people call in and say there are people with guns, but that is a Second Amendment right," he says.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with additional information.

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