COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Protesters brought traffic to a halt Tuesday night after taking their demonstration to the interstate.
The group, driving together in roughly a dozen cars, abruptly stopped in the middle of northbound I-25 near the Bijou exit and got out holding signs and placards. One leader had a bullhorn and others were chanting.
Officers tell 11 News as they were pulling up to the scene most of the protestors ran. Luckily officers were able to track down two people who were blocking traffic with their cars. The two were pulled over and ticketed. On Friday, police announced two
more people were cited for the incident, for obstructing a highway or other passageway. The citation is a misdemeanor.
Police say they expect to charge dozens of people for the dangerous situation.
The demonstration was part of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has swept the country in recent weeks.
Springs police shut down northbound I-25 just south of Bijou. A spokesperson for the Colorado Springs Police Department told 11 News officers were intending to arrest the protesters, but the group dispersed before they could. The whole incident lasted a little more than one hour.
A number of drivers unrelated to the protests found themselves stuck behind the makeshift blockade for a short time. Those drivers were eventually able to turn around and leave.
The Colorado Springs police chief issued a statement Wednesday denouncing the actions of the small group.
"Last night, a small group of protesters blocked I-25, creating a public safety hazard. In order to best protect our community and our officers, we temporarily closed the highway and diverted traffic with the full intent of making arrests if necessary. I share in your frustration, as our freeways serve as a vital part of our community and are an unsafe environment for any kind of demonstration.
"We have to weigh all factors before taking action. At the time of the demonstration, patrol officers were responding to several priority one dispatch calls, to include a shooting, and we could not take away those resources that were out serving our community. We made the decision to deploy our Public Order Response Team (PORT) to disperse the demonstrators and make any arrests if necessary to reopen the highway. The team is made up of CSPD officers specially trained to handle public order events or incidents, both planned and unplanned. With the help of the Colorado Department of Transportation and Colorado State Patrol, a detour was set up to divert traffic around the blockade until PORT could respond. Before PORT arrived on scene, the demonstrators fled the area. Our department is currently investigating and attempting to identify and arrest those involved.
"Additionally, I want to make it clear that the Colorado Springs Police Department will not tolerate blocking of freeways, damaging our community, or putting lives in danger. The actions of the few last night were selfish, dangerous, and create more of a divide when our community is moving forward together."
The protesters say they are continuing to bring attention to the injustices faced by the black community. Since late May, demonstrators have been protesting a series of deaths of black Americans, often unarmed, at the hands of law enforcement.
"It's a big thing when a family member has to lay their loved one into the ground," a man at the interstate demonstration told 11 News.
The most recent incident to garner national attention was the death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain of Aurora, who died last summer following an altercation with police officers. A passerby had called 911 on McClain, reporting he was acting odd and wearing a ski mask, while also stating McClain was not armed and had not committed a crime. McClain was put in a chokehold, something that has since been banned by the Aurora Police Department.
Late last month, Gov. Jared Polis directed the state attorney general to investigate the case and, if the facts supported doing so, prosecuting the officers whose actions caused McClain's death.
“Elijah McClain should be alive today, and we owe it to his family to take this step and elevate the pursuit of justice in his name to a statewide concern,” Polis said on June 25.
A sergeant with the Colorado Springs Police Department told 11 News he believes it's important for law enforcement to continue this dialogue with the community.
"But we can’t have these conversations when you’re putting lives in danger," he said of the interstate demonstration.