Dueling rallies, “Patriot rally” and “BLM-Antifa Soup Drive,” held in downtown Denver; tensions high early

One person has hospitalized and two people are in custody after a shooting during dueling protests Saturday in downtown Denver, according to police and media reports.

Ambulances responded to the scene. The condition of the gunshot victim is unknown.

Less than a month before the presidential election, left- and right-wing groups on Saturday faced off during rallies in downtown Denver around Civic Center. An hour in, police had fired what appeared to be pepper balls after people from the leftist group started rattling a barrier headed into the amphitheater.

As the rallies got started the two groups were shouting at each other and police were standing by. One protester burned a thin-blue-line flag in front of the officers.

Those attending what they billed as a “Patriot Rally” were inside the amphitheater area while the left-leaning protestors were outside. Police were not letting anyone else into the area with the “Patriot Rally” group, but by 3:30 the barrier appeared to be coming down.

The “Patriot Rally” in Civic Center was organized by John Tiegen, an El Paso County resident with a large social media following, who tweeted earlier this month that “(BLM, Antifa and related Marxist associations are assaulting everything we love and cherish about this country.”

The counterprotest has been billed by organizers on Facebook as a “BLM-Antifa Soup Drive.”

That appealed to Isabel Difrancesca, who said she came out because she liked the idea of a soup drive to help low-income folks. She brought pasta but said she was apprehensive about what’s she seen online in anticipation of events.

While the “Patriot Rally” group held a banner that said, “Socialism sucks,” Eric Goodman was running a table with literature, trying to get people to join the Colorado Socialist Revolution. “There’s amazing enthusiasm for socialism right now, especially among the younger people,” he said.

Tiegen’s description of their organization is absolutely right, BLM-Antifa organizers wrote on the event page.

“We are fighting against racism, nationalism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, the police, immigration-enforcement, imperialism and all oppression and exploitation,” the post stated.

In anticipation of the heightened tensions, Denver police said the department “respects the right to peacefully assemble. Those who participate in protests, demonstrations, marches, or other gatherings, as protected by the First Amendment, are reminded to do so in a lawful manner. Individuals who choose to act outside of local, state and federal law, will be subject to citation or arrest.”

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