DENVER — Police in Denver have apprehended three suspects in connection with an attempt to set fire to the pedestal of a Civil War statue that was toppled last week, authorities announced Sunday.
About 75 protesters had been demonstrating peacefully around the Capitol late Saturday night when a small group broke off and went to the statue site, a Colorado State Patrol spokesperson told KUSA_TV.
Just before 11 p.m., a fire was set atop the mostly-concrete pedestal using wood and other materials. the spokesperson said. The Denver Fire Department extinguished the blaze within about 20 minutes and the damage was minimal.
Someone has literally set the monument in front of the Capitol building on fire here in Denver. This is not a peaceful protest. The way to ensure your voices are heard is to VOTE. NOT BURN YOUR CITY DOWN! #denverprotests #ElijahMclain #GeorgeFloyd pic.twitter.com/B5EKovm6NO
— (@pinklaurenade) June 28, 2020
Gov. Jared Polis said three suspects were later apprehended. They included a 22-year-old who was being held on suspicion of second-degree arson, according to the Denver Police Department.
“We hope this also provides a breakthrough into other ongoing investigations regarding destruction of public property,” Polis said in a statement. “There is a right way and a wrong way to have an open and honest conversation about our history. Destruction and vandalism are not the answer.”
The statue, erected in 1909, had been pulled down Thursday. It recognized a Union cavalry regiment that fought Confederate forces but also acknowledged the soldiers’ role in an 1864 massacre of Native Americans.
Its toppling came as protesters across the nation have defaced and torn down statues of historic figures during recent demonstrations against racial injustice. Most of those pieces have explicit ties to colonialism, slavery and the Confederacy, including imagery of Christopher Columbus and former U.S. presidents who owned slaves.
Polis has said the Denver statute will be repaired.