A handful of students were removed by Colorado State Patrol officers from the public gallery of the House of Representatives Wednesday amid statewide protests over school shootings.
Videos published on social media and from body cameras worn by officers show the moment two officers carried a teenager from public seats in the house chambers and escorted others from the room. In the video, officers explained to the students they were removed for being disruptive in violation of general assembly decorum rules.
The incident, which occurred around 12:30 p.m. on April 5, lined up with statewide walkouts from high school students over gun violence in schools and a “die-in” staged by students in front of the governor’s office.
Around the time of the removal, the house was also considering a bill to create a centralized office in Colorado to address violence and emergency responses at schools which supporters said was aimed at increasing student safety in wake of mass shootings.
According to a statement released by the Colorado State Patrol, none of the students removed from the gallery were arrested or faced charges.
Body camera footage shows officers and officials with the General Assembly asking the students to step outside to talk. A young woman standing up yells, “They’re trying to take our First Amendment rights,” before officers initiate removing her. Officers tell the two students sitting closest to the aisle they need to move so they can remove the young woman, or they will also be removed. The first student gets up and leaves, but the second student, who later identified himself as a 16-year-old student at Denver’s North High School, refuses.
Video shows the officers carrying the second student out of the chambers while the young woman continues to shout, “Kids are dying” and “Stop.” The officers place the student on the floor outside the chamber and tell him he needs to get up and leave the building or he will go to jail. After tense words with officers and other officials, the student was escorted out of the capitol.
The young woman who was yelling was removed from the chamber but not the building, according to CSP.
Since the incident, Colorado lawmakers have released statements condemning the response by law enforcement as unnecessary.
“I’m very disappointed by how they were treated, specifically that a young Latino student was dragged out of the chamber with a level of force that felt unnecessary and disproportionate compared to the treatment of his peers,” wrote Rep. Monica Duran, who represents Jefferson County, in a Tweet on April 6. “I have a lot of questions about how and why this happened — and I intend to address those concerns with state patrol as we work to repair the harm perpetuated to this student and his peers.”
In statements to The Denver Post and Colorado Politics, Speaker of the House Julie McCluskie expressed similar concerns.
“I am concerned with the response to the protest in the House Gallery. From what we have seen, it was clearly disproportionate to the students’ actions. We are calling for an investigation into the response and will take the necessary steps to prevent this from happening again, including review of the responsibilities, protocols and training for our sergeants at arms,” McCluskie said in a statement to The Denver Post.