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'This was a revolt': Colorado students blame frustration over COVID restrictions for Saturday's riot

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Posted at 1:24 PM, Mar 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-08 15:53:33-05

BOULDER, Colo. — Chaos erupted in Boulder's University Hill neighborhood Saturday night after a large party got out of control.

According to the Boulder Police Department, it's estimated 500-800 people gathered at the height of the riot.

"This is an unlawful assembly. Due to riot conditions, you're ordered to leave the area immediately," a SWAT officer was heard announcing over an intercom at one point in the night.

A CU Boulder student, who did not want to be identified, told Denver7 what happened Saturday night as a result of frustration over COVID-19 restrictions.

"This is a culmination of kindred spirits that have come together to put on something beautiful: a rebellion, revolution," the student said. "They feel like they've had their freedoms taken away from them by the school, by the county. This was a revolt."

Several cars were damaged, including one the mob tipped over, along with SWAT and Boulder Fire trucks. At least three SWAT officers were also injured, but they're doing OK now.

Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold said during a press conference Sunday afternoon that officers didn't make any arrests during the riot because it wasn't safe to do so. The crowd was simply too big.

"It's much better to videotape this type of behavior and make the arrests after," she said. "But believe me, we have excellent body-worn camera video. The community is sending in videos. There will be arrests."

Thomas Quinn, a senior at CU Boulder, says he attended the large party before it got out of control. He admitted to Denver7 he rode on the back of an Amazon delivery truck as police chased him and several others.

"I jumped on the back of the Amazon truck, too. And I looked behind me, and there are four cops chasing us, so I jumped off the back of the Amazon truck and hooked a left," he said.

He, too, echoed the sentiment that the COVID-19 restrictions have been "frustrating."

"We're all trying to turn up, you know? Like, they've been shutting us down. They won’t let us organize," Quinn said. "That's why this party broke out in the middle of the street."

But, like several students Denver7 spoke with, he draws the line at violence.

"Yeah, flipping cars, causing riots. That's a no-go. That's not 'chill-oh,'" he said.

CU Boulder leaders want to make it clear to students the behavior expressed Saturday night will not be tolerated.

"There will be consequences for students who engaged in any violence towards law enforcement, property damage, or failing to disperse," Patrick O'Rourke, a chief operating officer for the university, said Sunday.

Investigators with the Boulder Police Department will comb over all of the social media videos they've been receiving to identify any suspects. They could be charged with misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the crime.

Right now, the biggest concern for city and Boulder County leaders is the spread of COVID-19 because of the party. As a result, they're asking anyone who attended the gathering to quarantine for the next 10 days and monitor symptoms for the next 14 days. They must also complete a COVID-19 monitoring test on Thursday or Friday.

This story was first published by Pattrik Perez at KMGH.