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'To Attack This Is To Attack All Of Us': Former Gov. Bill Owens Says Police Should Protect State Capitol From Vandals

DENVER (CBS4) - Former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens says enough already. After watching the Colorado State Capitol trashed by vandals for nearly two months, he let Gov. Jared Polis have it, saying the Capitol deserves to be defended.

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(credit: CBS)

"This building represents all of us. This is really the emblem of our democracy. This is the "People's House," and to attack this is to attack us all," said Owens. "I've tried to stay out of the public spotlight, but this is something I think the citizens of Colorado need to speak up about."

This week the state announced repairs to the Capitol would top $1 million. But as workers began cleaning by day, the vandals returned by night to tag the areas where graffiti had been removed.

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Instead of a fence surrounding the Capitol, Owens says police should step up enforcement.

"If there is a will to protect this building and this space, there are the means to do so. I hope after seeing what's happened when there isn't the ability to defend the building, we do so in the future. Otherwise, this million dollars is just wasted."

So far, only one person has been arrested. Denver police say Bradley Mashino was charged by the City Attorney's Office with petty theft, destruction of property and resisting arrest for damaging a flagpole and stealing flags at the Capitol.

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Bradley Mashino (credit: Denver City Attorney's Office)

"When will the governor and the mayor, the district attorney and the attorney general make this a priority so the taxpayers don't have to spend another million?" Owens asked. "I think protesters have been empowered when they see their messages stay up for 45-50 days. That's exactly what they want to see happen and they will do it again until they're stopped."

As proof, Owens pointed to areas where workers had removed graffiti the night before only to see it return the next day. One person even wrote, "We won't stop."

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Gov. Jared Polis declined an interview on the matter. A spokesperson provided the following statement:

"It's unclear to us as to why the former Governor has not reached out to the current administration to share his ideas on how to address this challenge. That said, Governor Polis is outraged by the graffiti on the capitol and believes it is unacceptable and that those responsible should be held accountable under the law. He appreciates the work DPA has done to remove it quickly, but for the longer-term repair it's important to note that this is historical granite so the State can't buy an everyday cleaning item off the shelf in order to remove it. It is an ongoing project with the utmost urgency. The Governor has been clear and outspoken about his utter disappointment regarding the damage to the Capitol and has called on the Denver District Attorney to prosecute those that continue to deface the Capitol on a regular basis."

For now, State Patrol can't even write a ticket at the Capitol.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is working with Polis on an agreement to allow Colordado State Patrol (the capitol building is under its jurisdiction) to arrest and tickcet vandals if troopers undergo de-escalation training. But, there is no talk of stationing law enforcement around the capitol. CSP officials said they are worried that if they do, vandalism will turn to violence. Owens says if they don't, the destruction will continue.

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