DENVER-The police killing of 18 year old Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri has raised tensions across the country. Last Thursday a MOMENT OF SILENCE was held in dozens of US cities including in Denver. Tonight however, an even larger crowd turned out to raise voices and to make a call for action and reform. They were anything but silent.
Since the Ferguson, Missouri teenager was shot and killed by local police, cities across the nation have held multiple rallies in support of people of color who are disproportionately the targets of police violence. At Last Thursday’s Moment of Silence held in Denver, supporters turned out at the state capitol to denounce police brutality and to support victims both across the nation and especially locally. Last night, supporters returned for another rally in much larger numbers than last week’s crowd. Over 350 turned out for last night’s rally.
As the crowd chanted, “STOP POLICE BRUTALITY! STOP POLICE BRUTALITY!” speakers took to the mic, “Just look who’s here. White people are here. Latinos and Latinas are here. Asian Americans are here. Native Americans are here. I want to hear from all my real young people. What about my older folks.
I used to stay in Ferguson County. I lived in St. Louis for a year and a half. And what I can tell you is that I have friends that are living on the Boulevards where it’s happening right now. And I fear for their safety. And it’s coming here.
You need to talk to your Senators to make sure that they stop sending surplus military equipment to the police departments. We need to set a legal precedent for the next cop that decides to take a life to be tried as a citizen and convicted for the same murder that any one of us would do. Because somebody said that if a black teenager had pulled a gun on an unarmed police officer with his hands up surrendering, you bet your behind this would be a different story right now.”
“I don’t know about you but I didn’t come here just to walk a few blocks and then go home tonight. I didn’t come to sing a few songs and then go to bed. All of the biggest political movements, if you look at the Garvey movement, if you look at Malcolm X, if you look at Dr. King, if you look at Steven Beagle, because as long as 5000 Palestinian lives equal the life of one Israeli, you don’t have ….. As long as being a black man and doing something like trespassing, doing something like taking a short-cut, or maybe being a suspect gets you shot six times, whereas you can be a white boy shooting up a movie theater in Aurora and get escorted to the car.”
In naming the Garvey Movement the speaker was referring to Marcus Garvey who became a leader of the Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism movements and civil rights activist Steven Beagel. The Aurora movie theater shooter, James Holmes remains in jail in Arapahoe County and is awaiting a December trial for the July 2012 shooting of moviegoers of the Century Aurora 16 theater. He is accused of killing 12 people and injuring another 70.
Denver resident and longtime civil rights activist Brother Jeff took to the microphone,
“I want you to know that being black is not a criminal act. We came together for Trayvon Martin. We’re coming together for Mike Davis. Michael Brown. Jordan Davis. We’re standing for Ferguson. But don’t forget you’re standing in Denver right now. Don’t forget Marvin Booker. Don’t forget Alonzo Ashley. Don’t forget Paul Childs. Don’t forget Frank Lobato. So as Ferguson hears us, we want to hear Ferguson recognize the deaths that are happening right here as well. There was a mother and many mothers who posted on Facebook, ‘Please don’t kill my child!’ How do you have a right to kill a child? For those of you don’t forget that this is about race. Because if that was a white child [Michael Brown], he would still be alive right now. Some of you know what it’s like to be black in America. Some of you know about tar and feathering. Some of you know about lynching. Some of you know about being burned alive. Some of you know about seeing your child leave and not seeing that child come home. Anytime a tank is in your neighborhood and officers have sniper training and assault weapons on you, something is wrong with that picture. Anytime it’s illegal for soldiers in a foreign land to use tear gas in war but you can use tear gas in the streets of America, something is wrong. We’re not here to criticize all police, but we’re here to talk about the racist police that abuse their authority where nobody holds them accountable. It’s systemic.
We’re tired of racist cops. We’re tired of racist judges. We’re tired of racist politicians. We’re tired of racist policy. We’re tired of the criminal industrial complex. We know that the prison is nothing more than the modern-day plantation. We’re not going to take it anymore!”
Denver resident Rudolf Rollerson Jr. told The Nation Report of his own experience with the Denver Police Department:
“They slammed me to the ground. I was with my Caucasian friend and he’s had knives and other weapons on him, warrants and everything. The cop, first thing comes and slams me to the ground. Takes my ID out and slams it to the ground. Tells me to get up and get it. I get it. Then he throws it again to the ground. Other times I’ve been stopped, questioned about who I am, what am I doing in this area. I’ve been stopped right behind my house. I’m a 32 year old black male who’s been through college, trying to see others go to college and that’s what we all deserve to do. Live. Breathe. Instead of being harassed every day. My nephew is four years old. I want to see him grow to be my next president. I’ve been voting every election since 2000 since I turned 18, since the first Bush. I want to see change. Just because Obama’s here, that does not mean change.”
Camilla Rollison who protested and held a sign with her brother said she had been targeted by the Denver Police Department herself:
I’m tired of America just sitting down and taking our people of color for granted not valued as white folk’s lives. I’m fighting for my ancestors, my grandparents, my mother, my father, my son as well, myself, and my brothers and everyone else who feels if they’re scared, they can’t come out. I got arrested a few times myself and I [hadn’t] done anything so I’m not just talking just to be talking. I live in Park Hill and they’re always around there harassing us and shooting us up and down. My mother’s in a wheelchair and when they see her at night doing something, they even got the nerve to look at her crazy. The police department can kiss my ass. The Sheriff and even Mayor Hancock, you know you can kiss my ass as well because you’re not here representing your black youth. I’m 33 years old. I’m not 16, I’m not 15 and I’ll still stand with everybody.”
As the crowd gathered to march they chanted the signature phrase currently heard in other US cities who are protesting police violence and the shooting of Michael Brown, “HANDS UP! DON’T SHOOT!”
The capitol protest ended with a call for the crowd to continue the solidarity, “As we leave I invite you to talk to the people around you. Shake a few more hands. Hug a few more people. And remember we are not done!” to which the crowd responded, “WE ARE NOT DONE! WE ARE NOT DONE!” and continued with the words to the freedom song, “We who believe in freedom will not rest until it’s done.”
In finishing speakers called for more strategic organizing against police violence and more documenting of police interactions.
Mildred Stallkamp/The Nation Report