Protestors gathered at Sonny Lawson Park in Five Points and marched to the Denver County Courthouse to protest police violence and mourn the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown.
Brown was the 18-year-old African American killed by white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. The young man’s death sparked Black Lives Matter, a national movement to end police violence against people of color.
The Denver crowd of around 300, organized by Black Lives Matter 5280, took four-and-a-half minutes of silence to reflect on the four-and-a-half hours Brown’s dead body lay in the street before authorities removed him.
Some demonstrators bowed their heads and closed their eyes. Nobody made a sound.
For organizer Kenny Wiley, this stretch of time represents what got him involved in the movement. “Mikes Brown’s death woke me up,” he said. “Something about the way they left him in the street for four hours woke a lot of us up.”
After the minutes of silence, demonstrators placed flowers and mementos on the courthouse steps and listed the names of people killed by law enforcement. There were local victims mentioned: Paul Castaway, who was shot in a trailer park in July, Jessica Hernandez, an unarmed 17-year-old shot in a car in an alley, Ryan Ronquillo, a 21-year-old shot outside his friend’s funeral, and many more.
There were victims from elsewhere named, too – Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland among them.
— Renee Smail (@SmailRenee) August 10, 2015
One woman left a flower for everyone killed by cops before Brown’s death galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement.
At the protest, the Reverend Dawn Rily Duval, one of the Black Lives Matters 5280 organizers, encouraged the crowd to remember the anniversary of Brown’s death not only as the day he was killed but as the day communities across the country decided to rise up.
She reminded demonstrators that Black Lives Matters is mostly led by black women. Co-founders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi envision the movement as a love letter to all black people, Duval told the crowd. “We hope and pray, it is our intention that this be a love letter to all of you,” she said.
Demonstrators marched through downtown, singing and chanting the whole way. Police on bikes and motorcycles lined the road.
Chants rang out: “Hands up. Don’t shoot.”
“Who’s streets? Our streets.”
“Show me what community looks like! This is what community looks like! Show me what family looks like! This is what family looks like!”
Since the death of Jessica Hernandez, anti-police violence protestors in Denver led a recall effort to oust Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, who has never charged a cop for an on-duty killing during his decade in office.
Organizers fell short in gathering the needed signatures, and the recall failed.
Listen to a collection of songs sung during the march on the playlist below.
Photos by Nat Stein