Black Lives Matter commandeers Denver’s MLK Day Marade

Black Lives Matter 5280 and other social justice organizations took over the annual MLK Day march, demanding an end to police violence.

Roughly 2,000 demonstrators took control of Denver’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day march, turning what they say has become a corporate event into a day of protest against police violence.

The activists decried Mayor Michael Hancock for failing to hold accountable the sheriff’s deputies who in November restrained black, homeless street preacher Michael Lee Marshall into unconsciousness. Nine days later he died. His death was ruled a homicide by the city coroner.

The Marade is typically led by the mayor of Denver and a frontline of community and elected leaders, who walk from City Park to Civic Center Park along Colfax Avenue. Today, activists from Black Lives Matter 5280, No Enemies, Servicios de la Raza and other grassroots social justice groups preempted the walk’s ceremonial start and snaked ahead of the procession.

The activists sang, beat drums and waved banners as they cut an alternative path down 16th Street to Park Ave., then turned left to Colfax, a detour that placed them ahead of the mass of nearly 20,000 marchers, including Hancock.

“This is about a protest, not a parade,” said one marcher. “They’ve tried to turn MLK day into a corporate event. We’re making it about the people.”

When the crowd reached the Civic Center Park amphitheater, protesters took over the stage, where city officials were preparing to speak. Rows of people in black and yellow “Black Lives Matter” t-shirts faced the crowd, their arms linked. A group of Native American activists in ceremonial dress danced at the foot of the stage, overwhelming calls from the podium to “stop those drums so we can get our program started.”

The program did begin — but not as planned.

“We did this. We do not have a permit. We are here,” said Amy Brown of Black Lives Matter 5280, who blasted Hancock for turning his back on protesters and ignoring communities of color.

Brown rallied the crowd with calls for affordable housing, police accountability, a repeal of the urban camping ban and a change of the Stapleton neighborhood’s name, so it no longer honored the memory of Ku Klux Klan member and former mayor Benjamin Stapleton.

“We built this city, but we can’t afford to live here,” Brown said. “We stand united with our communities to demand leadership. And if you refuse to lead, we refuse to follow.”

After an hour into the program, which veered bizarrely from pre-planned performances to extemporaneous speeches, the mayor, flanked by security guards, took the podium and struggled to deliver what seemed to be off the cuff remarks drowned out by a tumult of boos and chants.

“I am a child of this community, and one of the things I’ve never done is turn my back on this community,” Hancock said. “We not only celebrate black lives, we celebrate all lives. As you celebrate the great values of Dr. King, let everyone know this is about all people. Yes, it’s about Michael Marshall…but it’s also about our community and the dignity and respect we must show each other.”

Hancock closed by introducing students from the MLK Early College drumline, who looked a bit stunned as they performed to a sea of waving banners and raised fists. When the drummers finished, more protesters called for justice in the case of Michael Marshall.

“This is my eighth day of a hunger strike,” said Natalia Marshall, Marshall’s niece. “I’m losing my voice, losing my weight, and I’m tired.

“My uncle was a beautiful person,” she continued. “There is no reason for us to sit here mourning him, requesting and begging the release of tapes we should already have. We want to know what happened to Michael. This should not happen to anybody else.”


  1. This is our 16th year participating in our city’s march, We started in our middle-50’s, and We’ve never been so proud to be part of it as we were today. For Dr. King, and countless other black leaders when they marched, it was to put themselves in the face of city hall, police chiefs, and the governor. That is exactly what we did today. We came into Colfax, and turned to face the “leading dignitaries”, who stopped two blocks back and wouldn’t come closer for the remainder of the parade. From our beginning there was a mantra, “If the leaders won’t lead we won’t follow”. We turned and led the march right up to the podium and we led there too. All the dignitaries bailed out somewhere around the capitol I gather, mayor Hancock included. Dr. King was not meant to be a memorialized curio upon a shelf, but a living example of protest and action. That is what happened today. The march stood tall, one year it was led by a black stretch limo with opaque tinted window with God know who inside but on its sides were banners the length of the limo, “The Purple Martini” right out in front of the parade. We enjoy martinis as much as anybody, but that was hopefully the all time low. I wonder who commandeered that one?

  2. The mayor is too busy over-building the city and padding his pockets to be interested in the city and it’s citizens.

  3. An injustice to one is an injustice every where. My father did, 43 years to date, at the hands of the Denver Police department. There was/is much “skepticism” and “doubt” with his “autopsy findings” as he was the “second in which autopsy findings disagreed with the official police version in shooting deaths.” Where “14 men died violent deaths or under circumstances never disclosed.” My father was a “prescience” man who was/is similar to Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, or Medger Evers, who knew they would die. The injustice of a killing, the depriving of taking time with our children is important. Although, said for other reasons, my father died for children in Colorado to “stay in school, help elderly people keep their homes,” or get :fined for not shaving his beard or selling his care,” are the few “harassments” my father received in life with the death wish of Denver Police saying “they wanted to kill him.” To work in a diverse area of people one must understand the concept of how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have wanted the Marade to be. Dr. King and mean like my father, had far worst in such a time of need. How do we think the marches in historical standing took place. Although a violent death took their bodies, their souls remain with whatever’s required to bring attention to “privately admitted errors” which have not changed; JUST A NEW DAY….

  4. The added comment needed, Mr. Mayor Hancock, what you are trying to do with community revitalizing the community with “housing projects,” the efforts of critical school projects and programs, however, with no disrespect…you do not reach out to the community for their needs. As an individual, reaching out to you on a killing where verbal “persuasion” won over and “character assassination” was the injustice to facts of evidence. To seek the challenge of community relations is reaching in the past and resolve vital issues historically taken for granted; by law in order to “change” the present.
    Mr. Mayor, yes, it is good that Denver is receiving a pool of needed housing, whether people are piled on top of each other within the housing units, and since the market has changed for the need as homelessness; as there should be no one person homeless in this fine world of today. However, other projects that arrive under your authority of importance, from past to present, “brutality” human kind receives as punishment upon their person and subsequently swept under the rug, is the asking of you to seek the challenge of past historical “violent deaths” which “changed crime lab procedures,” for the present violent deaths to know HOPE in the justice system will not allow a person to die in lost causes of evidence not being brought forth to “eliminate all truths and contradictions.”

    Where the community is “disturbed, however–and police and city officials ought to be too–”
    The Martin Luther King Marade was the best place to rejuvenate what has been lost to the blind eye of many.
    It is mentioned of Caucasians, or diverse cultures Jewish or Asian communities, “hope that blacks try, African Americans, “pick themselves up,” while the diverse society has been given back what was taken from them, is the command needed for historical findings, as horrific deaths to be brought forth and out of darkness. The children of the community need to be aware of their historical background in order to make progress. The urban community has suffered for decades. Not just with death that may come to a family, but the life in which the community infrastructure allows for limited resourcefulness, regardless of resources; while Jewish, Asians, and Caucasians, even Indian cultures can reclaim the land they never lost, artifacts of value resurfacing, or the value of handing down to their extending family the history of where their ancestry holds. In order for any human to speak against a diverse culture, is to examine that diverse cultures background to understand how they transformed into a different version of what my father, Dr. King, Malcolm X, Emmitt Til’, would probably have some disappointment. They died for the right to an injustice, to be brought with balance for justice. They took to their grave the fight for better schools, breakfast in schools, and the best education the country had to offer, being able to travel, and yes, have better housing, or be different by being an entrepreneur.
    To transcend the value of life to An African American, is to not put blinders on the reality of African Americans survival to live in a world where acceptance barely came into play to live a “free” life while an African American was understanding what to do with that “freedom” and understanding what to do with life. The African American lived in “harassment” and ‘controlling” conditions for decades. Once the turn changed in the Civil rights Era, other illegal activity was bestowed upon communities of lower poverty, but was not expected to take root in communities of wealth.
    So for those who are high on their horses in judging a society that has set demographics for a community, i.e. the Stapleton area in which I can give historical testimony no one would believe, the African American history of struggle to get to the point where education is in need of evolving with history and the many true circumstances of “education” and “diversity” for all over “hate,” with which my father was truly killed for; is the acceptance most do not have a trustworthy concept of.
    For those in the community who have lost a loved one, not to mention across the nation, to horrific deaths, know that the Lord savior has your name all in his hands. Being a survivor of a death that the law has swept under the rug, do not forsake your last memories of life with your loved one.
    Through the good, the bad, and the ugly, Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous words, “from out of the darkness, and into the light,” the injustice his family received came to light, almost 50 years later; keep the Lord’s Prayer in your heart…

    Black Lives Matters…You Rock…

  5. It’s so easy to blame the victim! That seems to be the mentality of rascist words. When was the last time that you got to know the life of a family living in poverty? Why do you think that poverty exists. Once again, we blame the victims.
    What do you do when the deck is stacked against you in so many ways?

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