Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a comment from the Downtown Denver Business Improvement District.
Dresses meant to bring awareness to missing and murdered indigenous, black and migrant women went missing themselves from a 16th Street Mall art installation last week.
The International Indigenous Youth Council (IIYC) and Colorado Climate Strike Coalition planned the exhibit as part of a week of escalating actions meant to draw attention to the climate crisis and those hurt by it. Red and black dresses, 75 in total, were hung on the trees lining the pedestrian promenade Thursday night. By Friday, none remained.
Attached to each dress, on a long slip of white paper, was the name and age of a missing or murdered woman. Also attached to the dress was a card that explained the project and the connection between the exploitation of the planet and the exploitation of its people. Red dresses symbolized missing and murdered indigenous and migrant women while black dresses represented black women murdered while in police custody.
But what was first assumed to be vandalism of an art installation turned out to be “an accident by the city,” says Amy Gray of 350 Colorado. An employee working for the Downtown Denver Business District told the group Tuesday morning as they were rehanging the dresses that he and his fellow workers had taken them down as part of their responsibility to clean and maintain the mall.
In a conversation with The Independent on Wednesday afternoon, however, Britt Diehl of the Downtown Denver Business Improvement District said that the only dresses the district took were ones that were found on the ground or in trash cans. Those dresses were collected so they could be returned to IIYC. The other missing dresses were stolen, she said.
Renee Millard-Chacon of Womxn from the Mountain, a leader of Tuesday’s tour and press conference, says they’ll continue to collect and rehang dresses since their permit allows the installation to run through Sunday. As of midmorning on Tuesday, 11 dresses swayed among the leaves between Wynkoop and Blake.