RE­MEM­BER­ING MLK

Den­ver’s mayor is heck­led by a crowd riled by Black Lives Mat­ter ac­tivists.

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Noelle Phillips and Natalie Mu­nio

Rosie Fra­zier, left, and Maria Alaniz lis­ten to speeches dur­ing the Martin Luther King Jr. Ma­rade on Mon­day. The march and pa­rade, the only one of its kind in the na­tion, be­gan in City Park and trav­eled west on Col­fax Av­enue to Civic Cen­ter. Ken­neth D. Lyons, The Den­ver Post

An event that tra­di­tion­ally serves as a trib­ute to slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. with spir­i­tual songs, ser­mons, po­ems and chil­dren’ s per­for­mances trans­formed Mon­day into a rau­cous, un­planned takeover of Den­ver’ s an­nual Ma­rade by the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment.

“We did not ask per­mis­sion. We did not get per­mits. We were not in­vited,” said Amy Brown, who spoke fromthe stage at Civic Cen­ter park af­ter com­man­deer­ing the mi­cro­phone in front of a roar­ing crowd.

The takeover pro­vided an un­usual scene as a mostly black au­di­ence heck led Mayor Michael Hancock as he tried to ad­dress ac­cu­sa­tions that he was afraid to speak be­fore the riled- up crowd.

“One thing I’ve never done is turn my back on this city,” Hancock said as the crowd jeered and chanted as he tried to speak.

The an­nual Ma­rade be­gan with its usual speeches by the mayor and cor­po­rate spon­sors be­fore leav­ing City Park and march­ing along Col fax Av­enue to Civic Cen­ter.

The Black Lives Mat­ter 5280 group moved in front of the an­nual march, walk­ing sev­eral hun­dred yards ahead of the Ma­rade’s main body, which in­cluded tens of thou­sands of peo­ple.

They car­ried a ban­ner with the names Marvin Booker and Michael Mar­shall, black men who died while be­ing re­strained by deputies at Den­ver’s Down­town De­ten­tion Cen­ter.

As thou­sands as­sem­bled for the clos­ing cer­e­mony, four Amer­i­can In­di­ans in tra­di­tional dress moved to a loud, steady drum­beat in front of the am­phithe­ater. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Black Lives Mat­ter al­ready were on the am­phithe­ater’s steps and stand­ing in front of ami­cro­phone.

And when a Ma­rade or­ga­nizer an­nounced the pro­gram was ready to be­gin, the dancers kept go­ing.

“We want to do this to­gether,” said Suzy Chip man of the Colorado Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hol­i­day Com­mis­sion, which or­ga­nize s the event.

A crowd of thou­sands jeered as she re­peat­edly asked the drum­ming and danc­ing to stop. She promised to let rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Black Lives Mat­ter speak.

The crowd sim­mered down, al­low­ing four fe­male singers to per­form.

Brown took the miro­phone to call for the re­lease of video of Mar­shall’s death at the Down­town De­ten­tion Cen­ter, more af­ford­able hous­ing in the city and a name change for the Sta­ple­ton com­mu­nity be­cause of its name­sake, Ben­jamin Sta­ple­ton, a for­mer Den­ver

mayor who be­longed to the Ku Klux Klan.

She yelled, “For those who refuse to lead ... ” And the crowd re­sponded, “We refuse to fol­low.”

The crowd was par­tic­u­larly up­set about Mar­shall, who choked on his vomit in Novem­ber while be­ing re­strained by deputies.

Video cam­eras in­side the jail recorded the in­ci­dent, but Den­ver of­fi­cials have re­fused de­mands to re­lease the video.

“Re­lease the tapes! Re­lease the tapes!” the crowd chanted as Hancock went to the stage.

Hancock tried to talk over the jeers as he wel­comed the dis­senters to the event.

“Yes, it’s about Michael Mar­shall,” Hancock said. “It’s about ev­ery­one who lost their lives. It’s about Paul Cast­away, and it’s about the po­lice of­fi­cers who pro­tect us. It’s about dig­nity.”

Cast­away was an Amer­i­can In­dian who was shot and killed by po­lice in July af­ter his mother called for help as he was hav­ing a schiz­o­phrenic episode. His mother, Lynn Ea­gle Feather, ad­dressed the crowd along with Natalia Mar­shall, the niece of Michael Mar­shall.

Den­ver’s takeover was part of a na­tional Black Lives Mat­ter ef­fort to re­claim the Martin Luther King hol­i­day from politi­cians and cor­po­ra­tions, Brown said.

While the pro­test­ers “stand in the shadow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., they also stand to re­claim truth and to re­claim that black lives do mat­ter,” she said.

While the takeover was un­ex­pected, the or­ga­niz­ers of Den­ver’s tra­di­tional MLK fes­tiv­i­ties han­dled it in stride.

Vern L. Howard, the MLK com­mis­sion chair­man, praised host Kyle Speller, the voice of the Den­ver Nuggets, for “keep­ing the pro­gram mov­ing un­der hi­jack­ings.”

Through­out the event, other Black Lives Mat­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tives were al­lowed to speak. And their ac­tions of­ten were ac­knowl­edged by those who were part of the for­mal pro­gram.

Bishop Acen Phillips, a fix­ture in Den­ver’s civil rights scene, di­rectly ad­dressed the pro­test­ers’ ac­tions say­ing, “if Mayor Hancock is wrong, tell him he’s wrong. But never dis­re­spect him,” and that “if he takes a walk and no­body fol­lows, he’s just tak­ing a walk. He can’t lead if we don’t fol­low.”

But Phillips said the old­school civil rights ac­tivists need the en­ergy found in the younger Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment as he urged them to heed the ad­vice of the older gen­er­a­tion.

“We won’t make it un­less we make it to­gether,” he said. “We have to walk to­gether.”

The whole scene was a twist to the nor­mally laid­back event, said LaTonya Stephen­son, a Den­ver res­i­dent who at­tended with two daugh­ters and a niece.

“It looked like Michael Hancock didn’t want to speak,” she said. “It seemed like Black Lives Mat­ter had a lot of sup­port. Last year wasn’t like that. I was just lis­ten­ing, but it was kind of awk­ward. I un­der­stand ev­ery­body’s point of view.”

Chip­man said the or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee would meet with Black Lives Mat­ter 5280 be­fore next year’s Ma­rade.

“The peo­ple wanted to be heard,” she said. “They didn’t know they could have been a part of the pro­gram if they had reached out. They just showed up, but that’s OK. That’s what this is about.”

Marchers par­tic­i­pate in the Martin Luther King Jr. Ma­rade onMon­day. The pa­rade be­gan in City Park and trav­eled west on Col­fax Av­enue to Civic Cen­ter. Ken­neth D. Lyons, The Den­ver Post

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