Tuesday, February 01, 2011

We ain't takin this no mo': The streets fill with rage against the Denver cops

Feb. 1, 2011 Infoshop News

Denver, Colorado. January 29, 2011.
We ain't takin this no mo'!

The Action

In a third round of street demonstrations against police terror in the
Denver metro area in the last six months, hundreds took to the streets of
downtown Denver on the night of January 29th. A crowd that started as 150
and at times fluctuated to almost twice that number stormed the 16th
Street Mall, a commercial epicenter of downtown Denver in a display of
rage that hasn't been seen in Denver in quite some time.

The actions come on the heels of an endless series of police misconduct
incidents, including the killing of a prisoner named Marvin Booker by
Denver County Sheriffs at the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center in July
2010. A laundry list of beatings, rapes, child pornography and drug
charges has marked police activity in the metro area. Lawsuit after
lawsuit has been filed, with the city of Denver paying out millions of
dollars over the last several years.

The crowd gathered at the Denver Skatepark at 19th and Little Raven
Streets at 6pm. Because of its proximity to downtown and the locations of
several high profile police misconduct cases, the Skatepark has been the
launching site of two of the three street actions that have happened since
the murder of Marvin.

The crowd assembled for several short speeches, and stormed off into the
night, filling the streets. Banners accompanying the crowd included
messages such as “Marvin Booker was murdered” and “6 months later, we have
not forgotten”. Several more pointed banners also illustrated the anger
seething within the crowd. One banner displayed a picture of a Glock
pistol with the words “They have left us no other option” printed below
the weapon. Another depicted twin unicorns impaling stereotypical
renderings of a businessman and a police officer.

As the crowd moved toward downtown, united chants filled the air: “From
Denver to Greece, Fuck the Police!”; “Cops, Pigs, Murderers!”; and “Oink,
oink, bang, bang, every day the same old thang” were among the crowd's
favorites. Marvin Booker's name was also chanted excitedly and for long
periods of time, to remind the cops and other passerby of one of the many
victims at the hands of Denver metro law enforcement agencies.

The march passed over the pedestrian bridge into the 16th Street Mall
district, taking both lanes of the street, shutting down all bus traffic
on the mall. As with the demonstration on October 22nd, hundreds of
stickers of Marvin's face were placed on storefronts, street poles, and
other targets.

Although no permit existed, police worked to direct traffic away from the
march, and kept their distance while the march worked its way toward the
capitol and the detention center.

After an unexpected turn toward the jail, the march took over Colfax Ave,
one of the busiest streets in Denver, blocking all traffic on the street.
Several blocks later, and the march was at the steps of the Van
Cise-Simonet Detention Center, the new jail where Marvin was murdered by
guards just six months ago, and where so many other victims of police
terror end up on a daily basis.

The crowd surged toward the doors of the center, covering the large glass
entrance with stickers. The whole entrance shook as marchers pounded and
kicked on the doors and windows, while the crowd loudly screamed Marvin's
name. A deputy that came out to try to intimidate the crowd found himself
momentarily pinned in between the frame and the door he attempted to exit
from. After the door being slammed on his arm several times, he retreated
back inside the building. The crowd had demonstrated its militancy and
willingness to engage the deputies. No other jail guards attempted to
confront the crowd.

The march proceeded to 14th Ave, and took a turn back toward downtown. At
this point, construction barrels and security fencing from a large event
that had taken place earlier in Civic Center Park were pulled into the
street behind the marchers. A series of low level barricades were erected.

The march turned yet again, this time onto Broadway, another of the
busiest streets in Denver. The march proceeded the wrong way down the one
way street, and police frantically tried to clear traffic out of the path
of the march.

As the crowd passed through the intersection of Colfax and Broadway, the
police cars stationed there became targets for stickers and graffiti.
Officers hurried out of their cars to try to arrest demonstrators. Their
attempts failed, and the crowd continued back toward the 16th Street Mall.

By the time the crowd reached the mall, the march had been in control of
the streets for well over an hour. A sense of power and rage seemed to be
emanating from the crowd. The second pass through downtown would not be as
peaceful as the first.

Trash cans, benches, chairs, and anything else not bolted down filled the
streets behind the marchers. Christmas decorations, pay phones, and
displays were destroyed by the crowd. Even more trashcans and chairs were
thrown at bank windows, though few, if any of the windows seemed to break.

Anti-cop graffiti filled the walls and windows of businesses as the crowd
continued to work its way back up the 16th Street Mall. The crowd wanted
to make sure that people would not forget this night. The city and the
police would not be able to ignore the anger and rage seething from this

Somewhere near Champa and 16th Street, a decision was made to disperse, as
riot police were finally mobilizing nearby. With a quick group countdown,
the marchers dispersed themselves into the night.

One arrest was confirmed during the dispersal, though the person arrested
was later released without charges after the police failed to identify
them in any photos they had taken of the acts of property destruction.

The Actors

Much has been already noted about the mood of those in attendance, and the
actions they took. But what of those that took the streets?

Much like the crowds that assembled in October, the participants in the
march were mostly youth. Many were homeless and poor street kids who are
frequently targeted by police downtown. Anarchists and other radicals were
much better represented in this march than the previous October action.
However, many familiar faces from the various scenes that make up the
Denver anarchist movement were yet again missing. More mainstream
activists and progressives were also in attendance, but yet again,
constituted a very small minority. Probably the biggest difference from
October was that local graf crews and hiphop heads were well represented
at this march.

Overall, the crowd was widely diverse, but was overwhelmingly comprised of
poor or working class youth. Just as in October, this factor was one of
the largest reasons that the march was as militant as it was.


In the several days that have passed since the march, very little media
coverage has been aired of the events of January 29. Two small snippets
appeared on the local ABC and FOX affiliate news channels. A photo-montage
of the police response that took place at the end of the march appeared in
the local entertainment weekly, the Westword. But these few examples
represent all of the local mainstream coverage of the event. Several photo
essays and videos have been released from participants or independent and
movement journalists. These reports, as has become typical, are the best
representations of the events of the night.

Even as the media and the police try to black out the events that
transpired, the news has reached thousands of residents in Denver already.
Of course, the visible reminders of the march still litter parts of
downtown days later, spurring conversations and storytelling about the
nighttime melee.

The Next Act

The future looks promising for a movement that is both anti-cop and
anti-authoritarian to continue to strengthen in the Denver area. With each
successive action organized by radicals in response to the growing police
terror in our communities there has been an escalation of tactics. The
participation level has also increased, but not merely in the area of
numbers, but in the amount of participation a single person puts into each
action. Instead of a march with just several people controlling all the
messaging, and the tactical decisions, the vast majority of the crowd
became an active part in shaping the demonstration. Whether through
tagging, erecting barricades, confronting cops, constructing banners, or
controlling the chants, the march participants nearly all left behind the
role of spectator by engaging the in the actions of the night.

The reign of police terror does not seem poised to cease any time soon,
and neither does the anger rising from our communities. As one march
participant pointed out our mission is to “create crisis and break the
peace.” The actions of January 29th definitely succeeded.

The police may still attempt to take actions against the participants, but
as of yet we know of no charges having been filed against anyone involved
in the march. This lack of immediate repression has also done much to
embolden the participants of the march.

The next few months could be tumultuous indeed for the city of Denver.
Even if elected officials fire a few of the officers involved with the
endless list of misconduct cases, it doesn't appear that the thirst for
vengeance will be quenched.

People in Denver are starting to realize that they can become powerful.
That can only spell trouble for the people that attempt to steal that

There are certainly challenges that face this movement. Questions of
tactical efficacy need to be posed, especially as several march
participants were almost hurt by others within the march wildly throwing
objects. The general tactical decisions of the group seemed sound, but the
relative inexperience of the participants could have injured fellow

Could the crowd have defended itself if directly attacked by the police?
In case of mass arrest, were networks strong enough to deal with dozens of
arrests, bail scenarios, and courtdates? How easily can various elements
of the participants be turned against each other? Does solidarity only
exist between social groupings during these marches, or is solidarity an
everyday experience?

Education and training will certainly be needed, as well as much more
practice in the streets. Most of these questions can only be answered if
the needs themselves arise. Others, however, need to start to be answered
now, before the situations they reference become reality.

January 29th was just the latest chapter!

The rest of the story is unwritten!

In solidarity and rage!
Queen City Antifa
January 31, 2011

Videos of the march available here:

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