//Protesters link arms while marching near Lincoln Street and East 17th Avenue during the Saturday protest in memory of George Floyd. Photo by Esteban Fernandez | firstname.lastname@example.org
Surrounded by his supporters on the steps of the Greek Amphitheater in Civic Center Park, Tay Anderson had one message to the thousands of people who came out to Denver to protest the killings of black people at the hands of law enforcement such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Elijah McClain.
“To our white allies, you have heard this all day, we didn’t ask you to turn up on our behalf,” Anderson shouted through a megaphone. “When you turn up and destroy our city, we are the ones they blame because our name of Black Lives Matter is attached to this.”
Saturday’s demonstration was a peaceful march that began on the west steps of the State Capitol Building. Anderson, at large director of the Denver School Board, reiterated the message of condemned white rioters who have descended upon Denver businesses and government buildings.
“When we start doing this, we can see the decrease in crime rates, we can see the decrease in police brutality. But in order to get to that level, we have to continue on this pace,” said Kris Taylor, a black man. “It took George Floyd to lose his life like Trayvon Martin lost his life to get on this pace and that’s ridiculous. We should all be on this pace everyday whether somebody lost their life or somebody is brought into this world. Anything else is defeating the purpose.”
Backdropped by graffitied pillars and encompassed by angry people, Anderson and fellow protestors with Black Lives Matter preceded the march that began at the Capitol Building, circled through the 16th Street Mall, and ended at the Greek Amphitheatre. Before the march, Anderson led the crowd in a lie-down demonstration while chanting “I can’t breathe” the same words Floyd pleaded in the viral video of four Minneapolis officers pinning him down to asphalt.
That video has sparked nation-wide demonstrations including Denver’s. It’s why Kyla Spencer and her wife, Tierra Jones, came out to protest.
Spencer and Jones are a black couple who moved to Denver in August from Virginia. Spencer has been treated better by police since moving here, she said. But the couple still sees racism in the public.
“I’ll walk into a restaurant or a store and everyone will stop and look at me,” Jones said. “Just because of how I’m dressed, how my hair looks, all of that.”
Before the march began, Anderson demanded that the crowd let people of color lead the march while allies stayed in the back of the crowd. There’s rising contention over the rioting in Denver. Anderson and members from Black Lives Matter 5280 have attributed it largely to white people.
“We need to make sure they’re not doing this in our name. We came out here in peace. Anything that happens after this point has nothing to do with Black Lives [Matter],” Lindsay Minter of Black Lives Matter 5280 told reporters after Saturday’s march. “White folks are destroying stuff, you’ve got to stop. We’re the ones being arrested for it while walking to our cars. We’re the ones getting charges and having our lives destroyed because someone standing next to us threw a rock at a window.”
Others, such as Spencer, see potential in the rioting but think the vandalizing should be focused.
“We shouldn’t be vandalizing black-owned businesses,” Spencer said. “Let’s focus on the corporations that have been keeping us down.
The temperature reached well into the 80s and various groups such as Democratic Socialists of America and individuals were handing out water bottles and snacks to people.
Anastasia Krei, a white woman, was one of those. She offered protestors support with chants of solitude and hydration with small plastic water bottles out of her bicycle basket.
“It’s not our job to tell them how to act,” Krei said. “It’s up to the impacted people on how to act and we need to follow suit.”
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock instituted a city-wide curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. in hopes to curb the rioting that plagued the city the last two nights. But it remains to be seen if people will heed the pleas from Anderson and the warnings from the city.
Editor’s note: Language in this article was modified from an earlier version to clarify that Tay Anderson is not a member of Black Lives Matter 5280.