Police supporters and a group of protesters met at Civic Center Park today at an event meant to commemorate fallen police officers on the second annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.
Before the rally even began, protestors and attendees had a brief verbal clash. Shouts of “blue lives matter” and “blue lives murder” intermingled, as pro-police supporters attempted to block protesters from the stage.
The afternoon’s entertainment, Ryan Chrys and the Rough Cuts, started their opening show amid shouts from protesters and attendees.
Rabbi Jay Ledbetter, who led the opening prayer, expressed disappointment at the size of the rally. “I wish there were more people here. Our nation is descending into chaos and we all need to show support for those who keep order,” he said in an interview.
There was no violence at the rally.
The Brotherhood for the Fallen Aurora announced yesterday on Facebook they would not be attending for fear of violence. Earlier in the day, a gunman had murdered three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. But the conflicts at Sunday’s event appeared to be verbal, not physical.
Colorado Sen. Jack Tate gave a solemn speech commemorating fallen police officers in Baton Rouge and Dallas.
Others struggled to speak over shouts from protestors. Former U.S. congressman Tom Tancredo and House candidate Casper Stockham addressed the protestors directly.
“Do black lives matter? Does my black life matter?” Stockham asked. “I served 14.5 years in the air force to protect your right to protest. Please do not disrupt my black life.”
Some of Denver’s police-reform advocates decided not to protest the event.
Denver Justice Project issued a written release criticizing the event, but said that a protest would be disrespectful of police families in mourning.
Still, DJP noted that the event came just before the fifth anniversary of the death of Alonzo Ashley, who died after a police officer shocked him with a stun gun. July “has become a month of mourning and pain for those impacted by police violence in this city,” the group wrote, calling the timing of the event insensitive.
“The members of law enforcement who deserve the most appreciation are those who are working to transform it, who are seeking to eradicate the racism, sexism, classism, and authoritarianism embedded in the institution of policing,” the group wrote. DJP praised the event for including a job fair.
Denver Justice Project had asked that the event be renamed “Positive Community-Police Relations Day,” according to the news release.
Subscribe to Denverite’s newsletter here.