Denver protests in wake of white supremacist rallies tied back to local issues

While the rally began as an outcry against the events in Virginia, local leaders soon shifted gears to relate the tumult to ongoing local issues like gentrification and sanctuary city policy.

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Storm clouds roll in over the march. A rally in response to white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, VA, Aug. 13, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  protest; charlottesville; rally; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite; colfax

Storm clouds roll in over a rally organized in response to a white supremacist protest and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, Aug. 13, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

On Sunday afternoon several hundred people rallied at City Park in response to a white supremacist demonstration and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend. While the rally began as an outcry against the events in Virginia, local leaders soon shifted gears to relate the tumult to ongoing local issues like gentrification and sanctuary city policy.

Under City Park’s Martin Luther King, Jr., memorial, Shorter Community AME Church Rev. Timothy Tyler took the bullhorn. He told the crowd that his staff asked him not to travel to Charlottesville this weekend.

“They know I will travel to where hell is,” he said, “I don’t have to go to Charlottesville because we have enough work to do right here.”

Tyler invoked the ongoing struggles over growth, affordable housing and the I-70 expansion, “sanctuary city” policy on immigration and the death of Michael Marshall in Denver’s downtown detention facility as examples of white supremacy that, he said, share roots with the conflicts in Virginia.

Tyler said Denverites live in a “glass bubble,” thinking that the Nazi and Ku Klux Klan turnout in Charlottesville could not happen here.

“We cannot pretend that the whole world is going to hell and Denver is some kind of nirvana,” he shouted to the crowd.

Immigration activist Jeanette Vizguerra marches at the front of the rally as it processes out of City Park. A rally in response to white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, VA, Aug. 13, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  protest; charlottesville; rally; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite; city park

Immigration activist Jeanette Vizguerra marches at the front of the rally as it leaves City Park. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Activists representing immigration issues also related their individual struggles to a larger white supremacist movement.

“In Charlottesville, they were chanting about ending immigration,” said Julie Gonzales of the Meyer Law office. “There’s a very deep question as to who belongs in this country, who’s welcome, whose voice matters and whose does not.”

After a rain-soaked march down Colfax Avenue to the Capitol steps, speakers repeated similar themes. Among their cited symbols of white supremacy was Stapleton, named for Denver’s Ku Klux Klansman mayor, and the statue just feet from the Capitol steps that commemorates white soldiers’ victory in what became known as the Sand Creek Massacre.

A rally in response to white supremacist protests in Charlottesville on the Capitol steps, beneath a controversial memorial to the Sand Creek Massacre. Aug. 13, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  protest; charlottesville; rally; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite; capitol

A rally in response to white supremacist protests in Charlottesville on the Capitol steps, beneath a controversial memorial to the Sand Creek Massacre. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

While each symbol mentioned throughout the rally has been subject to protest in recent years, these demonstrators in the rain brought them all to the fore as equal parts of a much larger societal problem. It was clear that the protest leaders were not suddenly stirred by the events in Virginia.

“We did not come here to preach to Charlottesville,” Rev. Tyler said to the crowd. “Charlottesville just helped us to wake up to our own problems.”

Rain pours over the march. A rally in response to white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, VA, Aug. 13, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  protest; charlottesville; rally; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite; colfax

Rain pours over the march. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Rev. Timothy Tyler stands under an umbrella as rain-soaked marchers make their way to the Capitol steps. A rally in response to white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, VA, Aug. 13, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  protest; charlottesville; rally; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite; capitol

Rev. Timothy Tyler stands under an umbrella as rain-soaked marchers make their way to the Capitol steps. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

New Covenant Alpha and Omega's Pastor Terrence Hughes walks in the rain with marchers. A rally in response to white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, VA, Aug. 13, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  protest; charlottesville; rally; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite; capitol

New Covenant Alpha and Omega's Pastor Terrence Hughes walks in the rain with marchers. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Immigration activist Victor Galvan yells through a bullhorn as drenched protesters make their way to the Capitol steps. A rally in response to white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, VA, Aug. 13, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  protest; charlottesville; rally; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite; capitol

Immigration activist Victor Galvan yells through a bullhorn as drenched protesters make their way to the Capitol steps. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Jeremy Bermudez speaks under the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in City Park. A rally in response to white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, VA, Aug. 13, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  protest; charlottesville; rally; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite; city park

Jeremy Bermudez speaks under the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in City Park. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A rally in City Park in response to white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, VA, Aug. 13, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  protest; charlottesville; rally; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite; city park

City Park full of protesters. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Religious leaders lead the march out of City Park. A rally in response to white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, VA, Aug. 13, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  protest; charlottesville; rally; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite; city park

Religious leaders lead the march out of City Park. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A rally in response to white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, VA, Aug. 13, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  protest; charlottesville; rally; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite; colfax

Colfax fills with protesters. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Young men raise middle fingers to the marchers. A rally in response to white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, VA, Aug. 13, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  protest; charlottesville; rally; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite; colfax

Young men raise middle fingers to the marchers. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Hanna Khavafipour leads the march out of City Park with a bullhorn. A rally in response to white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, VA, Aug. 13, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  protest; charlottesville; rally; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite; city park

Hanna Khavafipour leads the march out of City Park with a bullhorn. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)