It started with the 2016 election.
Thousands of people poured into Denver’s streets, blocked traffic and marched. That first, massive protest set the tone for a year defined by unusually active political expression.
A few of the gatherings that ensued over the next year or so happened spontaneously, like the rally at DIA in response to President Donald Trump’s first crack at a “travel ban,” but many were planned and permitted.
Denver Parks and Recreation’s list of permitted events more than doubled between 2016 and 2017. That excludes actions at the Capitol, which is handled by a state-run agency.
A fun fact from the list: The Women’s March permit said they expected 5,000 people; it was later estimated there were more than 100,000 (but that’s so hard to figure out).
While the political momentum lasted through the spring, it eventually became clear by dwindling attendee numbers that weekly rallies weren’t sustainable. In March, we reported that a weeks-long streak of Saturday protests at Civic Center Park finally ended.
From a national perspective, though, Coloradans were very active. Megan reported in May that Colorado had the third-most protesters per capita of any state.
Some of the smaller actions sometimes felt like activists (on both sides) were preaching to the choir, but a few of Colorado’s national representatives said all this activity did have an effect in Washington.
“Hearing my constituents’ opinions and concerns helped direct my focus on the priorities that were most critical to our community,” Rep. Diana DeGette told Denverite by email.
The congresswoman attributed Republicans’ inability to pass an Affordable Care Act repeal to the many protests around that issue. She said activists “should be proud” to have played a part in that discourse.
A spokesperson for Sen. Michael Bennet said the congressman felt a “great responsibility” to listen to what protesters were saying. Their visibility, the spokesperson said, “Has ignited a momentum to defend the values that make us American.”
Representatives for Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Mike Coffman declined to comment for this story.
Many rallies and protests reflected national conversations about immigration, race and healthcare (to name a few), but Denver activists across the political spectrum often used these moments as opportunities to discuss local issues. A march in reaction to white supremacist actions in Charlottesville, Virginia, for instance, turned into a discussion about gentrification, I-70 and the urban camping ban.
While there were some instances of clashes between activists on the right and left, I observed at least one instance of protesters finding common ground across a picket line.