Student-focused Black Lives Matter march in Denver draws thousands to Colfax

The massive demonstration marked the 11th consecutive day of demonstrations in the city.

Thousands take part in a Black Lives Matter march along Colfax Avenue on Sunday, June 7, in Denver. (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)

Thousands take part in a Black Lives Matter march along Colfax Avenue on Sunday, June 7, in Denver. (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

Northfield High School senior Ava Motarjeme did not expect this many people. She figured something closer to a thousand people would show up Sunday for a Black Lives Matter march in Denver.

She was off by more than 2,000 people.

Motarjeme helped lead the more than 3,000 marchers — an “amazing” and “moving” experience, she said — alongside other Denver Public School students and alumni on a planned march down Colfax Avenue on Sunday. The kid-friendly march included students, parents and young kids in little face masks calling for an end to racism.

“I think it’s important to show that we’re all together in this fight,” Motarjeme said. “We all just want to show our support toward the black community and show that we really believe in Black Lives Matter.”

The marchers closed a stretch of Colfax between Lincoln and Josephine Street after they started marching at 10:30 a.m. They first met at Civic Center Park before marching toward East High School and ended up at City Park roughly an hour later.

Brianna Johnson, a senior at Northfield High School, speaks at Civic Center Park during a Black Lives Matter rally on Sunday, June 7, in Denver. (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)

Brianna Johnson, a senior at Northfield High School, speaks at Civic Center Park during a Black Lives Matter rally on Sunday, June 7, in Denver. (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)

“A white teacher cannot teach me about my history, they cannot teach me about the color of my skin,” said Northfield senior Jayla Hemphill. She called on the district to hire more black educators.

On the way to the park, a truck with a sound system blasted music, including songs like “Wobble” that lead to a few joyous dance breaks (and water breaks as well) as well as Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright,” which has become an unofficial anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The march marked the 11th consecutive day of demonstrations sparked by the death of George Floyd in May. Like past demonstrations, Sunday’s march called for ending racism and police violence, including calling on support for a police accountability bill introduced in the General Assembly last week. Students and school board member Tay Anderson called on improving the district’s support of black, brown and indigenous students.

Anderson reminded marchers that just a few days before, he and other school officials had announced they were moving forward with plans to end a contract between Denver Public Schools and the Denver Police Department.

Brianna Johnson, another Northfield High School senior, spoke at the Civic Center Park. She started by noting she is “black, I am beautiful and I am enough.”

“I will not accept being a target practice for racist cops,” Johnson added, with the cadence reminiscent of a spoken word performance. “I will not be allowed to be called anything less than a human being.”

Denver school board president Carrie Olson joined other school board members during the march, including Jennifer Bacon and Angela Cobián, who also spoke on Sunday. Speaking at City Park, Olson said she was proud to hear from former students and their families, including those she said taught her how to be a voice for black students.

“Do your homework. Listen to your students. Educate yourself,” Olson said.

Denver police blocked roads to allow marchers to walk down Colfax. Several also handed out water. Anderson thanked them for their help during various points of Sunday’s march, prompting applause from marchers.

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