On the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial, hundreds of people filtered in and out of the Greek Theater at Civic Center Park on Friday to listen to speeches about the changes they want to see in local and national institutions that disproportionately harm people of color.
“This is the time we’re supposed to be alive and these are the issues we are supposed to show up with our entire bodies for,” said Bianca Mikahn, a Denver poet and hip hop artist.
It was the Denver Solidarity March (on Washington). Crowds were relatively thin during the morning and afternoon as 100 or so people gathered at the downtown park. Crowds are expected to grow throughout the day and night, with four marches scheduled citywide.
“Enough is enough! Free the people! Enough is enough! Get rid of the jails!” the crowd chanted as it returned from its first march. “Enough is enough! Abolish the jails! Enough is Enough! Abolish ICE! Enough is enough! Stop killing our people!”
More than 30 people were scheduled to speak, including organizers, artists, politicians and everyday people. Some came from elsewhere in the country, like Demita Bishop, who flew to Denver from Atlanta. Bishop is scared of flying, she told Denverite, but made her first trip ever at the age of 44 to represent Fighting Against Institutionalized Railroading, or FAIR.
Her organization helps people who have received excessive sentencing or wrongful conviction get back into a courtroom, she said. FAIR includes imprisoned volunteers who research court cases from the inside to help people on the outside. When Bishop spoke, she made a distinction between policing as an institution and policing as it relates to human beings.
“We wouldn’t dare make a sweeping indictment and criminalize everyone for the wrongs of a few. We’re not like them,” Bishop said. “All we’re saying is, get them off the streets and put the ones out that are gonna be fair. Were saying to stop allowing them to murder and put seven bullets in the backs (of people) like they did to brother Jacob Blake,” she said, speaking about Kenosha police who shot Blake, a Black man, as he was getting into his car.
Kids chipped in, too. Twelve-year-old Sorl “King” Shead IV stood on a massive stage that might’ve dwarfed him if his words weren’t so large.
“I’m tired and I’m scared and I’m only 12,” Shead said. “Will I make It home from school? Will I make it to my friend’s house or to the store and back? I don’t know who I have to protect myself from — the guys on the block or the police on the block.”