Report Back: Denver’s Anti-Police Mini Riot
Report Back: Denver’s Anti-Police Mini Riot
On Saturday, January 29th in Denver, an anti-police brutality march turned into a mini-riot. The march was organized by Queen City Antifa, and RAIM was among many groups to promote the event ahead of time.
A detailed account was provided by Queen City Antifa:
“The crowd gathered at the Denver Skatepark at 19th and Little Raven Streets at 6pm. Because of its proximity to downtown and the locations of several high profile police misconduct cases, the Skatepark has been the launching site of two of the three street actions that have happened since the murder of Marvin.
“The crowd assembled for several short speeches, and stormed off into the night, filling the streets. Banners accompanying the crowd included messages such as “Marvin Booker was murdered” and “6 months later, we have not forgotten”. Several more pointed banners also illustrated the anger seething within the crowd. One banner displayed a picture of a Glock pistol with the words “They have left us no other option” printed below the weapon. Another depicted twin unicorns impaling stereotypical renderings of a businessman and a police officer.
“As the crowd moved toward downtown, united chants filled the air: “From Denver to Greece, Fuck the Police!”; “Cops, Pigs, Murderers!”; and “Oink, oink, bang, bang, every day the same old thang” were among the crowd’s favorites. Marvin Booker’s name was also chanted excitedly and for long periods of time, to remind the cops and other passerby of one of the many victims at the hands of Denver metro law enforcement agencies.
“The march passed over the pedestrian bridge into the 16th Street Mall district, taking both lanes of the street, shutting down all bus traffic on the mall. As with the demonstration on October 22nd, hundreds of stickers of Marvin’s face were placed on storefronts, street poles, and other targets.
“Although no permit existed, police worked to direct traffic away from the march, and kept their distance while the march worked its way toward the capitol and the detention center.
“After an unexpected turn toward the jail, the march took over Colfax Ave, one of the busiest streets in Denver, blocking all traffic on the street. Several blocks later, and the march was at the steps of the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center, the new jail where Marvin was murdered by guards just six months ago, and where so many other victims of police terror end up on a daily basis.
“The crowd surged toward the doors of the center, covering the large glass entrance with stickers. The whole entrance shook as marchers pounded and kicked on the doors and windows, while the crowd loudly screamed Marvin’s name. A deputy that came out to try to intimidate the crowd found himself momentarily pinned in between the frame and the door he attempted to exit from. After the door being slammed on his arm several times, he retreated back inside the building. The crowd had demonstrated its militancy and willingness to engage the deputies. No other jail guards attempted to confront the crowd.
“The march proceeded to 14th Ave, and took a turn back toward downtown. At this point, construction barrels and security fencing from a large event that had taken place earlier in Civic Center Park were pulled into the street behind the marchers. A series of low level barricades were erected.
“The march turned yet again, this time onto Broadway, another of the busiest streets in Denver. The march proceeded the wrong way down the one way street, and police frantically tried to clear traffic out of the path of the march.
“As the crowd passed through the intersection of Colfax and Broadway, the police cars stationed there became targets for stickers and graffiti. Officers hurried out of their cars to try to arrest demonstrators. Their attempts failed, and the crowd continued back toward the 16th Street Mall.
“By the time the crowd reached the mall, the march had been in control of the streets for well over an hour. A sense of power and rage seemed to be emanating from the crowd. The second pass through downtown would not be as peaceful as the first.
“Trash cans, benches, chairs, and anything else not bolted down filled the streets behind the marchers. Christmas decorations, pay phones, and displays were destroyed by the crowd. Even more trashcans and chairs were thrown at bank windows, though few, if any of the windows seemed to break.
“Anti-cop graffiti filled the walls and windows of businesses as the crowd continued to work its way back up the 16th Street Mall. The crowd wanted to make sure that people would not forget this night. The city and the police would not be able to ignore the anger and rage seething from this march.
“Somewhere near Champa and 16th Street, a decision was made to disperse, as riot police were finally mobilizing nearby. With a quick group countdown, the marchers dispersed themselves into the night.
“One arrest was confirmed during the dispersal, though the person arrested was later released without charges after the police failed to identify them in any photos they had taken of the acts of property destruction. [...]
The rally was exciting to say the least. The march was organized under the slogan, ‘No Justice, No Peace.’ The vast majority of those who rallied at the Denver skatepark understood this slogan perfectly, though no one knew exactly how everything would go down. Most of the original participants were aware of the ongoing unrest in the Middle East, which no doubt provided some inspiration.
As the march went through the 16th Street Mall the first time, it incorporated a large number of teenagers and and other groups whom are usually derided by the larger Denverite asses for hanging out on the 16th Street Mall in Downtown Denver. In recent years, efforts have stepped up to harass teens in the downtown area through things like increased police presence and harassment. Such groups were eager to join the night-time march, chant ‘Fuck the Police’ and help redecorate the streets with “Marvin Booker, Murdered by Cops” stickers.
RAIM isn’t going to complain about the 16th Street Mall getting trashed by anti-pig graffiti. If anything, the Queen City Antifa was able to organize a small number of radicals, disgruntled teenagers and others for a night of rage directed at the pigs and wider petty-bourgeois/net-exploiter society.
However, in normal RAIM fashion, we do have a series of public critiques.
Most notable during the rally was our mixed feelings over the slogan, “Who’s Streets? Our Streets!” Amerikans and the First Worlders already have a strong sense of unearned entitlement, which this slogan plays directly into. Additionally, though the slogan certainly was effective in terms of whipping up the excitement for some, it lacks nuance and ultimately expresses a First Worldist line which highlights obscure disadvantage within First World society at the expense of a broader understanding of both history and global class dynamics. A more poignant understanding, though hard to express as a chant, would be, “Who’s streets, trash cans, cheesy corporate decorations, RTD busses, etc? Well, Indigenous land until these cracker-gringo-settler-imperialists stole it and with even more stolen wealth laid all that shit on top of– so have at it!” If those marching were mostly from nationally oppressed communities, RAIM would have been more inclined to support the chant as it was.
The marchers were overwhelmingly White, a point which did not pass by some of those from nationally oppressed communities. Was a contributing factor in the mini-riot the White and Amerikans privilege many of the participants carried? After all, they would likely face lighter punishments and certainly wouldn’t be deported if arrested. Though the march may have included some teens from downtown and taggers, it didn’t to a large degree those from other groups most affected by pig brutality and national oppression.
The march was organized under the auspices of addressing frequent acts of local police terror. Struggles that seek merely to reconcile contradictions within the First World (i.e., between oppressed nations and police, for example) without addressing the effects and role of US imperialism worldwide are both reformist and somewhat futile. It is reformist because it doesn’t touch larger issues of global power, but seeks to amend a narrow portion of it. It is futile because as long as the world is organized along the lines of capitalist-imperialism, such oppression and stratification will always emerge in a microcosmic way.
When organizing oppressed groups in the US and First World (prisoners, migrants, youth, etc), the questions always arises: as part of what larger coalitions; under what aspirations; and to what ends?
From Queen City Antifa, “As one march participant pointed out, our mission is to ‘create crisis and break the peace.’”
RAIM couldn’t agree more. We need to break the social peace in Amerika, creating a broader, yet distinctly minoritarian movement in coalition with the 80 percent of the world living on less than 10 dollars a day. We need to break the peace by creating a social movement for a new world much different than the one currently in existence- especially as represented by the 16th Street Mall. We must create a movement that rejects the ideals and aspirations supported by Amerikan imperialism. A movement that really causes disorder and isn’t afraid to engage in deeper theoretical and additional practical considerations, not just the occasional night of strategic rage and frustration. Breaking the social peace means widening the gulf between ourselves and the majority of petty-bourgeois Denverites, those who remained spectators to the mini-riot from the comfort of their restaurants and retail outlets. These questions and considerations are inherent to revolutionary organizing in the First World and can only be worked out over time and steady practice.
The Denver Anti-Police Mini-Riot will no doubt embolden the ‘insurrectionist’ trend of First Worldist ‘anarchism.’ Needless to say, revolution in Amerika is not on the horizon and what happened that night hardly resembled one. Revolution in Amerika will in large part be imposed from without by the Third World, perhaps analogous to how Third World revolutions have been historically opposed from without by Amerika.
A more important question for First World revolutionaries than this or that specific strategy or tactic is, “Who are our enemies? Who are our friends?” When organizing from a Third Worldist perspective, one must look critically in how we are lining up various groups. If we are organizing oppressed communities, it is permissible to organize for specific reforms and to create forms of independent power and welfare. When organizing teens and taggers, it is permissible to organize for anti-oppression street agitation. Yet, we must keep the broader scope of the revolutionary struggle as part of our program, uniting individuals and groups around the global struggle against capitalist-imperialism as well.
Will police brutality stop? Probably not. That is because police terror and mass incarceration is one symptom of a wider system of exploitation and oppression. In Denver, there is a fairly militant section of people dedicated to this cause, RAIM is one small part. But the question remains, to what end will this anti-police movement ultimately serve?
Remember Marvin Booker, Alex Landua and and all those murdered by the police! Fuck Pigs! Death to Imperialism!