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Breonna Taylor Protests: Media in Denver Puts Violence Before Peace

A CBS4 crew was on hand as a man with a gun was taken into custody by Denver police officers during September 23 unrest.
A CBS4 crew was on hand as a man with a gun was taken into custody by Denver police officers during September 23 unrest.

While previewing his controversial documentary Denver in Decay last week, filmmaker and KNUS radio personality Steffan Tubbs said he focused on the violence that followed late-spring protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police — even though the overwhelming majority of demonstrators acted within the law — because "Denver news media did a terrific job of going, 'Look: Everything's peaceful! There are no problems here!'"

This debatable assertion certainly doesn't apply to mainstream Denver media's reaction to the September 23 decision by a Louisville, Kentucky, grand jury examining the death of Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot after cops burst into her apartment on March 13; although one officer was charged with wanton endangerment for firing his gun in a way that put neighbors at risk, none were held directly accountable for Taylor's killing. So far, Mile High outlets have concentrated on unrest, exemplified by footage of a car driving through a gaggle of protesters and the arrest of an armed man, and have treated the hours of completely lawful rallies and speeches that came before as a side note.

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These incidents were minor compared to the response in Louisville, where two police officers responding to protests were shot (they're expected to recover), and other locations across the country. Yet it's understandable that the vehicular matter, which took place near the intersection of Colfax and Broadway, would stand out, since just hours before, 18th Judicial District DA George Brauchler had announced that the man who drove a Jeep through a group of protesters during a July 25 protest in Aurora wouldn't be prosecuted.

In a retweet of a video shared by Denver Public School Board member and organizer Tay Anderson, state representative Leslie Herod, one of the speakers at a peaceful gathering at the Capitol yesterday, wrote, "This is now apparently completely legal here."

Likewise, CBS4 can't be blamed for playing up the man-with-the-gun arrest, since reporter Andrea Flores and camera operator Mark Neitro were just mere feet away when it happened, making the footage a scoop.

Here's a Flores tweet about what went down:

This vivid imagery tended to drown out efforts to keep the focus on Taylor and the larger subject of law enforcement racism, although Mayor Michael Hancock tried.

"My thoughts and prayers remain with #BreonnaTaylor’s family and the entire Louisville community today. I was disappointed in today’s decision by the Grand Jury, which did not include a single direct charge in her death," Hancock tweeted. "It only further underscores the need to hasten conversations between law enforcement and the African American community, focused on the values of life and humanity for all, development of mutual respect and trust, and meaningful systemic change."

That wasn't the way Tubbs saw it. On the Denver in Decay twitter account, he accompanied a retweet about a Denver Police Department announcement of officers responding to the Colfax and Broadway mishap with the caption: "Let's say it together: #DenverInDecay."

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