Things got loud in the normally quiet suburb of Greenwood Village last night, as hundreds of protesters took to the streets to rally against a Greenwood Village City Council resolution that created a runaround to a key provision of a sweeping statewide police-reform law. Leading the charge were some of Colorado's most successful musicians, who've called for a boycott of Greenwood Village and Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre, which is located in the town.
The demonstration came two weeks after members of Greenwood Village City Council unanimously passed a resolution saying that the city will cover police officers for any financial liability arising out of a civil lawsuit, even if there's evidence of bad faith or an officer knowingly committing an illegal act.
“I think it’s a pretty simple request to be held accountable and to go along with what the rest of the state is doing. I don’t think that’s too much to ask," pronounced Wesley Schultz of the Lumineers at the protest, which began with live music in front of Greenwood Village City Hall shortly after 7 p.m. on July 20.
With that July 6 resolution, the suburb essentially opted out of a section of SB-217, which the Colorado Legislature passed as protesters across the county called for an end to excessive and racist law enforcement. Among other things, the new law lifts some government immunity, allowing officers to be held financially accountable for up to $25,000 when they are sued and shown to have acted in bad faith or knowingly done something illegal.
High-ranking elected officials across the political spectrum in Colorado were quick to criticize the resolution, but Greenwood Village held firm.
And that brought this response, a protest organized by Representative Leslie Herod of Denver, one of the bill's prime sponsors, and ProgressNow Colorado; some of the state's top musicians signed on, including Nathaniel Rateliff and his band, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats.
Between songs at the protest, Rateliff spoke about how most Americans are descended from immigrants, and told the crowd to "go read 'The New Colossus' and remind yourselves of why we’re all here.” That's the poem that sits at the base of the Statue of Liberty and reads, in part, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
Over the weekend, both Rateliff and Schultz, as well as the members of their bands, announced plans to boycott Greenwood Village as well as Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre, which is owned by the Museum of Outdoor Arts, an Englewood-based nonprofit.
"Fiddler’s Green is one of the largest sales tax-generating establishments in Greenwood Village," Schultz and bandmate Jeremiah Fraites said in a statement. "Artists and fans should not be forced to financially support a City government that has established such racist policies to perform in Colorado or see their favorite artists perform locally. In fact, no one should." The Lumineers sold out three shows at Fiddler's Green in 2017.
And Rateliff, who was in talks to book a show at Fiddler's Green, wrote to Greenwood Village, "We support the Black Lives Matter movement and were so proud to see Colorado lead the nation in implementing police reform last month by passing Senate Bill 217 with a huge bipartisan majority." As a result, he and the other musicians in his band were "appalled" by the resolution.
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While Rateliff and Schultz certainly drew some of the hundreds who came out for the protest, it was Brothers of Brass, a band that frequently provided a soundtrack at the protests in downtown Denver, that amped up the crowds for a march around the streets of Greenwood Village. After a musical tour through the suburb, the protesters circled back to the Greenwood Village City Hall for a final rendition of Destiny's Child's "Survivor" and some closing words from organizers just before 10 p.m.
“We’re here to say, ‘If you don’t rescind your resolution, we’re going to come back,'" said Herod, who has already vowed to introduce legislation to close any perceived loopholes in SB-217.
The musical protest was the second major demonstration in Greenwood Village since the passage of the resolution. On July 9, local high school students organized a demonstration outside of Greenwood Village City Hall that garnered around 100 people.
Hours before this second protest began, AEG Presents issued its own statement: "AEG Presents and the Museum of Outdoor Arts, the non-profit which owns Fiddler’s Green Amphitheater, stand together in support of Black Lives Matter and against social and racial injustice. We also stand in support of all the artists who have come forward to lend their voices to progress, both locally and nationally. AEG Presents, as a music company that operates a venue in Greenwood Village and works closely with its police department, has unique perspective and connections to this issue. We have already reached out to key voices on both sides with the intent of bringing all parties together for meaningful dialogue and resolution."