City Park was awash in purple yesterday evening as hundreds gathered in Celena Hollis's favorite color during a vigil for the fallen Denver police officer. Exactly one week after she was shot and killed in City Park, politicians, law enforcement and residents visited the same place to celebrate her service and re-establish the site as a safe community center. "We owe it to ourselves to remember that this park belongs to us," City Park Jazz President Chris Zacher told the crowd.
"We have to stand together as a community, and we cannot hide from this," he continued. "If you have friends and family and love ones who are too scared to come to this park, call them and tell them to come, because this is ours and it's not going anywhere."
Last weekend, Hollis died on duty while attempting to break up a fight during City Park Jazz. Following the tragedy, officers arrested Rollin Oliver, a 21-year-old suspected gang member, in connection with the crime. Hollis was the president of the Denver Black Officers Organization and has worked in Denver law enforcement since 2005.
On Saturday, thousands gathered for Hollis's memorial service, during which the officer's twelve-year-old daughter Amyre remembered her mother to a crowd at Church of the Nazarene in Cherry Hills. Yesterday, supporters came together an hour before City Park Jazz began and tied purple ribbons to their shirts to commemorate Hollis. The evening began with a prayer, during which strangers held hands and bowed heads to reflect on the loss to the community.
Throughout the event, outreach workers passed out tips on how to cope with tragedy and offered to speak with anyone who could use a listener. The pamphlets were accompanied by crisis hotline information and flyers dedicated to families coping with loss.
"To Amyere, thank you for sharing your mother with us," state representative Angela Williams told a large crowd that included Hollis's mother and daughter. "You are not alone. You can see by the number of people out here that you have a large family and a community who will be here to take care of you. "
The evening also commemorated the Denver Police Department, whose officers earned multiple standing ovations as speakers pointed out the large showing of uniformed men and women in attendance. They came from Denver, Aurora, Englewood, Detroit and Philadelphia, among a handful of other cities. As around thirty members of Hollis's loved ones walked into the gathering, the officers stood in a line and saluted them on cue in a moment of silent appreciation. Throughout the vigil, a few officers shed tears or comforted community members as they did the same.
All proceeds donated to City Park Jazz last night -- or to purchase shirts bearing the message "A Mother, a Hero, an Angel" -- went to the Celena Hollis Memorial Fund, which benefits the officer's family. On the far end of the park, children teamed with their parents to sell homemade lemonade and brownies to raise additional money for the effort.
As attendees settled in for the jazz event, which featured many of Hollis's favorite songs, speakers urged pride in the city and a united effort to ensure its safety. Although officials were reluctant early on to confirm whether the incident had ties to gang activity, the topic came up often.
"Have you had enough of this gang activity in our community?" Police Chief Robert White asked the crowd before praising Hollis's contributions to the force -- and to the city. "Celena...did everything she could to galvanize the community, to ensure that it wasn't us, that it wasn't them, that it was we. Remember: There are 600,000 eyes and ears in this community, and we are counting on every pair of them to work with your police department to put a stop to the violence."
Mayor Michael Hancock echoed those sentiments, recalling violent moments in Denver history and urging residents not to allow a return to them.
"We are more than just the senseless stupid act of a few," he told the gathering during a short but passionate speech. "People keep wanting to take us back to the '80s, to the '90s and what we know as moments that have saddened all of our hearts. The one thing that has remained constant through all that...was a city that stood up and said, 'Not here, not our city.' We're not a city of violence, we're not a city of thugs, we're not a city of gangs."
"Thank you for being here, and let's get this party started."
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