The shadow of recent police shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota loomed over Mayor Michael Hancock’s State of the City address this morning at Denver International Airport. And it was not just the silent protesters holding Black Lives Matter signs on the sidelines that raised the call for criminal-justice reform.
Father John Fitzgibbons of Regis University set the tone in his opening prayer, asking God to “bring our hearts and our minds peace. And that peace comes when we learn how to help and act as you act, to know that black lives matter, to know that blue lives matter, and that this is no contradiction.”
Pastor Del Phillips, the head of the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance, a group of black pastors who have often criticized Hancock’s administration and Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey for failing to hold on-duty cops who have killed people on the job accountable, delivered the closing prayer, a plea that people quit viewing the world through an "us vs. them" lens.
"We need your help to remake us as one nation, one people," he said. "We are not red versus blue. We are not black versus white. We are no longer North versus South. We are one nation under God. We are not government versus community. We are not wealth versus poverty. We are not greed versus lack. We are one nation under God. We are not police versus people. We are not protest versus progress. And we are not power versus those who need to be empowered. We are one nation under God."
Even Morrissey, who faced a recall effort last year after generating community ire for having never prosecuted a police officer for an on-duty killing, nervously applauded Hancock’s calls for criminal-justice reform.
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And the call was clear from the beginning of Hancock’s speech. The mayor evoked the videos of police killing Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana, as well as last Thursday's shooting of twelve police officers in Dallas.
“I'm greatly concerned with the videos I've seen out of Louisiana and Minnesota, and we all watched live as the events of Dallas unfolded. Violence only begets violence, and we are a better country, we are a better people than that,” Hancock said.
Hancock took a moment of silence “to acknowledge the tragedies in Dallas, Orlando, here at home and across this country. The mayor then praised Denver’s new sheriff, Patrick Firman, for ushering in a string of reforms at the Denver Jail that include training deputies to de-escalate confrontations. Hancock also celebrated Denver Chief of Police Robert White for shaping his department into “a model for criminal-justice reform across America.”
What Hancock did not mention were the names of blacks and Latinos killed at the hands of Denver law enforcement: Michael Lee Marshall, Marvin Booker, Ryan Ronquillo, Paul Castaway, Jessie Hernandez, Alonzo Ashley and many others.