Inside the Real Protest Against Tay Anderson, Denver School Board

Tay Anderson, seated at right, and the other current members of the Denver Board of Education.
Tay Anderson, seated at right, and the other current members of the Denver Board of Education. Denver Board of Education
Earlier this week, members of the media received a press release touting a protest of embattled Denver School Board member Tay Anderson slated for the Board of Education meeting today, June 10, that would see "thousands" of student participants.

That was a big exaggeration — but a much smaller demonstration against Denver Public Schools is actually planned for 4 p.m. at the Denver City and County Building. The driving force behind the gathering is Gigi Gordon, who graduated from North High School last month and runs a Facebook group called End Human Trafficking Everywhere that boasts more than 58,000 members.

Here's the description of the event: "The students of DPS demand justice for every child who has been neglected and ignored by DPS. We stand strong against child predators and with our fellow peers, who have been a victim of sexual abuse from MULTIPLE adults at DPS. DPS has known about plenty of accusations, but chooses to ignore them and allow accused child predators to work near children for years. We are fed up with our safety and our livelihood being a game to DPS and we are ready to stand up for justice and fight for it. We are told to trust the adults who teach us, protect us, and prepare us for real life, but instead we were failed over and over again by the same adults. We are done waiting on these people to take action because clearly they never will. It is time for us as students to stand together against predatory adults who work in our school system and against the adults who allow it."

Anderson's name does not appear in the demonstration's description, and that's no coincidence. "The protest isn't only focused on Tay," Gordon stresses. "It's focused on the board for allowing this to happen." And that includes allowing Anderson's name to be somewhere else, which she considers a personal affront: on her diploma.

Allegations of sexual impropriety have been swirling around Anderson since March and exploded anew in May, after a DPS parent testifying at the Colorado House talked about 62 potential individuals victimized by an unnamed person in a position of trust — and although Anderson, who has denied any wrongdoing, announced that he was stepping back from most of his board duties amid an ongoing independent investigation, he took part in the vote for new superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero.

"I think it's absolutely disrespectful that the district would let Tay step down and then let him vote on the superintendent right after that," Gordon says. "And the district hasn't released a statement encouraging him to resign. They've been silent. All they've said is, 'The investigators are handling it,' and they haven't released anything to state how they feel."

Gordon is much less reticent. She doesn't buy Anderson's denials, and says: "I think he should resign, and if he doesn't resign, I'm going to ask for a recall. I don't care if I have to go knock on every door. I don't want him on my school board."

Founded in August 2020, End Human Trafficking Everywhere was inspired by terrible events in Gordon's life; she describes herself as a survivor of sexual abuse, domestic abuse and rape. But she distances the organization from groups affiliated with QAnon, which specializes in unfounded theories about pedophile rings involving the rich and powerful. "If you go to our page and press 'join,' the group rules pop up," she notes, "and one of the first things you see is: No conspiracy theories, no QAnon, no Pizzagate. Only real information. The goal is that if someone had never heard about human trafficking, they could find real, non-biased information about it."

She adds: "QAnon takes away the focus from the real issue. I am a strong hater of QAnon and conspiracy theories. I think they're absolute BS, pardon my French. That's just my opinion, and a lot of people in my group feel the same way."

Nonetheless, Gordon adds, "We'll have people who try and post QAnon-type stuff — but we immediately delete it. When somebody tries to put up something like 'Biden eats babies,' we give them a warning, and if they do it again, we mute them for 28 days so they can't post. And if they do it one more time, they're blocked from the group. It's three strikes and you're out."

Gordon has modest expectations for attendance at today's demonstration: About eighty students have expressed interest in taking part, but she hopes around a hundred will actually do so. She's also signed up for the school board meeting's virtual public-comments session, slated to begin at 5:30 p.m., and hopes that she and others at the rally will be able to express their thoughts with dozens of supporters in the background.

"I'm coming after the board," she says. "This is a war. We students are done with this. We're ready to tell everybody about how we care about our community and how we just want to feel safe."

Click to get more details about the protest at the Denver City and County Building.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts