DENVER — The “9LISTENS: Racism and the Road to Change” town hall brought together multiple different voices who discussed race in Colorado, the death of George Floyd and where we go from here.
Those voices ranged from Elisabeth Epps of the Colorado Freedom Fund, who has marched alongside protesters in downtown Denver, to Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen, who heads an institution many demonstrated against.
Watch the video above to see the full hour-long discussion. Here’s a look at the moderators and panelists who joined us. Keep reading for a recap of some of the big moments from the town hall.
Kim Christiansen – 9NEWS Anchor
Dr. Ryan Ross – CEO of the Urban Leadership Foundation of Colorado
Paul Pazen – Denver Police Chief
Dr. Nita Mosby Tyler – Chief Catalyst and Founder of The Equity Project
Omar Montgomery – President of the Aurora NAACP and Director of Black Student Services at CU Denver
Michelle Trail – Community Member
Jice Johnson – Black Business Initiative
Elisabeth Epps – Colorado Freedom Fund
What do we learn from all this?
Dr. Tyler said she hopes white people learn that they can’t simply be allies, they have to be involved in the fight against racism to affect change.
“Right now, we’re fighting for justice on the topic of racism, eradicating racism. No one knows that better than a person who has been oppressed and impacted by racism, what that doesn’t mean is you don’t have the perpetrators of that on the front lines,” she said. “This is going to take collective work, that’s going to take all of us on the front lines.”
Pazen, who marched with some of the protesters on Monday, said he spoke to a 17-year-old who was crying and said she’d “had enough.”
“She’s 17 years old, she should look to a different kind of future, and not be tired of pain,” Pazen said.
He added that marching in the protests was not planned ahead of time.
“My actions were authentic, they weren’t scripted,” he said.
“If he’s authentic he’ll help us end qualified immunity,” Epps said.
The escalating protests
What began as peaceful protests in daylight turned into clashes with police last week and over the weekend as night fell.
While there was damage to downtown businesses and graffiti on the state Capitol, Epps said to look at where her injuries came from.
“The rubber bullets, my back is bruised, my legs are covered in bruises, that’s not from the protesters,” she said.
“What we’re seeing is an accumulation of violence in a number of different ways from disparities that stem from economic disparities, criminal justice disparities,” Johnson said.
How to help
The final question in the town hall came from a viewer who can’t march alongside the protesters, but still wants to battle racism.
Montgomery recommended volunteering for the Aurora NAACP, which posted information about areas where people can help.
“We truly feel that the platform we laid out, anyone can participate and assist us in creating change,” he said.
Kass, who is white, recommended ending “racial distancing” and spending more time with people who are different than you.
“I implore white people, invite people to your house, open your doors up,” he said.
Epps, however, said she wasn’t ready to go to Kass’ house, and implored white people to actively raise their children to be anti-racist.
“Your work is to be actively anti-racist, your work is to raise anti-racist children, your work is not to be an accomplice but an ally,” she added, adding that she advocates for legislation aimed at curbing police brutality.
Pazen said that in his position, helping involves introspection.
“From an introspective position, the police department needs to listen, we need to open our mindset to hear these voices, to hear some things that are really difficult to hear in many cases, to recognize that we not only need to look at that recruitment, the training, but also the accountability side of what a police officer does,” he said. “Also to have a greater understanding of these big systems, these systems that are intertwined, the criminal justice system, the racial inequality that takes place there.”
Dr. Tyler said helping involves taking a look at the institution you’re trying to change. She equated it to a construction project.
“If you want to get involved in something, think about the systems you want to do construction work in, and then name the barrier in the system that you want to be a part of helping to dismantle and recreate,” she said. “In policing, one of the things that’s been a barrier is how to get rid of officers that don’t work well or uphold the culture?”
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