Denver students hold vigil in response to recent police killings
Denver, CO – On February 1, about 40 students from the Auraria campus community came out to show solidarity with the latest wave of victims of police brutality. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), alongside the Black Student Alliance, held a vigil for Tyre Nichols, Manuel “Tortuguita” Paez Terán, and Keenan Anderson – each of whom were murdered by police in January. Students had the opportunity to speak out and voice their grief and anger towards these murders that continue to happen in the United States.
On January 3, Keenan Anderson, a cousin of a Black Lives Matter co-founder, was attempting to find help after a traffic collision when officers confronted him. After interacting with one officer, more responded to the scene and held him to the ground. The officers then yelled contradictory orders at Anderson, demanding he roll onto his stomach, while another officer simultaneously rendered this impossible by holding him on the ground on his back. Once Anderson inevitably was unable to comply with these demands, officers began tasing him while he begged for help, even saying, “They’re trying to George Floyd me,” in the process of being tased six times, which would lead to cardiac arrest and his death shortly after the interaction.
On January 7, Tyre Nichols was stopped by a violent group of police who chose to immediately escalate a non-violent traffic stop. After complying with all orders perfectly, these five officers deployed mace, tasers, and their fists while Nichols was already on the ground. Fearing for his life, Nichols ran into a suburb, where the gang of police found him yet again and continued their attack, savagely beating Nichols to the point of sustaining serious injuries which he would pass away from three days later.
On January 18, Manuel “Tortuguita” Paez Terán, 26, was killed in Atlanta by police during a demonstration defending the Weelaunee Forest in Georgia. The occupation is part of an ongoing struggle to stop the building of a police training facility, dubbed “Cop City” by the protesters. Tortuguita was murdered on the frontlines of the ongoing struggle. Activists known as forest defenders have been occupying the forest and opposing the attempts to begin construction on the project with militant tactics for over a year.
The vigil was filled with grief for the lives lost across the country, but there was also a tone of optimism that through organizing a better world can be fought for.
Student Julia Swezy, a member of SDS, states, “Therefore, even in times of insurmountable grief, even when we collectively express our devastation surrounding even more loss of life at the hands of cops, the flame of our goal is only burning brighter. Our grief will not fuel nihilism, but action.”
Another member of SDS, Paul Nelson, followed this sentiment in his speech, “We students are at a historical crossroads that many before us have arrived at, we can just go about our way and go towards the well-worn path of the status quo, or we can stand up and dare to struggle for a better way.”
SDS Denver has been fighting to demilitarize the police on Auraria Campus and stands in solidarity with victims of police brutality wherever it happens.