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Denver city council passes bloated police budget, people stand up in opposition

By staff |
November 19, 2022
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Paul Nelson, an activist from Students for a Democratic Society, talks about the
Paul Nelson, an activist from Students for a Democratic Society, talks about the police violence he faced in the 2020 protests following George Floyd's murder. (Fight Back! News/staff)

Denver, CO - On November 14, activists gathered outside the city and county government building to protest the 2023 budget. The city council passed the mayor's proposed plan by a 12-1 on that day with only one minor amendment for building more crosswalks. Public comment on the budget from three weeks before, which includes a $45 million increase in police funding, indicated that not a single Denver resident supported passing the measure as is.

This has been an annual trend in Denver. Every year the police budget increases and, every year, more police crimes are committed. While Denver has similar homeless sweeps, racist beatings, and police murders as other major urban centers in the U.S., Denver police can be especially brutal. One example of this brutality happened in July when DPD gunned down seven innocent people outside of a downtown nightclub. The only person to be charged with a crime in that mass shooting to date is one of the victims, 21-year-old Jordan Waddy. 

Lawsuits over DPD misconduct during the 2020 protests surrounding George Floyd's murder have cost Denver taxpayers $20 million this year alone. Allocating $611 million (nearly 40% of the city’s general fund) to cops is a spit in the face to community members who have been suffering at the hands of police terror. 

“Imagine 188 additional doctors and nurses in Denver hospitals. Imagine 188 more social workers who can work with folks experiencing housing and food insecurity. Imagine 188 more qualified teachers in DPS,” said Jonce Palmer, chair of the Denver-Aurora Community Action Committee (DACAC). This is a reference to the $8.4 million allotted by the new budget for hiring 188 new police officers in 2023. DACAC is an organization that works to support victims of police crimes in seeking justice and fights for community control of the police.

Another group who sponsored the event, Housekeys Action Network Denver (HAND), was successful in enlisting the help of Councilmember Candi CdeBaca to propose seven amendments to the budget that would have addressed critical issues of housing, sanitation and safety, particularly for Denver residents experiencing homelessness. These amendments were almost entirely ignored by the rest of the council and CdeBaca represents the lone dissenting vote in Monday’s proceedings. “There needs to be a community voice speaking loud,” said HAND representative Terese Howard, “The city needs to stop prioritizing spending on police and start prioritizing people.”

The city council’s disdain for democracy was showcased by their refusal to allow the public into the building during the vote. Demonstrators, who numbered over a dozen, were forced to stand outside in below freezing temperatures. Despite the poor weather and early sunset, the rally was a resounding success and will be a precursor to future actions for greater community control over the city’s police and budget. “We may not have the money, but we have the people power,” said Kyle Burroughs, “When you come to a rally like this, we become a physical force.”