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Reasons to Love Denver: Our Young People

State Representative Leslie Herod on the generation that may be able to transform this moment into a movement.

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When I first saw the video of George Floyd’s killing, I didn’t believe that it would spark this level of protest. When folks see someone murdered on social media, that person is often reduced to a hashtag and forgotten about within a week. It’s infuriating and it’s dehumanizing, and it makes me really sad for our young people, who are growing up in a society that doesn’t think they’re worth justice.

I thought Floyd’s murder would be another instance of police brutality that went unchecked. So I was proud when the demonstrations exploded—I was just so proud to see my city turn out in the way we did. It was a really tough few days for a lot of us, and I was really saddened by the vandalism, but the light shone through the darkness.

Now we need to make sure the protests spur substantive change. My bill, which increases accountability and transparency in law enforcement, is a first step, but I can tell you that this bill is not a panacea. We need to have progressive district attorneys who will prosecute law enforcement officers, and we need to sweep out sheriffs and police chiefs if they don’t believe in addressing deep-rooted, systemic racism. This bill is a step in the right direction, but there are many more steps we need to take.

That’s where this next generation comes in. I hope one day I can say their voices were heard, that concrete changes were a result of their actions. I hope one day I can say that when they saw injustice in the world, they went out, took to the streets, and demanded change.

I was at the protests with Denver Public Schools students on June 7, and it was so inspiring to see so many young people fighting for justice. It was inspiring to see white students standing up for their friends who are facing discrimination and feel this angst, and saying, We’re not going to stand by and watch it happen anymore. One of my friends wouldn’t allow her daughter to go to the protests because she was worried it was too dangerous. So the child stood on her street corner for hours with a sign demanding the acknowledgment and respect of Black lives. That determination. That grit. That’s our future. That girl is going to change the world.

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