Coloradans March in Support of Trayvon Martin, Against DPD

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Hundreds of people marched on the state capitol yesterday in honor of Trayvon Martin, the black Florida teen killed by a private citizen who said he was acting in self defense. But Colorado Public Radio’s Ben Markus reports organizers used the occasion to protest allegations of abuse by Denver Police officers.

Here is a transcript of Markus' report:

Protesters :We are Trayvon martin … we are Trayvon Martin ...

Reporter Ben Markus: People chanted as they marched along busy Santa Fe Drive on their way to the Capitol. Once there, Miriam Pena, head of the Colorado Progressive Coalition took the bullhorn.

Miriam Pena: This can happen to anybody, all of us look suspicious – black, brown people at the wrong place at the wrong time look suspicious. This is not ok. We need to stand our ground and fight back.

Reporter: The organizers then decried a string of excessive force cases against the Denver Police Department. They were incensed that two of the officers accused in a 2009 incident were allowed back on the job last week. Pena said they’re calling on the U.S. Justice Department to investigate.

Pena: I mean as public servants, as our elected officials, they need to stand up and do the right thing for the community.

Reporter: The Mayor’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment. City offices were closed for Caesar Chavez Day. Denver Police responded with a statement saying the department is capable of disciplining itself. Doug Linkhart, a former city councilman and chair of the city’s safety committee, agreed.

Linkhart: Yeah, I think we’re getting there. I think we’ve got a new structure in place that will bring better results, so absolutely.

Reporter: Last week, the city's new police chief replaced the commander who oversees internal investigations into charges of officer misconduct. But that’s little comfort to mothers like Silvia Sawyer from Denver.

Silvia Sawyer: I have four children, three girls and one boy, and I have more fear for my son just simply walking the grounds than I do for my daughter, because he’s African-American.

[Photo: CPR/Ben Markus]