Vice President Kamala Harris campaigns for Biden in Denver

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at Denver’s EXDO event center during a campaign trip to Colorado. March 12, 2024.

Updated at 6:16 p.m. on March 12, 2024.

Around 100 people stood on Walnut Street in Denver’s RiNo district on Tuesday afternoon. Banging drums and shouting through loudspeakers, they called for an end to U.S. support for Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip that has killed tens of thousands of Palestinians. Denver Police officers lined the other side of the street, guarding the entrance to EXDO Event Center.

Inside the building, blaring music drowned out any audible hint of the protest as hundreds of Democrats awaited a campaign appearance by Vice President Kamala Harris, who took the stage alongside numerous local politicians including Gov. Jared Polis, Denver Mayor Mike Johnston and former Mayor Federico Peña. 

It was an early distillation of the campaign ahead for Democrats on the same day that President Joe Biden clinched the party nomination with a win in the Georgia primary. 

The speakers hammered one key message: Democrats would protect Latinos, senior women, immigrants and the working class from former president Donald Trump Trump. In about 14 minutes of remarks, Harris framed the election as a fight for freedom and democracy itself.

“Part of the strength of character is to be concerned about the wellbeing and suffering of other people and to take it upon yourself to do something about it,” Harris said.

“Yes, we will have four more years,” she said in response to chants from the crowd.

Harris also said the administration had made progress on insulin prices and Medicare prescription prices overall, and she called out the cancellation of student loan debt, despite setbacks from the Supreme Court. She also criticized Republicans for blocking a bipartisan border bill that would have provided $1.5 billion for cities like Denver to help arriving immigrants. 

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Pro-Palestine protesters line Walnut Street outside of Denver's EXDO Event Center, as Vice President Kamala Harris is set to speak there on a campaign trip to Colorado. March 12, 2024.

The war in Gaza went unmentioned throughout the afternoon, even as protesters shamed individual local politicians for attending the event and called Harris a war criminal. Elle Taylor, an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation, said the anti-war movement is building.

"The message is not electoral. The message is that our government funds genocide currently, and the people won't stand for it any longer," she said. Israel's invasion of Gaza was a response to Hamas' slaughter of close to 1,200 civilians and soldiers on Oct. 7. Israel's military has described widespread civilian casualties as unintended collateral damage in its hunt for Hamas. Biden has called for restraint and encouraged a temporary ceasefire.

In the event hall, Peña used his remarks to try to rally Latino support for Democrats, which he said was lagging for some men. He and Harris both warned of Trump’s stated plans for raids targeting the nation’s millions of undocumented immigrants.  

“The giant is awake and alive, and that is us. Are you with me?” Peña asked.

Denver Councilwoman Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez picked up a similar theme, positioning Democrats as a bulwark against Trump.

“This election is vital to our Colorado Latino and Chicano communities. We owe it to our communities, to our families,” she said, “and we cannot and will not stand for divisive, hateful tactics.”

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Pro-Palestine protesters line Walnut Street outside of Denver's EXDO Event Center, as Vice President Kamala Harris is set to speak there on a campaign trip to Colorado. March 12, 2024.

Rosanna Reyes, a registered nurse from Adam County, said that Peña was right about declining support for Democrats among Latino men. In an interview after the event, she said Democrats need to bring their message to entire Latino families.

“We have to talk to the families and talk about [how] you do this for your grandparents, you do this for your neighbors. Vote for political change, to protect democracy, for the generations that are already here and the ones coming behind us,” Reyes said. 

Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval and Mayor Mike Johnston both said the Biden-Harris administration had provided support and funding in dealing with issues like immigration and homelessness. But in a written response to the event, Republicans blamed Harris for failing to stop illegal border crossings.

“Border Czar Kamala Harris is directly responsible for the migrant crisis currently crippling Colorado communities,” wrote spokeswoman Delanie Bomar.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Denver Mayor Mike Johnston speaks before Vice President Kamala Harris takes the stage at the EXDO event center, during a campaign trip to Colorado. March 12, 2024.

Harris also called again for an assault weapons ban, mentioning the Columbine High School, Aurora theater and Club Q shootings.

Democrats have won recent presidential campaigns in Colorado by wide margins, and the Cook Political Report rates the state as “solid” for Democrats in Biden’s re-election campaign. But the state will host at least a couple closely fought Congressional elections.

Democratic Rep. Yadira Caraveo took office in the 8th District in one of the closest contests of 2022. And in the 3rd, Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert barely won reelection that year, though she has since switched to the more conservative 4th District— which will soon be vacated by retiring Congressman Ken Buck. Those tight races could prove crucial for both parties as they hope to win the House in 2024.